top of page

Parasites 101


  • The science of die-off symptoms

  • Common die-off symptoms

  • Our approach to treating parasites

  • FAQ

Herxheimer reaction: The original bacteria die-off symptoms

The originator of what we now refer to as a die-off phenomenon is termed the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction (JHR). The Herx reaction, as it's commonly known, was initially observed by European dermatologists Adolf Jarisch and Karl Herxheimer in the late 1800s. Their findings centered around the temporary aggravation of skin lesions (symptoms) following treatment with mercury (antibiotics). As penicillin began to be used for syphilis treatment in the 1940s, Herx reactions were noted to manifest within the initial 24 hours of treatment, characterized by fever, chills, headaches, and a worsening of skin rashes.


Although the JHR technically pertains to infections caused by spiral-shaped bacteria (spirochetes) and antibiotics, the idea of symptom exacerbation or deterioration after commencing antimicrobial therapy has been observed to extend more broadly in clinical practice. This is why practitioners often refer to a Herx reaction, even if the term isn't entirely scientifically precise. However, what is commonly termed 'die-off symptoms' is indeed frequently observed when individuals begin addressing bacterial, parasitic, and yeast pathogens using natural antimicrobial agents.


The die-off process is broken down into three distinct phases:
1. Cell death
2. Immune response
3. Detoxification


When we treat harmful microorganisms such as parasites, bacteria, and yeast, they initiate a process of “dying off.” This process of 'cell death' sets off a series of responses within the body that frequently lead to the emergence or intensification of new symptoms. However, what precisely occurs during this process of 'cell death'?


In the diagram above, we view 'cell death' as having two main stages: biofilm breakdown and glycoconjugate (toxin) release. Let's delve into each step and understand their impact on die-off symptoms.

Phase 1 - Biofilm Breakdown: Biofilm forms when microorganisms cluster in the GI tract, creating a protective colony. This makes it hard to detect and remove harmful agents like bacteria, parasites, and yeast. Natural supplements can break down this shield, releasing pathogens into the GI tract.

Phase 2 - Release of Glycoconjugates: The term "glycoconjugates" is essentially a broad term that refers to toxins released by various types of organisms. For example, lipopolysaccharides (LPS) for bacteria, glycolipids for parasites, and beta-glucans for yeast, are released as cell membranes break down, triggering inflammation.



Immune Response: Released toxins act as triggers for inflammation, prompting the immune system to clear them out. While inflammation is natural, it can cause temporary symptoms like aches, rashes, and headaches—referred to as die-off. LPS is a fever inducing substance, which explains the flu-like bacteria die-off symptoms experienced by many.



Detox: Broken biofilm and toxins need to be eliminated. In a healthy GI tract, they pass through and exit via stool. However, a leaky gut allows toxins to enter the bloodstream. If detox pathways (lymphatic system, liver, kidneys, colon, skin) are compromised, toxins recirculate, prolonging die-off symptoms for those with chronic digestive issues.

Common parasite die-off symptoms: 

Die-off symptoms resemble pathogen infection symptoms because they arise from the same toxins. However, in bacteria, yeast, and parasite die-off, these toxins are released more rapidly and intensely. It's normal to feel worse for a few days before improving, whether you're addressing SIBO, H. pylori, candida, parasites, or other microbes.


The most common bacteria, yeast and parasite die-off symptoms are:

  • Fatigue, trouble sleeping

  • Headaches

  • Body aches and pains

  • Skin rashes, eczema, psoriasis, acne, or reactions

  • Mood symptoms (e.g. anxiety and depression)

  • Respiratory phlegm or stuffy nose

  • Increased GI upset, food cravings

  • Flu-like symptoms (e.g. fever and chills)

  • Itchy bum

  • Grinding teeth

Managing die-off symptoms 

Effectively managing die-off symptoms requires an understanding of the various mechanisms causing them. As a quick recap, the 3 difficult variables that impact die-off symptom severity are:

1. Quantity and speed of pathogen cell death - this will determine the size of the ‘toxic burden’ your body has to manage.

2. How active your immune system is and therefore the amount of inflammation your body creates.

3. How effective your detox pathways are at clearing toxins from your body.

With this is mind, our approach to minimizing die-off symptoms has three corresponding elements:


Faster and stronger treatments lead to a quick release of toxins from dying pathogens. Our goal is to avoid a sudden explosion of toxins. Instead, we want a careful approach to prevent negative effects.

To lessen die-off symptoms, we:

  • Targeted Supplements: We assess for the most effective natural antimicrobials on a case by case basis. These are gentler than antibiotics, yet effective against pathogens and parasites. They can still cause mild die-off symptoms, but usually less than antibiotics. In addition, we assess for supporting nutrients to aid the body's natural detox process, and to support a healthy immune response. The timing to initiate the parasite cleanse or certain phases of the protocol are also taken into consideration as parasite life cycles often coincide with the moon's cycles. 

  • Tailored Diet: We begin clients on a tailored gut-healing, anti-inflammatory diet before or simultaneously with a precise supplement protocol. This step helps to prepare the body to minimize the impact of the “die-off” reaction.


 This approach helps to effectively mediate reactions and reduces rapid cell death/minimizes die-off symptoms.




