Intestinal parasites are a top cause of fatigue, says Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., author of Guess What Came to Dinner? ($15.99, Amazon) She asserts that for eight in 10 women experiencing tiredness, GI issues, brain fog, and other vague symptoms, parasites are to blame. Adds functional medicine specialist Leo Galland, M.D.: “Because symptoms are so varied, parasites are often overlooked as the cause.”
Women over 50 are most at risk since the production of stomach acid that helps kill the invaders drops rapidly with age. “Parasites mostly come from food and water, so any decrease in stomach acid increases infection risk,” says Dr. Galland. Other sources of exposure: wilderness activities, pets, travel.
“Testing for parasites is notoriously inaccurate,” says Gittleman. But Dr. Galland advises asking your doctor to perform a rectal swab test if you’re frequently exhausted and experience two or more symptoms these symptoms: diarrhea, stomach pain, brain fog, skin rashes, gas, constipation, bloat, joint/muscle pain, or swollen lymph nodes. This will be more likely to reveal parasites than a traditional stool test. In the meantime, the tips below can eradicate the bugs.
Easy diet tweaks can zap parasites: In a study from China, 75 percent of people who ate a fourth of a cup of pumpkin seeds eliminated the bugs in one day. Credit goes to acids in the seeds that paralyze the bugs so they’re easier to expel. And a study in the journal Phytomedicine found that sipping wormwood tea (Buy TerraVita Wormwood Tea on Amazon, $10.94) three times daily cleared parasites within 14 days. And since imported foods are more likely to contain parasite eggs, consider buying local produce when possible.
The probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii has been shown to cure 78 percent of parasitic infections in 15 days. “It stimulates the immune system in the gut, which has powerful anti- parasitic effects,” explains Dr. Galland. To try: Florastor (Buy on Amazon, $33.99).
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.