Intestinal Parasites

There are two main types of intestinal parasites: helminths and protozoa. Helminths are worms with many cells. Usually, helminths cannot multiply in the human body and will eventually clear up without infecting you again. Protozoa have only one cell. They can multiply inside the human body.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms include the following.

What Causes It?

The following factors put you at higher risk for getting intestinal parasites.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Your health care provider will ask if you have traveled overseas recently and whether you have recently lost weight. Your provider will examine you. If he or she thinks you have an intestinal parasite, you will probably have one or more of the following tests.

Treatment Options

Drug Therapies

Your health care provider will choose the drug most effective against your intestinal parasite. Drug treatment may be just one dose or several over a period of weeks. Be careful to take the medicine just as it is prescribed or it may not work.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

While alternative treatments may be helpful in getting rid of intestinal parasites, your health care provider must find out what kind of organism is causing your problems before you start treatment. The following nutritional guidelines will help keep organisms from growing. It is important to maintain good bowel habits during treatment.

Nutrition Herbs
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, it is important to work with your health care provider on getting your problem diagnosed before you start any treatment. Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Many of the herbs used to treat intestinal parasites have toxic side effects. Use them only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. He or she will treat you with the most gentle herb that is effective for the type of parasite you have. A few of the herbs that the herbal specialist might consider include: Homeopathy
In a recent study of children with acute diarrhea, those who received an individualized homeopathic treatment for five days had a significantly shorter duration of diarrhea than children who received placebo. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type. In homeopathic terms, a person's constitution is his or her physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors as well as any current symptoms when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual. The following remedies were used to treat the children mentioned in the previous study: Massage
May help stimulate bowel function and elimination.

Following Up

Your health care provider will retest your stool to be sure your parasite is gone, and will give you advice to help you avoid reinfection. Follow these instructions carefully. Getting a parasite a second time can cause more serious health problems.

Special Considerations

The seriousness and length of illness varies with the specific intestinal parasite. Complications occur more often in older people and in people who already have serious illnesses, such as AIDS.

Intestinal parasites can be more serious if you are pregnant. Your health care provider will tell you which drugs are safe to take during pregnancy. Treatment for intestinal parasites during pregnancy should be closely monitored by a qualified practitioner.


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