Parasites-How Do You Know if You Have Worms and What to Do About Them
I had a client a while back who had this question for me: “I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting menstrual cramps the last few months and I don’t usually have them. Can you tell me what you think it is?”
It was determined, strangely or not so strangely enough, that the cause of those menstrual cramps was parasites! And this isn’t the only disease caused, in part, by parasites. Read on…
I recommend for her, and for you, that you worm both your pets and yourselves about twice a year.
I’ve tried natural wormers over the years–actually LOTS of natural wormers such as: garlic, cloves, black walnut, cilantro, wormwood, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate, diatomaceous earth, Rascal, Zymex, Vermifuge, several other natural wormer formulas and homeopathics, but nothing seems that effective. I’ve even tried the Hulda Clarke “Zapper” (which does not work by the way, because the voltage of the thing is not strong enough to penetrate the fecal material within the bowels–save your money by not purchasing or building one!) I am sorry to report (as a naturopath) that studies show these herbal treatments are only about 20% effective. The Certified Organic organization says when all else fails, use ivermectin (which is not organic in any way), but have you seen the list of side affects to that particular product? Three pages long!
I will say that when a client comes to me, I ask them if they have any cravings. One sure sign they are “wormy” is when they tell me they crave cloves. Clove oil has been shown to penetrate the egg and kill it where the other herbs only kill the adults. Herbs that kill parasites are often found in herbal cancer formulas because parasites are often a core cause of that particular disease.
One reason why I push so much for routine worming is that the medical field often misses this diagnosis–especially if you don’t have a history of traveling outside the United States where parasites are often a big issue. I love working in my garden and often I am an open-mouth breather when I’m working up the soil. We also live in a windy area and dirt from the wheat and grass fields is often in the air. I try to wash my hands frequently, but anyone who works in the dirt knows that it’s nearly impossible to keep from getting it on you.
Another reason why I stay on top of the worm situation is that worms carry viruses into our body. Some of these viruses can cause cancer, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and a host of other horrid diseases.
In my opinion, the safest, cheapest, easiest, most effective way to worm yourself and your pets of the most common worms (roundworms–also called strongyles, thread worms, pinworms, ascarids) is to go to the local feed store and get a bottle of horse or dog roundwormer–Equi-Phar, ProTal, Strongid-T, and Nemex are all trade names of Pyrantel Pamoate. I say this because when you ask your doctor for a wormer, they usually tell you there is no need for you to be wormed. Make sure it says Pyrantel Pamoate on the label and nothing else added. Combination wormers are not always needed and not always safe.
Dosage: Use the dose of 5-10 mg/kilogram bodyweight (about 1 ml/5 to 10 pounds of a 50mg/ml solution) of bodyweight for dogs and humans and 1 ½ ml/5 to 10 pounds for cats. One teaspoon is 5 ml or cc (ml and cc are the same unit of volume). If you are not good at math, you’ll want to double-check that you are taking the correct dosage. Although this wormer is so safe that you can take 40 times the amount with no harmful side effects, you don’t want to under dose. And, “If a little is good, a LOT is not necessary better.” The most common side effect is nausea so take this product with something on your stomach like a small meal or a few crackers.
One dose is all it takes, but you may have to give a second dose 7-10 days after the first dose for the initial worming or if the wormload is quite large. I use this once a year now for myself as I have had a history of heart palpitations (another symptom associated with parasites.) The worms will be dead within 20 minutes. You won’t feel anything and should have no side-effects. You won’t see anything pass into the toilet as a general rule but if you are wondering about what is passing, a photo often helps. Often people will mistake intestinal shreds for flatworms or tapeworms and undigested food for parasites. This wormer will not kill those types of parasties. Occasionally I see a pet get nauseated with an overdose, but in 30 years, I have never seen any other side-effect.