Helping your body to clear excess toxins via the detox organs, while addressing inflammation is an important part of avoiding die-off symptoms and also reducing their severity after onset. We manage inflammation and toxicity issues by:

  • Rest and Reducing Stress: Balance the circadian rhythm by prioritizing good sleep, especially before 10pm for healing. Avoid intense exercise or stress-inducing activities.

  • Targeted supplementation

  • Sunlight 

  • Mindfulness based training and biofeedback 

  • Gentle movement

  • Hydration

  • Epsom Salt Baths

  • Infrared Sauna


What are parasites ?

Parasites are small organisms that infect and live on/inside another organism, called a 'host' (that would be you). Some are visible to the human eye (ex.tapeworm, pinworm). Some are microscopic (ex. trichomoniasis).


Where are they?

That depends on what class of parasite you've been infected by. Parasites can infect the brain, blood, gallbladder, lungs, muscles, vagina, sinuses, but are most commonly found in the large intestine, small intestine, liver, or stomach.

What does it feel like to pass a parasite?

It doesn't typically feel much different than having a regular bowel movement. However, in some cases the initial phases of a cleanse can initiate explosive diarrhea, looser bowel movements, mucous and other unusual looking things in your stool.  

What will I see in the toilet?

You may never see anything. Up to 70% of parasites are microscopic, so you won’t see them on the way out. For the remaining 30%, get emotionally prepared for seeing anything that might look like grains of rice, to long white/translucent threads, to diamond shaped, rubbery textured creatures, to long tape like specimens. Macroscopic (can be seen with the naked eye) parasites can vary in size from a few millimetres to several feet long. For photos, feel free to search for liver flukes, tapeworms, pinworms, roundworms, and more.

Common symptoms?

Fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, food sensitivities, constipation, diarrhea, rashes, anal itching, body pain.

How long before a parasite cleanse works?

Parasite cleanses can typically last between 3-6 weeks. In some cases, longer protocols are needed to fully eradicate the problem.


How to know if a parasite cleanse is working?

Monitoring your symptoms and working with a professional who can assess and monitor you throughout your cleanse is important to know if your cleanse is working and to manage any changes to your diet and supplementation.

How did I get infected?

Again, that depends on what class of parasite it is. Common sources in Canada are food, water, soil, sand, blood, pets, children, bug bites, travel, unprotected sex - to name a few.

Can I spread it to others?

Yes, just like other infections. Keep your fingernails and toilets clean! Wash bedding and clothes in hot water.


How dangerous are parasites?

Severity of illness ranges from discomfort (pinworms), to debilitating (tapeworms) or life threatening (malaria or brain eating amoeba). Depending on what type of parasite, where it is and how long its been there for will determine the severity. The longer it's had time to lay eggs, rob nutrients and weaken the host, the longer it may take to lower their population. Luckily, in Canada life-threatening parasitic infections are extremely rare (occurring mostly from foreign travel). However, we see untreated infections weaken immune function and consequently make people susceptible to having multiple, difficult to treat, chronic diseases.

Can parasites come back?

Yes. You can reinfect yourself if leftover eggs hatch before they can be excreted. Also, if you do not strengthen your immune system you can catch them from others or a contaminated source.


Are herbs as effective as pharmaceuticals?

From our experience, both have their strengths. Herbs are also effective, can be used long-term with fewer side effects and offer 2-in-1 detox support and anti-parasitic properties. Herbs are also great for routine prevention. Downside of pharmaceuticals are drug-resistance or not being able to receive a prescription due to a lack of positive test result. However, both herbs and drugs used together yield good results if your healthcare team is willing.


Can my body fight them off on its own?

Under perfect conditions, maybe. If you have symptoms - we do not recommend you risk complications.


Will colonics flush them out?

Some of them, if they are in the large intestine and not latched onto the colon. Colonics will not flush parasites out of your liver or lungs. Our concern with colonics is the disruption of the microbiome. In some cases, however, colonics might be helpful in combination with direct treatment and immune support not on their own


Why didn't it show up on a blood or stool test?

Lifecycles, location and human error. Parasites have different lifecycles, and lay eggs and shed parts at different times and will show in your stool at different times of day or even different portions of a stool itself. Also, looking for a parasite in the stool when it is in the lung gives a false negative test - you still are infected. A skilled medical doctor can order blood labs to look for other clues such as eosinophils. In clinic, we prefer to muscle test.


Should healthy people routinely do parasite cleanses?

Yes. In fact, many countries around the world de-worm at least once a year.


How will I know if it is gone?

Symptom resolution and a negative muscle test for parasites (or other diagnostic tool)


Will i see them come out?

Sometimes. Tapeworms look like long white strings or small square segments. If they are pin worms, they look like rice. Microscopic parasites are not visible. While pharmaceuticals like pyrantel pamoate stun parasites so that they detach from the digestive tract and may come out whole, some herbs break apart biofilm and the organisms themselves and pieces of worm or mucous may be seen. In any case, they are most likely dead.


Anti-parasitic foods?

Raw garlic, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed butter, papaya, papaya seeds, pineapple, raw beets, raw carrot, coriander spice, thyme.


What foods feed parasites?

Processed sugar (candy, cookies, soda, simple carbs), dairy (milk, cheese, yoghurt). Also avoid alcohol, caffeine.

bottom of page