By Medicover Hospitals / 17 Feb 2021
Intestinal worms, also known as parasitic worms, are one of the main intestinal parasites. Common types of intestinal worms include:
- tapeworms, which include tapeworms and fluke
- roundworms, which cause roundworms, pinworms, and hookworms
- What are Intestinal Worms?
- When to visit a Doctor?
- Home Remedies
What are Intestinal Worms?
Intestinal worms, or parasitic worms, are simple organisms that feed on the human body. Many people recognize the more common varieties, such as tapeworms and hookworms, but maybe less aware of others.
Intestinal worms can cause many symptoms in the body, some of which are similar to symptoms of other intestinal disorders. A prompt and thorough diagnosis is essential in each case to avoid complications.
Doctors may use antiparasitic drugs or other treatments to help get rid of the worms. Although intestinal worms can seem scary, most people respond well to treatment.
When it comes to parasitic infections, tapeworms and roundworms are probably the culprits. These two types of parasitic worms can be found in a variety of habitats. They are not always visible to the naked eye.
- You can catch a tapeworm which is a type of flatworm, by drinking water contaminated with tapeworm eggs or larvae. Raw or undercooked meat is another way for tapeworms to enter humans.
- Tapeworms push their heads into the intestinal wall and stay there. From there, some types of tapeworms can produce eggs which become larvae that migrate to other parts of the body.
- A tapeworm looks like a long white ribbon. They can grow up to 80 feet long and live in humans for up to 30 years.
- A fluke is a type of flatworm. People are less likely than animals to get a fluke. Raw watercress and other freshwater plants are the main sources of fluke in humans. You can also catch them when you drink contaminated water.
- They make their home in your intestines, blood, or tissues. There are many varieties of flukes. None reach more than a few inches in length.
- Hookworms are transmitted through feces and contaminated soil. The most common way to come into contact with this type of roundworm is to walk barefoot on the ground infested with hookworm larvae. They can pierce the skin.
- Hookworms live in the small intestine where they attach themselves to the intestinal wall with a “hook”. They are usually less than half an inch in length.
- Pinworms are tiny, fairly harmless worms. They are more common in children. These roundworms, when fully ripe, live in the colon and rectum. The female lays eggs around the anus, usually at night.
- Eggs can survive on bedding, clothing, and other materials. People contract them when they touch the eggs and eventually put them in their mouths. The eggs are so small that you can even breathe them if they become suspended in the air. They are easily transmitted among children and caregivers or in institutions.
- Although pinworm infections are generally harmless and easy to treat, there have been less common cases of pinworms in the appendix which, when present, are usually in children and rarely in adults. A review article found that pinworms were a rare cause of acute appendicitis.
- Studies have noted that pinworms in the tissues of a surgically removed appendix are an infrequent finding, and researchers also claim that parasitic infections rarely cause acute appendicitis.
- However, these studies note that the signs of parasitic intestinal infection can mimic the symptoms one would see in acute appendicitis, although appendicitis may or may not occur.
The roundworms of trichinosis are transmitted in animals. The most common way to get trichinosis in humans is by eating undercooked meat that contains the larvae. The larvae mature in your intestines. As they reproduce, these larvae can travel out of the intestines to muscles and other tissues.
The physician may order several tests to help them diagnose intestinal worms. These tests may include:
A duct tape test involves placing a piece of duct tape over the anus while the person is sleeping to check for signs of eggs.
Anyone who suspects they have an intestinal worm should see a doctor.
- fecal tests to check for signs of infection
- blood tests to detect certain types of parasites
- colonoscopy, which uses a thin camera to check the intestine for parasites
- imaging tests to check other organs for signs of damage from the parasite
- tape tests
Some types of intestinal worms, such as tapeworms, can go away on their own if you have a strong immune system and a healthy diet and lifestyle. However, depending on the type of intestinal worm infection, treatment may require antiparasitic medication. Serious symptoms should not be ignored. See your doctor if you:
Your treatment plan will be determined based on the type of intestinal worm you have and your signs. Tapeworm infections are generally treated with oral medication, like praziquantel (bactericide), which paralyzes the adult tapeworm. Praziquantel (bactericide) causes tapeworms to break away from the intestine, dissolve, and then pass out of your body through the stool.
