Parasite Cleanses Are Trendy – But Are They Safe?
If you’ve spent any time on TikTok in the last year, odds are you’ve seen the hashtag #parasitecleanse in your video feed. The topic of parasite cleanses has racked up nearly 300 million views on TikTok, with an army of health influencers and fitness gurus promoting detox products that claim to purge your stomach of harmful parasites by targeting their precious food source: harmful toxins and heavy metals. By purging these parasites from your gut, health influencers and detox marketers claim, you will likely see improvements in your overall health and experience relief from a wide array of symptoms that range from abnormal weight gain to depression.
Like many health trends, parasite cleanses seem airtight on the surface, but in fact they pose a number of potential health hazards. While it may be tempting to believe that the parasite detox products being promoted by a 24-year-old health guru with no medical training are safe, it’s important to understand the science behind parasites in order to see why these products are not as effective as they claim to be.
What is a parasite?
Parasites are organisms that invade and infect the body of another living organism. A parasite lives off their host by consuming the food digested through the host’s body. People can be exposed to parasites when they consume contaminated food or water or travel to a region where tropical parasites are common. The most common parasitic infections in the U.S. include toxoplasmosis, giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis and trichomoniasis. While proponents of parasite cleanses claim that detox products can purge numerous types of parasites from the gut, medical professionals agree it’s highly unlikely for a person to have multiple parasites in their stomach at any given time.
While some parasites don’t create noticeable symptoms, other kinds of parasites can cause severe health issues as the parasite reproduces and invades major organ systems. Common symptoms of parasitic infections can include:
- Stomach pain
- Weight loss
- Diarrhea and/or gas
- Redness or irritation
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Body aches and pains
How are parasite infections treated?
To test for parasites, your doctor will likely take a stool sample. If you’re diagnosed with a parasitic infection, treatment will vary depending on the type of parasite. Some parasitic infections will go away on their own without medical intervention, but for other types of parasites, your provider will likely prescribe an oral medication. Common medications prescribed for parasitic infections include artesunate, suramin, melarsoprol and diethylcarbamazine.
Are parasite cleanses effective?
The short answer – no. Parasite cleanse products operate on the false belief that a healthy gut is one that’s clean and free of microbes. However, the digestive tract relies on trillions of different microbes and bacteria to function properly. Parasite cleanse products are not regulated by the FDA because they’re categorized as supplements, which means their effectiveness has not been studied through FDA drug trials.
Physicians have reported that some parasite cleanse products can have harmful interactions with certain prescription medications. In addition, doctors strongly advise parents not to give parasite cleanse products to children, as they are considered extremely dangerous for infants under 6 months and pose a number of health risks for children, including GI distress and growth development issues.
When influencers and online users talk about the positive health benefits they experienced as a result of using these detox products, doctors assert that these reported benefits — such as heartburn and indigestion relief — can actually be attributed to the vitamins and herbs such as ginger and turmeric commonly found in many of these detox supplements. Put simply, parasite cleanse products are no more effective at purging parasites than a daily multivitamin.
If you think you may have a parasitic infection, visit Midwest Express Clinic and get an accurate and timely diagnosis of your symptoms from one of our experienced providers. To find a clinic location nearest you, visit midwestexpressclinic.com/locations.