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Dynamic Chiropractic – July 1, 2010, Vol. 28, Issue 14

Parasites: Nutritional Remedies Do Work!

By Van Merkle, DC, CCN, DCBCN, DABCI

Here's a fact that will leave you squirming in your seat - a recent study found that 85 percent of Americans have at least one form of intestinal or organ parasite feeding off their bodies.1 The worst part is you can't see them and you can't feel them, so how do you know they are there? By hiding out in the intestines, they get "first choice" of any nutrients fed to your system.

Most of us think of our environment as a clean, sanitary place where parasites cannot survive, but that is simply not the case. Tapeworms, for example, can be ingested from eating insufficiently cooked meats (especially beef, pork and fish), drinking unfiltered water, swimming in unchlorinated water (lakes and creeks) or eating unwashed fruits and vegetables grown in contaminated soil or irrigated with contaminated water. Those signs on bathroom doors that say, "Employees must wash hands before returning to work," are posted for a reason. Failing to wash your hands after handling stool, diapers, pets, litter boxes, etc., and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes can easily let these microscopic leaches into the body.

Once established in the body, the tapeworm parasite has two goals - to suck the nutrients from your body and to reproduce. One could say they "feed to breed," as tapeworms consist of only a small head called the scolex, which has suckers and hooks to dig into the lining of the intestine; and reproductive segments called proglottids containing both male and female gonads.2 These worms can grow up to 30 feet in your intestines, survive for up to 30 years, and with each segment capable of reproducing, have been known to excrete up to 1 million eggs per day.3-5

tape worm - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark While most eggs pass out of your system through the stool to be picked up by another host, others (such as dwarf tapeworms) can complete their entire life cycles in one person - egg to larvae to adult parasite.6 Common signs and symptoms of tapeworms are segments appearing in the stool, nausea, weakness, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, diarrhea and weight loss. However, many people experience no symptoms at all.7

One of my patients suffered from a lot of symptoms, but they were non-classic for parasites. Before I met her, seven doctors had misdiagnosed her problem. What do you do when a patient is sitting across from you asking for help when so many have already failed? At 42 years old, she had been battling GI distress and chronic fever for several decades. Each morning she woke up nauseous; drinking nutritional shakes left her with severe stomach pain, nausea and lightheadedness. After numerous tests, doctors had concluded that she was hypersensitive and emotional, which was causing her GI dysfunction. The recommendation was that she stick to a bland diet and try to contain her emotions. She also had continuously gained weight despite a very healthy, low-calorie diet, and more recently had developed severe photosensitivity. It was so bad that she wore sunglasses indoors at all times and a visor and double sunglasses outside to prevent headaches.

Her medical doctors had run some tests on her eyes, did an MRI and a few other tests, and found a B1 and B12 deficiency. They had speculated that she had a genetic malabsorption problem and told her she would have to supplement with B1 and B12 shots, possibly for life. But isn't it odd that this "genetic" condition didn't manifest until she was in her 40s? Attributing the patient's condition to genetics finished the MDs' job of diagnosis. There was no need to investigate further because they had a treatment for her symptom. Needless to say, she decided to look for an 8th opinion.

The most important thing to do when a patient has seen numerous doctors with no success is go back to the basics. Each of these doctors had focused on her symptoms, I tested all the basic functions of her body. We did blood tests for glucose, hemoglobin A1C, liver panel, thyroid panel, inflammatory markers, hepatic profile, vitamin D levels, vitamin B1 and B12 levels to monitor her progress on the shots, CBC panel, iron and cholesterol panel. By looking at all the different body processes, we could gauge her current state of health and how each system was working together. Some red flags appeared in her blood work:

  • High creatine kinase, LDH and C-reactive protein; these tests are indicators of muscle/tissue breakdown and inflammation.
  • High T4 thyroxine and Low T3 uptake. An improperly functioning thyroid will disrupt cholesterol levels, body immunity and digestive functions.
  • Elevated SGOT/SGPT, indicating mild liver dysfunction.
  • Low alkaline phosphatase - a sign of malnutrition.
  • High iron and low ferritin, both signs of developing anemia.
  • Slightly elevated monocytes, which can indicate chronic infection, food allergies or chronic parasite infestation.

