Parasites are much more common than people think. There are more than 3,000 types of parasites. Though they are most prevalent in populations with poor sanitary conditions, millions of people continue to become infected in developed countries as well. Giardia is still the most common parasite worldwide, causing a wide variety of digestive complaints. Because giardia is commonly water borne, campers, boaters, and backpackers are most susceptible. Foreign travelers too, become infected by drinking contaminated water or eating food which was prepared in unsanitary conditions. Pinworms and roundworms are also common parasitic conditions.
According to Ayurveda, parasite growth is encouraged by weak digestive fire or low agni. Weak digestion is a primary causative factor in creating an ideal host body for parasites. Parasites are more likely to affect vata and kapha predominant people since they will be more likely to have weak agni.
Many people have difficulty determining the primary cause of parasitic infection. Even after contact or ingestion of a parasite has occurred, some, like Giardia cysts, can remain dormant yet viable in the body for months until an imbalance occurs, weakening the body’s immune system and creating an environment for a parasite to live. Once a parasite takes up residence in the body, it leeches nutrients and creates waste which can become a breeding ground for bacteria, yeasts and fungi.
Symptoms of parasitic infection can vary greatly. Many common symptoms include:
- gas, bloating
- abdominal pain or cramping
- constipation or diarrhea
- pain in the liver or gall bladder area
- lack of appetite
- poor digestion
- feelings of heaviness, overweight
- extreme emaciation
In Ayurveda, parasites are typically classified according to what tissues they inhabit in the body: blood, intestines, liver, pancreas, kidneys and brain. Most parasites also migrate in the body so the symptoms could change depending on where the parasites are at any given time. This can make diagnosis difficult.
The symptoms of parasitic infection are very similar to an overgrowth of yeast, candida albicans, in the body. Parasites create waste on which the yeast feeds, while the yeast provides a damp ideal environment for the parasites to thrive. So, it is not uncommon to have to rid the body of both parasites and yeast. The Ayurvedic treatment protocol can be used to address both yeast and parasites. Strengthening the digestion and maintaining intestinal flora is most important while cleansing parasites. Paying close attention to the digestablity of foods will help you make choices that your body can use while limiting the production of toxic waste. Avoid foods that will create ama or impurities in the body such as frozen, leftover and processed foods. A diet that is little in quantity, light, warm and easy to digest will be the most beneficial in cleansing the body of parasites.
- Minimize sweets. Yeast and bacteria flourish with sugars providing more food for the parasites.
- Choose fresh organic vegetables. These will provide the body with vitality and nourishment.
- Include naturally anti-parasitic foods such as coconut, aloe vera, and pumpkin seeds.
- Allow at least three hours between meals to cultivate a strong appetite.
- Strengthen the digestive fire by including cayenne, black pepper, dry ginger and asfoetida in your food.
- Sip ginger tea first thing in the morning and throughout the day to help strengthen the digestive fire and clear toxins.
Many times there is malabsorption in parasitic conditions. Improving the natural flora of the intestines can improve digestion and absorption of nutrients while making it difficult for parasites to thrive. Include friendly bacteria such as acidophilus, bifidus and bulgaricus. These are naturally occurring in yogurt and some naturally fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, and can also be taken in supplemental forms of capsules or liquids.
Strict hygiene is one of the most important preventative measures that should be taken in order to avoid contracting parasites.
- Clean bedrooms and bedding.
- Wash hands with soap for at least 45 seconds, frequently, particularly after using the bathroom and before eating.
- If you are camping, be sure to boil stream water for at least one minute before ingesting.
- Wear shoes in areas that may be contaminated with raw sewage.
- Peel fruits and vegetables if they are possibly from an unclean source.
When trying to cleanse parasites from the body by following an herbal and dietary protocol, all family members and pets should be put on a similar regime to minimize the chances of someone becoming re-infected. It is helpful to become familiar with the life cycles of parasites in order to continue treatment until all parasites have been eliminated.
Para Cleanse from Banyan Botanicals is a synergistic combination of the most effective antiparasitic herbs in the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia. This formula helps rid the gastrointestinal tract of unwanted parasites and eliminates the toxins on which they feed. This highly bitter formula is based on vidanga and neem leaf. It also contains ginger, black pepper and pippali to improve the body’s digestive capabilities. The three herbs of triphala, amalaki, bibhitaki and haritaki, are included to help cleanse and tone the colon.
Many times there is a worsening of symptoms at the beginning of treatment as the herbs and healthier digestive environment promote a mass die-off of parasites and/or yeast. Persistence is crucial during this phase, as the body will soon be clear of the unwanted parasites.
Rejuvenation is important after this type of purification to help rebuild and nourish the tissues, and create balance within the digestive organs.
- Daily self oil massage, abhyanga, is a nurturing practice that nourishes and protects the skin.
- Herbs such as Shatavari or Ashwaghanda can be taken to help rebuild tissues, especially if there has been significant weight loss.
- Chyavanprash is very useful to help rejuvenate the mind and body.
- Triphala should be taken continuously, to rejuvenate and tone the large intestine.
Following Ayurveda’s ancient wisdom will lead you toward a healthy digestive system while creating an undesirable environment for unwanted parasites.
Ayurvedic Recipe: Light Cucumber Gazpacho
1 fresh leek
1 clove garlic, minced
3 small cucumbers
1/2 c. fresh Italian parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
1 c. vegetable stock, cooled
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. cayenne or less, as desired
1/8 t. black pepper
Steam the leek with the garlic in a stainless steel steamer for 5 minutes, to calm some of their pungency. Remove from heat when done.
Peel and seed cucumbers. Chop them into large pieces. Wash parsley and chop finely.
Put the cucumber, parsley, leek and garlic in the blender with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth, about 20-30 seconds. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Chill to serve cool.
Recipe reprinted with permission from The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar, Lotus Press, P.O. Box 325, Twin Lakes, WI 53181.(c)1995 All Rights Reserved.