Symptoms of intestinal parasites include:
Fatigue or weakness
Passing a worm in your stool
Stomach pain or tenderness
If you think you might have intestinal parasites, seek medical attention right away. Your healthcare provider may order tests (including stool tests) to identify the parasite. They’ll also prescribe treatments and explain how to keep the problem from coming back.
After treatment, you may need a fecal test to be sure the parasites are gone.
Trying to diagnose yourself may mean you end up with the wrong treatment. It can also mean your condition gets worse instead of better.
Intestinal parasites are typically caused by protozoa (single-celled organisms) or helminths (worms and larvae). The most common types of protozoa in the U.S. include Giardia and Cryptosporidium. The most common helminths are pinworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and roundworms.
In many cases, they are passed by contact with infected feces. This can happen if food, soil, or water are contaminated.
Your risk of having a parasite is higher if you live in or visit an area where parasites are common or where human or animal waste is not treated properly. Childcare and long-term care facilities are places where there’s a greater risk of parasites.
The risk is also higher if you don’t use proper hygiene or your immune system isn’t working as well as it should.
Pets are a major source of parasites. Many people don’t realize they should wash their hands after touching their pets. Pets usually lick their fur to groom themselves. Many times, parasites and their eggs are on the fur.
Here’s a look at several key findings from the research:
This compound can be found in herbs such as the European barberry (Berberis vulgaris). Several studies have found that berberine can decrease parasites.
In a report in the Iranian Journal of Parasitology in 2014, for example, berberine from barberry helped protect against tapeworm infection. You can also find berberine in herbs like goldenseal and coptis.
In one 2015 trial, a group of school children in one county in Kenya ate porridge with ground papaya seeds in it for several months. Other groups were given porridge with an anti-parasitic medication added or plain porridge with no treatment.
The group that ate papaya seed porridge had 63.9% fewer roundworm eggs in their stool after the test. The group that ate medicated porridge had 78.8% fewer eggs. The students who ate untreated porridge had higher egg counts overall.
Pumpkin seeds are high in amino acids and fatty acids. In particular, they are rich in berberine, cucurbitine, and palmatine. All of these are amino acids known to damage certain parasites.
In an animal study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in 2016, researchers found that pumpkin seed extracts lowered the number of eggs and adult parasites in mice.
It’s important to note that the parasite in the study is one that infects mice, not humans. Scientists study this parasite because it acts like parasites that can infect people.
In a study involving mice, an extract made from the sweet wormwood shrub killed, paralyzed, or damaged adult tapeworms and their eggs. The 2017 study was published in the Journal of Helminthology.
Many medications are made from compounds in the sweet wormwood plant. Still, more research is needed before it’s clear that the plant itself is a reliable way to treat infections.