Did Travel Give You Parasites?

Did travel give you a crazy case of parasites??  That’s the question we’re delving into here today….& unfortunately, it’s a topic I happen to be intimately familiar with.  During four years of travel throughout Latin America, I can recall no less than four times when I’ve gotten really, really sick, or got Montezuma’s Revenge, & had to take either activated charcoal or serious antibiotics to stop the diarrhea.  The last time this happened was in 2019: after an amazing hike outside of Mexico City, my friend & I didn’t get back to the city until 10PM & I was STARVING….so I ate a (suspicious-looking) Subway sandwich from the bus terminal. 

BAD IDEA. TERRIBLE IDEA!!! 

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The last time I got dreadfully sick was after a hike here in Tepoztlan ~ & not from any Mexican food: it was from a Subway sandwich, of all things (the dreary-looking lettuce). This article will help you identify if you might have parasites from travel in foreign countries, & how to get rid of them.

Not only was I in extreme gastric distress (think: scared to go on a one-hour flight for fear that I may shit on my seat mate ~ THAT’s how bad!!), but I was also en route to visit my friend Karena & her ENTIRE family in Arandas, Mexico, the home of tequila.  Once I got to their home, the diarrhea still wouldn’t stop: her dad actually had to run to the pharmacy to pick me up a strong anti-diarrheal ~ which then gave me a new problem: I didn’t shit for about five days!!

Parasitic infections have become more common with international travel over time. We now know that a variety of parasites can infect the intestinal tract, leading to a variety of digestive symptoms, such as constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, & heartburn, as well as fatigue & chills.

Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS

How Did I Know That I Had Parasites?

So aside from getting sick multiple times throughout my South American travels, I didn’t really think about my digestive system once I got home.  But two things alerted me to the fact that I might have parasites: 1) After running the usual battery of yearly tests, my doctor said that all my numbers were great: but she said it looked like I wasn’t absorbing all my nutrients properly, the cause of which may be intestinal parasites; & 2) I had a colonic, & my Colon Hydrotherapist just straight up told me I had them!  That was a “Yikes!” moment, let me tell you. 

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Worms??! PARASITES….inside my BODY???! Yikesss!!

The only 100% way to determine whether or not you have parasites is to have your doctor take a stool test.

According to Mount Sinai’s website, these things increase your risk for getting intestinal parasites:

  • Living in or visiting areas known to have parasites;
  • International travel;
  • Poor sanitation (of both food & water);
  • Poor hygiene;
  • Exposure to child & institutional care centers;
  • Having a weakened immune system;
  • HIV or AIDS.

Signs That You May Have Parasites

  • Even weeks or months after returning home from travel, you just don’t feel that your digestive system (or bowel movements) have gotten back to normal.
  • You experience frequent abdominal pain;
  • Diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting;
  • You have significant gas or bloating (& the gas typically smells pretty bad);
  • Stool that contains blood, mucus, or of course, worm-like creatures;
  • You have strange food cravings (particularly for sugar ~ parasites LOVE sugar);
  • You feel more sluggish or more tired than usual; 
  • A rash or itching around your anus is a BIG clue that you may have intestinal parasites, particularly pinworms;
  • A skin rash or itchy skin;
  • This last one is odd: you find yourself waking up between the hours of 3:00-5:00AM almost every night, & are unable to get back to sleep. It may be harder to find research or literature on this last point, but from an anecdotal standpoint: right before I did my 10-day Parasite Cleanse, I was waking up at 3:00AM on the dot every night, & couldn’t get back to sleep until about 5:00AM. Once I did the cleanse, I slept through the entire night DEAD ASLEEP, out-cold. It was some of the best sleep of my life, & has remained that way since the cleanse. (Some things I’ve read explain this by noting that parasites are more active late at night, while we’re asleep, & that this increased activity may actually keep us awake.)

How to Get Rid of Parasites!

According to both Dr. Axe & Mount Sinai, the absolute BEST herbs to take to kill parasites are the following:

  • Black Walnut — Has been used historically for the treatment of parasites.
  • Wormwood — Known for its anti-parasitic properties.
  • Oregano Oil — Oregano oil has both antibacterial & anti-parasitic effects.
  • Grapefruit Seed Extract  — Has been shown to have antimicrobial properties against a wide range of organisms.
  • Clove Oil — Contains high amounts of eugenol, a compound that has been shown to kill harmful organisms.
  • Garlic, Barberry, Goldenseal, & Oregon Grape are all known to have anti-parasitic properties.

Read this article by Dr. Josh Axe for a more complete explanation of parasites & how to get rid of them.

In my experience, taking these herbs together, synergistically, is the most effective way to deal with getting rid of parasites.  This formula from Mount Angel Vitamins contains nearly all these ingredients in a powerful anti-parasitic formula.  I have to say: I felt pretty bad on Days 1 & 2; this is known as a “die-off” period, & you may experience headaches (I did) & a general achy/shitty feeling.  But don’t worry ~ this goes away, & as I said, I got the absolute BEST SLEEP of my life while on this cleanse.

Renew Life (which is a great brand) also has a 14-Day Parasite Cleanse; it differs slightly from Mount Angel’s in that it may increase your bowel movements, in addition to killing parasites ~ as they’ve added Marshmallow Root & Aloe to their formula.

Para Response

Pumpkin Seeds

Renew Life 15-Day Parasite Cleanse

How Did I Feel After the Cleanse?

Here’s what I personally noticed:

  • A flatter stomach & less gas (& less smelly gas);
  • BETTER SLEEP, aka sleeping all the way through the night, & not waking up at 3AM anymore;
  • I had been having occasional flare-ups of itchy/rash-y skin, particularly on my chest & arms (which I attributed to too much sun) ~ but these also cleared up post-parasite cleanse;
  • My bowel movements returned to a more normal state, as the last bout of heavy anti-diarrheal that I took in Mexico had led me more towards constipation. 

Something great to snack on if you decide to partake in a parasite cleanse is pumpkin seeds: they are virtually the #1 food you can eat to help kill off unwanted parasites.  If you don’t love the taste, toss some on a baking sheet & sprinkle them with salt ~ & roast them in the oven for a few minutes!

xoxo Noelia

Read Next: How to Avoid Montezuma’s Revenge

**Note: This article is meant for people, like myself, who are experiencing mild (non-life threatening) symptoms; if you have blood in your stool or have had diarrhea for several days, PLEASE see your doctor.