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What are Tapeworms?
Tapeworms are described as long, segmented worms that primarily live in the intestinal tract of humans and often in the bodies of animals. These parasitic worms belong to the class of Cestoda. Tapeworm infections may be caused by one of the tapeworm species and these include the pork tapeworm (Taenia solium), beef tapeworm (Taenia saginata), dwarf tapeworm (Hymenolepis nana) or fish tapeworm (Diphyllobothrium4 latum).
Tapeworms infect the human body by drinking and eating food or water contaminated with tapeworm eggs or larvae that matures in the intestines. People of all ages can develop tapeworms if they do not practice good personal hygiene. With immediate treatment, tapeworms can be treated effectively. However, if tapeworm infections are left untreated, complications such as cysts may develop in the liver, lungs or central nervous system which can result in organ damage.
Symptoms and signs
Check your stool for tapeworm eggs, or segments of the adult tapeworm. The diagnoses of tapeworms are based on your symptoms, as well as an examination of your stool. Tests such as blood, stool, urine or phlegm samples may be performed to check for intestinal worms & parasites. A tissue biopsy, CT scan or MRI scan may also be ordered in more severe cases.
What Causes Tapeworms?
Tape worms in humans occur as a result of:
- Consumption of food and water that has been contaminated with human or animal feces
- Eating raw or undercooked meats such as pork, beef, lamb or venison
- Poor hygiene habits such as washing or bathing infrequently, not washing your hands before eating or preparing food and after using the bathroom
- Livestock such as cattle or pigs may become infected by been exposed to contaminated pastures
- Traveling frequently to developing countries where there are poor sanitary conditions
Help for Tapeworms
Tapeworms may be treated effectively with oral medications such as Albendazole and Praziquantel to kill the adult tapeworm. Be vigilant about practicing good hygiene habits to avoid being re-infected. Once you have completed the course of medication, stool samples will be taken to check for tapeworm eggs.
If the tapeworm infection has spread to tissues outside of your intestine, cysts may develop and anti-inflammatory steroids may be prescribed to reduce swelling. In more severe cases, surgery and organ transplantation may be required to remove any cysts that have developed in your organs.
Natural alternatives have proven to be highly effective in offering support to the digestive system and helping to keep the intestinal system worm-free. Treatments such as herbal and homeopathic remedies are gentle on the body’s system and can be used safely for both adults and children every so often to help the whole family remain worm-free.
Herbs such as Glycorrhiza glabra (licorice root), Agrimonia eupatoria (Agrimony), Althea officinalis (Marshmallow) and Artemesia africana (Wormwood or Wilde-Als) supports the immune system, soothes the digestive tract and keeps the body free of parasites. Homeopathic ingredients such as Chamomilla and Cina promote balance and harmony in the digestive system and keep the intestinal system functioning as it should.
More Information on Tapeworms
Tips to prevent Tapeworms
- Practice good hygiene habits by washing your hands thoroughly before eating or preparing food, after using the bathroom or playing with pets
- Wear gardening gloves when working in the garden or with soil and always wash hands afterwards
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat such as pork, lamb, beef or venison
- Drink filtered or bottled water, and people with poor sanitation should boil their water
- Freeze meat or fish for at least 12 hours to kill tapeworm eggs and larvae
- Cook meat thoroughly at a temperature of 150F to kill tapeworm eggs or larvae
- Avoid eating raw produce when traveling in endemic areas – wash and cook fruit and vegetables with filtered water before eating
- Wear insect repellant when outdoors to protect yourself against parasitic diseases
- Sleep with a bed net when visiting tropical areas where malaria is common prevent mosquitoes from transmitting diseases
- Dispose of animal and human feces immediately to avoid livestock being exposed to tapeworm eggs