Like every other parasite that makes its home inside you, tapeworms probably fill you with revulsion. What makes a tapeworm infection even more frightening is the fact that you may be completely unaware that you even have these long stringy creatures living in your body, for they may have a few non-specific to no symptoms at all. However, you may notice other symptoms if the type of tapeworm you’re infected with produces newly hatched worms; these can even leave the intestine and travel to other parts of your body.
Doesn’t sound like something you’d want? Well, the good news is, most tapeworm infections are easily curable from the comfort of your own home.
What Are Tapeworms?
- Description – Tapeworms can be one of the most harmful types of intestinal parasites. These are flat, segmented worms that can grow up to 30 meters (82 feet) and make their way into the intestines of animals and humans. Tapeworm infections are mostly limited to the intestines but sometimes they can also be invasive, affecting other organs, such as the brain.
- Common Types – The most common tapeworms known to infect humans are the beef tapeworm (T. saginata), the pork tapeworm (T. solium), the fish tapeworm (Diphyllobothrium spp.), and the dwarf tapeworm (Hymenolepis spp.). Infections involving the pork and beef tapeworms mostly affect the intestines and are also called taeniasis. The pork tapeworm is also known for causing cysticercosis, a tissue infection with the larvae that can affect the brain, spinal cord, heart, eyes, and live.
- Incubation Period – In the case of taeniasis, the eggs only appear in human feces 10 – 14 weeks after being infected with an adult pork tapeworm, and after 8 – 12 weeks for the beef tapeworm. Symptoms of cysticercosis, however, may show anytime between weeks to years after infection.
Taeniasis And Cysticercosis: The Difference
Even though the pork tapeworm is responsible for causing both taeniasis and cysticercosis, the two infections are very different from each other.
Taeniasis is a very common infection that occurs when an adult tapeworm develops inside the intestines of a human after the consumption of raw or undercooked meat from an infected animal that contains the tapeworm larvae. Cysticercosis, on the other hand, is caused by humans accidentally ingesting tapeworm eggs from contaminated food or water. The eggs find their way into the intestine where they develop into larvae. If the larvae manage to enter the bloodstream, they can invade other host tissues, where they further develop into larvae called cysticerci.
Usually, a pig would eat the tapeworm eggs while grazing in fields, eating garbage, or by drinking contaminated water. The larval cysts develop within the pig’s muscles, which humans then eat in the form of pork. In this case, both the pig and the human serve as hosts to the parasite. In cysticercosis, the pig is absent from the life cycle of the tapeworm, while humans become the intermediate hosts.
Someone with cysticercosis cannot spread the infection to other people. However, risks of uninfected humans developing cysticercosis can increase significantly by living with a person who has taeniasis or intestinal tapeworm infection. Since tapeworm eggs are excreted from the body in through feces, the person infected can contaminate the food if he doesn’t wash his hands before cooking, hence causing the infection to spread.
The symptoms of taeniasis and cysticercosis are very different from each other since they affect different parts of the body. It is, therefore, best to study the symptoms and treatment methods for these two infections individually.
Symptoms Of Taeniasis
Symptoms of tapeworm infections depend on where the cysts develop in the body. As mentioned earlier, tapeworm infection symptoms may not show up for months, or even years after the infection, while in some cases, there are no symptoms at all.
The only sign of a tapeworm infection may be alive worms or remnants of dead ones in feces. However, in bad cases of taeniasis, the following symptoms may be observed.
- Abdominal pain
- Fatigue or weakness
- Hunger or loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
In very rare cases, tapeworms can cause blocking of the intestines, bile duct, appendix or pancreatic duct in which case one must seek medical help immediately.
Natural Remedies For Intestinal Tapeworm Infections
Taeniasis is usually a very common infection, and it is not always necessary to fight it with the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Eating a healthy diet devoid of unhealthy foods, along with a few natural supplements can be very useful in getting rid of intestinal tapeworms.
1. Try A Parasitic Cleanse Diet
Eating and avoiding certain kinds of foods can not only help you overcome intestinal tapeworm infection symptoms but can also prevent further health complications. It can also lower your chances of becoming a host to a parasite in the future because it boosts your body’s immunity and eliminates items that are unhealthy and unhygienic for your body.
Here are the steps to take in order to complete a parasite cleanse:
- Avoid Pork –Pigs often have a tendency to sniff and eat garbage and carry a large number of parasites and worms. If you eat pork regularly, there’s a very high possibility that you might unknowingly eat a parasite. It is in fact generally recommended to cut out all pork products from one’s diet for good.
- Eat Lots Of Veggies – Pile your plate with vegetable salads, drink plenty of fresh vegetable juices, soups, and smoothies. Pay special attention to vegetables like onions and garlic, for these have anti-parasitic and immune-boosting effects.