Common treatments for roundworm infection include mebendazole (Vermox, Emverm) and albendazole (Albenza).
Signs usually start to improve after a few weeks of treatment. Your doctor will probably take and test another stool sample after treatment is finished to see if the worms are gone.
- have blood or pus in your stool
- vomit daily or frequently
- have a high body temperature
- are extremely tired and dehydrated
When to visit a Doctor?
Your family doctor can refer you to a gastroenterologist. You may need to see a doctor if the worms have blocked the intestines. What you can do Before your appointment, you may want to write down the answers to the following questions:
- When did your symptoms start?
- Does anything improve or make your signs worse?
- Have you noticed worms in your stool or vomited?
- Have you recently traveled to developing countries?
- What medications and supplements are you taking?
While there is a lack of clinical trials testing the effects of natural remedies in treating intestinal parasites, some preliminary research suggests that some herbs and dietary supplements may have potential. Here is an overview of several key findings of the available research:
A compound available in a variety of herbs such as European barberry (Berberis vulgaris), berberine is effective in fighting intestinal parasites in several preliminary studies. In a report published in the Iranian Journal of Parasitology in 2014, for example, berberine extracted from barberry demonstrated activity that may help protect against tapeworm infection. Along with barberry, berberine is found in herbs like goldenseal and coptis.
For a pilot study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2007, 60 children with intestinal parasites received immediate doses of an elixir containing a mixture of papaya seeds and honey or honey alone. After seven days, significantly more of those who received the papaya seed elixir had their stool free of parasites.
One natural remedy that shows promise is pumpkin seeds, which are rich in amino acids, fatty acids, and the compounds berberine, cucurbitine, and palatine.
Research on the use of pumpkin seeds for intestinal parasites includes a preliminary study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in 2016, in which extracts from pumpkin seeds were found to have anti-parasitic activity.
Wormwood can help treat intestinal parasites by killing a type of helminth known as Heterobranchus longifilis, according to a preliminary study published in Parasitology Research in 2010. The herb contains compounds called sesquiterpene lactones, which are believed to 'weaken the membranes of the parasites.
Practitioners of natural medicine sometimes recommend certain dietary strategies in the treatment of intestinal parasites to optimize stomach acid, which is protective against foodborne parasites. These strategies include:
Some practitioners also suggest a bowel cleanse or detox, an approach that involves pairing a high-fiber diet with supplements that are supposed to help your body flush out intestinal parasites. These supplements include psyllium, beets, and flax seeds.
- Temporarily avoid coffee, refined sugar, alcohol, and refined grains
- Include more garlic in your meals
- Increase your intake of carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and other foods rich in beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A, which can increase resistance to helminth penetration)
- Rebuild the beneficial bacteria in your gut by stocking up on foods rich in probiotics such as yogurt
- Eat foods rich in vitamins C and B
- Avoid raw meat or fish
Frequently Asked Questions:
Signs of intestinal worms are:
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal pain or tenderness
Eat more raw garlic, pumpkin seeds, pomegranates, beets, and carrots, all of which have traditionally been used to kill pests. In one study, researchers found that a mixture of honey and papaya seeds cleared parasite stools in 23 out of 30 people. Drink plenty of water to help flush your system.
But just 100 years ago, before toilets and running water were commonplace, everyone was regularly exposed to intestinal worms. Thanks in part to modern plumbing, people in the industrialized world have now lost almost all of their worms except the occasional pinworm in some children.
Treatment of Intestinal Worms - https://davidcrowe.ca/SciHealthEnv/papers/1995-Worms-VL.pdf
Intestinal worms in children - https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000371.pub3/abstract
Intestinal worms impair child health - https://www.bmj.com/content/318/7178/214.1.short