Will store-bought wormer work the same? No. Many stores still carry Piperazine wormer which has been so overused that it is no longer an effective wormer. Piperazine is often marketed as a “monthly” wormer in the pet sections. I once saw a litter of eight puppies in full seizure who had just been wormed that week with piperazine. Imagine eight cute little Golden Retreiver puppies laying on their sides shaking. It was horrifying! I immediately wormed them with Pyrantel and the worms just flowed out their little rectums and the seizures stopped within 20 minutes. It was incredible to watch!
If the product you purchase contains a tapeworm medicine (like clorpyriphos which is an organophosphate wormer), that may cause some serious side affects. Never use these store bought wormers on pregnant animals. The animal’s guts can contract so strongly to pass the worms that they can rupture their uterus and die. Always get tapeworm medicine from your doctor or veterinarian as we carry much safer brands than the grocery or feed stores do. Tobacco plug is also not safe. Don’t use it.
How do you get worms? We pick up worms from some of the things we eat, from the dirt, and from the dust we breathe in. Eating dirt is a sign of iron deficiency. We should talk if you are doing that… I got pin worms when I was a little girl by eating a mud pie (my friend said she’d give me a nickel if I did it!) Pinworms are the equivalent of cat and dog roundworms, only they are a different species of worm so are not passed from us to them and vice-versa. See more on that below.
Most adults (pets and people) have enough enzymes in their mouths to break down most of the eggs coming in through our mouths and nose, our stomach acids break down even more, but some eggs get by both of those back-up systems where they hatch, find a home, and grow into adults within about 10-14 days in our small intestine. After 14 days, these adult parasites are producing more eggs–millions of them in their lifetime. Yuk!
We see worms most commonly in baby animals and humans because their salivary enzymes are not as strong, the hydrochloric stomach acids have not been totally developed yet, and because they have oral fixations and put lots of things into their mouths–they ingest more dirt than adults. Their immune systems cannot keep up with that. The “load” (number of worms) gets so great in the small intestine that it spills over into the large intestine and into the stomach. This is why it is so common to see babies either vomit worms or poop them out. Because adults have a better immune system, the load is controlled and the worms like the environment of the small intestine, so that is where they stay. We may still have worms, but it is not as evident as it was when we were young children (or pets under a year of age.)
How do you know if you should take a wormer?
Signs of roundworms include, fevers, cough, wheezing, stomach problems, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal cramping, appendicitis, gas, bloating, increased cramping (menstrual), heart palpitations, pain in the lower right quadrant that comes and goes (spasms in the ileocecal valve), itchy anus’, dry lusterless hair with split ends, seizures, pica appetite (often for sugar), clear mucous strands in the stool (yes you should be looking at it each time you go! And yes, I will ask you what it looks like if you ever consult with me.) People and animals with lots of parasites also have big bellies and lots of diameter below the belly button caused from the intestines losing their tone. Most times worms can be diagnosed by looking at the bowel contents under a microscope or doing a blood test, but not always. Protozooal parasites such as giardia are often missed.
Can I get roundworms and tapeworms from my pets?
Good question, and I get that a lot. If you worm your pets regularly, you won’t have this problem. Dog and cat worms are different than most human worms. There are only a few species of worms that are zoonotic (passed from your dogs and cats to you)–one of those is Toxoplasma cati, which is passed to the human from cat feces and causes blindness in children. But, the Pyrantel Pamoate kills that and if you clean the litter box every day, the probability of that being passed is nearly nil. Giardia lamblia, an intestinal protozoal parasite can be passed to you through your pet as well, but mostly humans get Giardia from drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated lettuce or water chestnuts. Mange is NOT passed from animals to humans and neither are head lice or public lice. Tapeworms are not transferred from dogs and cats to people (but they are from fish and some farm animals). Tapeworms are treated with different drugs than roundworms.
Ring worm is not actually a parasitic worm. It is really a fungus and that, too, can be passed from your pets to you. We have fantastic homeopathic drops for that, but keeping the area scrubbed and applying iodine to it can help. Also keeping your immune system and that of your pet healthy with good high-quality foods helps immensely.
Well, that’s worms in a nutshell (or in this case, an intestine!) Appetizing, eh?