A parasite cleanse is a dietary or supplement regimen meant to detoxify the human body and rid it of parasitic infections. The goal of the cleanse is to do this without prescription medications. However, there’s little research suggesting that this is an effective way to treat a parasitic infection.

Parasites are organisms that infect the body of another living being and live off their hosts to survive. While some parasites create no symptoms in their hosts, others can cause severe illness. Parasitic infections occur when parasites grow, reproduce, or invade organ systems that make their hosts ill.

Some common human parasitic infections found in the United States may include the following:

Symptoms

Most parasites come from consuming water or food that has been contaminated. Traveling abroad can also expose you to tropical parasites. Depending on what parasite you have and what body system it affects, symptoms of parasitic infections can include the following:

  • stomach pain
  • stomach cramps
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dehydration
  • weight loss
  • fever
  • gas
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • upset stomach
  • dehydration
  • flu-like symptoms
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • aches and pains
  • itching
  • redness
  • irritation

Diagnosis

A parasite infection is most often diagnosed by a stool sample. Your doctor may have to test your stool more than once before you test positive for parasites.

Treatment

Once you know what type of parasite infection you have, you can choose how to treat it. Some parasitic infections disappear on their own, especially if your immune system is healthy and you eat a balanced diet.

For parasites that don’t go away on their own, your doctor will generally prescribe oral medication. This treatment is generally effective and proven to work.

Some individuals choose natural remedies to cleanse their bodies of parasites instead of conventional treatments, although these remedies are unproven.

Some natural health practitioners claim that a large percentage of the U.S. population has parasites, and that everyone should do a regular parasite cleanse. Some even say it should be done once a year. There is no research to support this.

Nevertheless, many natural health practitioners recommend cleansing human parasite infections with herbal supplements, such as:

There are other naturally based, plant-derived medicines that claim to cleanse parasites from various body systems, including the intestines, liver, and other parts of the digestive tract. Your natural health practitioner may also recommend homeopathic treatments to eliminate specific parasites from your body.

Your practitioner should choose gentle herbs for your detox. Some herbal detox supplements can have harsh side effects or interact with medications you’re already taking. Because of this, be sure to ask your doctor or health practitioner before beginning any supplemental detox program.

Some herbal detox programs last two weeks on, two weeks off. Others can last for up to a month. It’s important to consult your practitioner regarding how long you should be taking your antiparasitic supplements.

Many herbs and remedies interact with medications. If you are taking any medications, talk to your doctor and pharmacist before beginning.

During a parasite cleanse, it’s important to follow a balanced diet high in nutrients and low in refined sugars and processed foods. Fiber is particularly important, as it keeps your bowel movements regular while you cleanse.

A nutrient-rich diet is also important for strengthening your immune system as the parasites are flushed out of your body. Natural practitioners claim that this, combined with a healthy dose of probiotics, will help protect your body against another infestation.

Garlic, honey, pumpkin seeds, and papaya seeds are all touted as antiparasitic foods to include in your diet. Some natural practitioners go a step further and recommend a grain-free, sugar-free diet. Others recommend limiting fruit intake in order to further reduce dietary sugars.

To prevent further parasitic infections after cleansing, natural practitioners recommend that you avoid eating raw or undercooked meat and seafood. When traveling internationally, avoid:

  • water that isn’t purified and bottled
  • ice
  • fruits you can’t peel
  • swimming or bathing in freshwater
  • foods prepared by vendors on the street

When it comes to natural parasite cleanses, it appears more research is needed to support whether they’re effective.

suggests that probiotic therapy may help control a parasite infection in progress, though more thorough research is needed.

indicates that little is known about the effects of natural compounds on parasite infections. Authors suggest that natural medicines may be effective. However, not enough is known regarding side effects or whether the remedies might encourage resistant strains of parasites.

Despite a lack of research, the dietary recommendations that make up a parasite cleanse are generally good rules to follow to complement any treatments your doctor prescribes.

Some possible side effects of natural parasite cleanse herbs and supplements include:

  • flu-like symptoms
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • stomach cramps
  • headache

Not all supplements are safe for everyone to take. Some may interact with your current prescription medications, and others may cause problems for children and pregnant or breastfeeding moms. If you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor about any parasitic infection concerns right away and follow their instructions to keep you and your growing baby safe.

Parasite cleanses may also worsen autoimmune symptoms or other chronic health conditions. Cleanse supplements may also be harmful to individuals who are anemic. You should always talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement.

Avoid starting a parasite cleanse if you’re already constipated. Before you begin taking cleansing supplements, make sure you’re getting plenty of fiber in your diet and having regular bowel movements. In an intestinal parasite cleanse, this is especially important, as the parasites in your intestines need to be able to exit your body over the course of the cleanse.

Black walnut, in particular, can potentially cause mutations in the DNA. It shouldn’t be taken by pregnant women. It can also cause the intestines to empty abruptly, so breastfeeding moms should also avoid it.

Natural parasite cleanses may be effective, but more research is needed. If you think you may have a parasitic infection, consult your doctor for testing. Talk to your doctor about your options. You may find that conventional parasite therapy under your doctor’s care is right for you.

Finally, find out if you have parasites and what kind they are before you start a cleanse. Cleansing before you know for sure what’s going on may do more harm than good in the long run.