Intestinal parasites and worms spend at least a part of their life cycles in the gastrointestinal tracts of host organisms. Intestinal parasites common in the U.S. include roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and Giardia, a type of protozoa. Several foods and spices contain antiparasitic properties that might prevent you from becoming infested with intestinal parasites and worms. Some spices interfere with prescription medications, so consult your health care practitioner before adding new spices to your diet.
Garlic, or Allium sativum, is a perennial bulb plant long valued for its culinary and medicinal benefits. Folk healers have long used garlic to treat intestinal infestations. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC, animal and test tube research indicates that raw garlic prevents and kills intestinal parasites and worms, particularly roundworms. Testing on human subjects still needs to be done. An article in the "Trends in Parasitology" journal reports that garlic oil inhibits infestations of Giardia and other protozoa parasites. The UMMC suggests consuming 2 to 4 grams of fresh, raw garlic to prevent intestinal parasites. Garlic sometimes interacts with blood thinners and antiplatelet drugs, so consult your physician before using garlic if you take such medications.
Other Antiparasitic Spices
Consuming turmeric and ginger can also reduce your risks of becoming infected by intestinal parasites and worms, according to the UMMC. Turmeric, or Curcuma longa, contains antioxidant properties and antiparasitic agents that kill roundworms in lab studies. Drugs.com adds that thyme, or Thymus vulgaris, might successfully treat intestinal hookworm infestations. Although spices can naturally boost the health of your gastrointestinal system and prevent parasites, always check with your doctor before adding new spices to your diet.
Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Vegetables
The UMMC suggests that you help prevent intestinal parasites by eating foods rich in antioxidants, particularly fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C. The Linus Pauling Institute notes that citrus fruits, tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberries and broccoli all contain high levels of vitamin C. Other antioxidant-rich fruits include blueberries, figs, cherries, squash, carrots, beets and spinach. Eating these foods improves the overall health of your gastrointestinal system, which reduces your risks of infestations.
Eating fiber-rich foods keeps your gastrointestinal system healthy and promotes regular elimination, both of which help to prevent intestinal parasites and worms. According to the Mayo Clinic, fiber-rich foods include whole grains such as barley, bran and oatmeal. Replace white rice and white bread with brown rice and multigrain or rye bread. Legumes also contain healthy levels of fiber, especially split peas, lentils and black beans. Snack on pistachio nuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds and sunflower seeds to get extra servings of fiber during your day.
The UMMC suggests avoiding any meats that come from carnivorous animals, particularly pork, if you are trying to prevent parasites. Eat fish, tofu and beans for your protein servings instead. Yogurt and kefir both contain healthy probiotics that promote intestinal health and prevent infections. Look for yogurts that contain live cultures called Lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacteria, Saccharomyces boulardii and Lactobacilus plantarum. Because foods and spices might affect prescription drugs, always tell your doctor about any changes in your diet.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Garlic
- "Trends in Parasitology"; "Plant Active Components–A Resource for Antiparasitic Agents?"; Jean-Paul Anthony et al; October 2005
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Roundworms
- Drugs.com: Thyme
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Intestinal Parasites
- Linus Pauling Institute; "Vitamin C"; Jane Higdon; January 2006