Are you ready for this one? I hope so because it’s a serendipitous tale of creepy crawlies. If you read my last healing journey update, then you know that I was seeking the help of an acupuncturist to help me with what I had thought was a hormone imbalance.
Turns out, it was so much more than that.
I had just started seeing Dr. Wonson in mid-March so it’s been about a month and a half of treatment (and a month and a half of revelations).
My first few sessions did not include acupuncture, just herbal healing with supplements, mostly because I wasn’t ready to fork over the money each week for it. But, I had a wedding quickly approaching in May and I realized that an investment in my health, even if it meant racking up bills on my credit card, was an investment worth taking, especially after seeing how well I responded to acupuncture during my intake session.
Once I finally had my first taste of acupuncture, I was hooked. I couldn’t believe how well it improved my symptoms and how great it made me feel. I typically had between 4-12 needles spread across my ankles, feet inner/outer shins, arms, hands, chest and yes… even my head. I could feel energy buzzing through my body during sessions and a sense of relaxation washed over me as I laid there in the dark room, my feet/ankles and stomach warmed by infrared heat lamps. This was bliss (albeit expensive bliss).
While I was definitely seeing much improvements from acupuncture, I was still having trouble sleeping at night (waking each night consistently between 1-3 a.m.), and had a really hard time falling back asleep. I also had persisting symptoms like food intolerances (nightshades, garlic, onion, cruciferous veggies), sugar cravings, anemia, hot flashes/night sweats, nutrient deficiencies (despite eating sufficient nutrient-dense foods), constipation/sluggish bowels, unexplained mood swings/anxiety, extreme fatigue, tender/swollen breasts, very light menstrual cycles and even stranger symptoms like itchy skin and clenched jaw/grinding teeth.
I saw Dr. Wonson each week (sometimes twice a week) so that she could closely track how I responded to the traditional Chinese herbs, as well as the ebb and flow of my other symptoms. Now, being the curious person that I am, I was doing my own research and one night half wondered to myself if I had parasites. It would explain a lot, but I didn’t think much of it to be honest. Until my doctor also drew the same conclusion in my next session.
She started asking me questions like “have you been out of the country recently?” “what was your diet like” and when I mentioned I was raw vegan for about 4-5 months and then vegan for nearly 2 years, she paused. Wrote something down. Asked me more questions like (TMI alert, but if you’re reading this then you’re probably totally fine with TMI tummy troubles) “does your skin and particularly your rectal area get itchy at night?” I thought about it for a second and responded that yes, in fact, it did, but I thought it was just the insanely dry weather in SF causing dry skin.
Eventually, she revealed that she suspected I was host to unwanted guests in my digestive tract, and that I most likely picked these little guys (or gals) up during the time that I was raw vegan from — of all things — eating raw organic uncooked vegetables. Raw organic veggies are great, but the fact that they aren’t doused in chemical fertilizers/pesticides means that they can carry parasites and bugs, and if not washed or prepared properly, can make their way into our own bodies. I was eating at a ton of raw vegan restaurants, and ordering raw vegan meal delivery plans, and I had no idea how sanitary these places were because I didn’t even think it was an issue.
That meant that I likely had parasites for about 4 years. Now, we all get parasites at some points in our lives, but our bodies can typically flush them our. However, if your immune and digestive systems are compromised (like mine was with leaky gut, SIBO and IBS) then you are more susceptible to parasites. And because I had so many other digestive issues going on, the parasites took the back burner and we weren’t really looking for them at the time.
I’d had a stool test that came back negative for parasites, but that was not comprehensive. A single stool test alone is not an accurate way to test for parasites because they can be rather smart creatures and can essentially elude detection. A blood test is also another option, or a colonoscopy.
It all made sense though because my food intolerances started right along the time that I went raw vegan (I know this because I blogged about here), and all of my current symptoms were signs of parasites (especially the nutrient deficiency piece because the parasites were consuming them all!). I finally had my answer. Now it was time say sayonara to my pesky parasites.
There are a few ways to do a parasite cleanse but all methods are rooted in the same general premise. Kill the parasites. Keep them away.
Dr. Wonson have me a special (and PUNGENT) blend of traditional Chinese herbs to take every 2 hours (for 5 times total) during the day and then a night time blend to be taken 2 times in the evening. This lasted for 5 days total. It. Was. Rough.
There’s of course a prescription you can take, but I wanted to kill parasites the natural way — with food and herbs. I have not asked doc what was in the blend, but plan to during my next session.
I do know that some of the best supplements for killing parasites are:
Dr. Josh Axe has a great comprehensive article on doing a natural parasite cleanse that I highly recommend. I also completely cut out carbs and sugars because those feed the parasites. I also avoided processed foods (something I do anyway), red meat (because it’s hard to digest and can hinder the process), pork (because pigs are known to be hosts to parasites/worms), and alcohol (because it’s converted to sugar).
Even though Dr. Wonson said I should’t experience any negative symptoms, I definitely did the first few days. I mean my body was absolute trash. I cancelled all our weekend plans and basically laid in bed watching Netflix and reading Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”
I had experienced die off whenever I was going through my healing protocol for small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and it was a similar concept. When you start to kill/eradicate unwanted bacteria in your body, they try to fight back, and when the parasites in particular die, they release inflammatory toxins in the body to warn your body to get rid of them ASAP. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to keep things moving and to maintain proper bowel elimination. It’s even recommended to use coffee enemas or colonic cleanses to keep the bowels moving so that the toxins don’t stay in your body and become re-absorbed.
Some of my main symptoms included:
When parasites die, they are eliminated through the skin, bowels and mouth (typical detox pathways) so there are a few things you can do to help lessen the severity of your die-off symptoms.
After the initial die-off stage, I then entered into the continuation phase. A typical parasite cleanse can last as long as 20-30 days to ensure that you’ve killed all of the larvae and eggs. That meant eating a diet that would keep these parasites away and that would create an uninhabitable environment in my gut by boosting good gut bacteria. This is basically the keto diet, which is a diet I’m intimately familiar with. You want to continue to avoid sugar, carbs and red meat/pork and focus on green veggies, fermented foods other gut balancing/antibacterial herbs.
Here are some of the foods I ate (and that are recommended on this diet):
It’s also really important to support your liver, gallbladder and lymphatic systems, which are going to be powering on all cylinders during your parasite cleanse. This article has great information on how to support those beyond what I shared here. during this time since it’s going to be going into overdrive working to digest and move the parasites and toxins through your system.
The worst is behind me now, and I am so incredibly thankful to FINALLY have some answers. This last leg of my healing journey has been confusing and draining, but as always, I find myself lucky to be surrounded by people who truly care about me and want to help see me through the tough times. If you are having similar issues or suspect you might have a parasite, I recommend seeing a holistic/integrative doc or an herbalist/acupuncturist to get more information (of which I am not). If you simply want to ask me about my experience, I am always happy to help out and provide additional insight!