I will admit that at first, I attributed these problems to malabsorption leading to lowered immunity, and put her on a lot of digestive aids to try and boost her nutrient levels. After starting up the recommended vitamin regimen, she said she felt wonderful, but a few days later she "crashed," as she described it, and felt just as bad if not worse than before. Based on her blood tests and relapsing digestive symptoms, I asked her to pursue a parasite cleanse. Finally she had success. Within days of starting a 21-day cleanse she passed her first tapeworm and has been 100 percent symptom free since. No more GI problems, no light sensitivity, and her menopausal symptoms even improved. Many other parasites and segments have passed since.

Once we figured out the problem, all her symptoms actually made sense. So, what should you look for in blood test results that would hint at parasites?

  • B12 deficiency - B12 is typically absorbed in the intestines and stomach, but if you have parasites, they will be quick to absorb this vital nutrient into their bodies instead. This can lead to symptoms including lightheadedness, diarrhea or constipation, depression, pale skin, bleeding gums or light sensitivity.8
  • Anemia - A B12 deficiency also makes it hard for the body to create red blood cells, which carry oxygen through your body. Without red blood cells, the body becomes anemic and patients may feel weak or tired.
  • High inflammatory markers (ESR, CRP, creatine kinase, LDH) - Tapeworms attach to the intestinal walls, causing irritation and inflammation, which can lead to gas, bloating and malabsorption of vital nutrients, particularly fatty substances. Symptoms are magnified if the diet consists of harder-to-digest foods like beans, raw fruits and vegetables.
  • Chronic mildly elevated monocytes - A direct indicator of parasites, this will stay slightly elevated continuously as the body uses the white blood cell monocytes to attack parasites. This number will be much higher with an acute infestation.
  • Elevated liver enzymes (SGOT/SGPT) - All parasites secrete toxins which must be processed by the liver. The more parasites in your body, the more work the liver has to do to eliminate toxic build-up and waste. This increases stress on the liver and can cause liver damage.

This patient had non-classic symptoms and actually gained weight even though she was eating less. She likely had so many worms that they were taking all the nutrients they could get and leaving her with nothing but water weight and substandard nutrition.

In addition to the nutritional considerations above, several herbs are known to be lethal to these parasites without having harmful side effects. Adult tapeworms are especially susceptible to black walnut, pumpkin seeds and wormwood, while cloves kill the eggs. It is vital to use a combination of these herbs in cycles to ensure all eggs, larvae and adult worms are expelled from the body. This can be a lengthy process, but as you can see from my patient, symptoms can begin to ease immediately once the parasite is addressed.


  1. Saxion V. Every Body Has Parasites. Bronze Bow Publishing, 2003, pg 15.
  2. Definition of "Cestoda." A Dictionary of Biology, copyright 2004; accessed on
  3. "Harmful Invading Organisms." The Life Tree, copyright 2003; accessed on
  4. Tapeworm Infection. The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library; accessed on
  5. Taeniasis. Medline Plus; National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health.
  6. Tapeworm Infection: Causes. Mayo Clinic, copyright 2007; accessed on
  7. Tapeworm Infection: Symptoms. Mayo Clinic, copyright 2007; accessed on
  8. Vitamin B12 Deficiency Anemia. WebMD, last updated Dec. 19 2008; accessed on

Dr. Van D. Merkle, president of Science Based Nutrition, is a diplomate of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition and the American Board of Chiropractic Internists. He is also a diplomate of the recently formed Chiropractic Board of Clinical Nutrition and currently serves as vice president. Dr. Merkle has practiced in the Dayton, Ohio area for more than 25 years, and hosted the call-in radio talk show "Back To Health, Your Guide to Better Living" since 1995.

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