- Avoid Excess Sugar, Refined Grains, And Carbohydrates – Try not to eat more sugar than necessary, for it can aggravate inflammation and induce gut imbalance. Also, stay away from too many refined grains and carbohydrates and grains. Most grains, namely those containing gluten/wheat can break themselves down into sugar very quickly which does very little to cure intestinal inflammation.
- Load Up On Papayas And Pumpkins – Eat plenty of papaya and pumpkin. Both are widely acclaimed for their natural anti-parasitic properties, be it in fruit or juice form.
- Don’t Forget Coconuts – Include a lot of coconut in your diet. Feel free to use coconut oil, milk and even the delicious meat inside the shells to benefit from its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
- Snack On Seeds – Turn to handfuls of pumpkin seeds, carom seeds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds for fiber and protein.
- Stick To Organic Meats – Steer clear from processed and farm-raised meats and only eat organic meat that has been pasture-raised or grass-fed. If you love fish, only bring the wild-caught variety to your dining table.
- Embrace Probiotics – Eat lots of kefir, sauerkraut, and yogurt, which help improve and maintain the health of your gut.
- Avoid Processed Foods And Alcohol – These will only lower your immunity and make it difficult to detox.
2. Anti-Parasitic Supplements
Certain herbs and extracts can be consumed in small, regular quantities to help kill parasites, as well as flush out other toxins from your body.
- Oregano oil
- Grapefruit seed extract
- Black walnut
- Olive oil and leaves
- Clove oil
Note: It is always best to consult your doctor for the appropriate dose. Do not take too much of anything for it may trigger another set of health problems.
3. Improve Detoxification Through Colonic Flushes
Performing two or three colon cleanses once every 7 days, over several weeks can greatly help increase efficacy of a parasite cleanse. Consider the following ingredients for preparing your own colon cleanses at home.
- Lemon juice
- Apple Juice
- Fiber-rich foods like berries, fruits, whole grains, seeds, beans, broccoli
Symptoms Of Cysticercosis
If the pork tapeworm larvae find their way out of the intestine, they can travel to other parts of the body and cause severe damage to vital organs such as the eyes, liver, the heart, and the brain. All of these infections can be life-threatening.
1. In The Brain Or Spinal Cord (Neurocysticercosis)
The most severe form of cysticercosis is neurocysticercosis, in which the tapeworm larvae get into tissues of the brain and the spinal cord, and form cysts called cysticerci. Symptoms include:
- Severe headaches
- Altered mental status
- Diffuse cerebral edema
- Intracranial hypertension
- Cerebral infarction
- Swelling of the brain
- Loss of balance
- Muscle weakness
- Allergic reactions to larvae
- Lesions in the cerebral wall
2. In The Muscles
Tapeworm larvae already existing in the body may burrow its way into the muscles and form clusters of fluid-filled cysts of more tapeworm larvae. These appear as swellings or lumps under your skin which may become painful over time. Apart from this, there are no visible symptoms.
3. In The Eyes
Cysticercosis in the eye is very rare, but when it does occur, it can be found to float in the eye. Other symptoms include:
- Blurry vision
- Swelling of the eye
- Detachment of the retina
4. In The Heart
Cysticercosis in the heart is also a very rare infection. Even when it does occur, it may show either no symptoms for years or symptoms similar to neural cysticercosis may be observed. Most times, tapeworm cysts in the heart are only discovered during an autopsy or a heart surgery.1 In the most extreme conditions, it may also cause:
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Cardiac lesions
- Cystic lesions in the heart walls
- Heart failure
5. In The Liver
Yet another rare infection, cysticercosis in the liver may cause:
- Abdominal Pain
Treatment For Cysticercosis
There are no natural remedies for cysticercosis as these are far more serious than taeniasis. In almost all cases of tapeworm cyst formation, immediate medical intervention is necessary.
For Symptomatic Cysticercosis:
- Anticonvulsants are prescribed to patients suffering from seizures.
- Certain kinds of anthelmintic therapy with praziquantel or albendazole is prescribed, along with corticosteroids.
- Corticosteroids are prescribed to patients reporting vasculitis or cerebral edema.
- Cerebrospinal fluid diversion is recommended for patients with obstructive hydrocephalus.
In the cases where cysticercosis has reached severe stages, surgery may be involved to remove the cysts.
|↑1||Hidron, Alicia, Nicholas Vogenthaler, José I. Santos-Preciado, Alfonso J. Rodriguez-Morales, Carlos Franco-Paredes, and Anis Rassi. “Cardiac involvement with parasitic infections.” Clinical microbiology reviews 23, no. 2 (2010): 324-349.|