Tapeworms Found In North American Salmon

Whatever is in the food you eat might get into you as well.

Food contains beneficial nutrients like vitamins and minerals, but it can also contain bad things like industrial pollutants or pathogens like bacteria and viruses.

Some aspects of seafood are, in theory, great for our health, such as the EPA and DHA fatty acids found in fish. These fats promote brain health, are heart-healthy, and anti-inflammatory.

However, much of the water on our beautiful planet has become tainted. Now, the oceans and rivers that fish swim in are full of mercury, lead, and other pollutants which fish soak up.

Tragically, we can no longer enjoy a carefree meal of fish without the fear that their toxicity will be transferred to us.

Worm Contamination

Now, there are additional fears for even those of us who are consuming fish from relatively unpolluted sources. Scientists are increasingly concerned about Pacific-caught salmon being contaminated with parasites.

Japanese tapeworm, one of the most common forms of infectious tapeworm, was thought to be isolated to the waters around Japan, Korea, and the western edge of Russia.

Key Point

But in 2013, investigators from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined wild salmon caught around Alaska and in the Pacific, and found that several species were infected with tapeworms 1.

For an infection to occur, all it needs is for tiny tapeworm larvae found in salmon to enter your gut. Eating raw or undercooked salmon places you at a higher risk of infection 1,2.

CDC investigators warn that many parts of the world such as “China, Europe, New Zealand, and middle and eastern United States” are at risk for infection 1. Much of the salmon that is shipped from the Pacific is unfrozen so tapeworm larvae can survive the trip to your kitchen  1.

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Could You Have Tapeworms?

Horror stories of 30 foot long tapeworms growing inside the guts of a human are very rare (but not outside the realm of possibility). Some people do have small tapeworms inside their bodies, and these can live for up to 30 years. 

The scary thing is that you could be infected without knowing it. Sometimes tapeworms can produce symptoms by causing intestinal inflammation, stealing nutrients from you, and even migrating out of the intestines into the lungs, central nervous system, or liver. Worms can also steal vitamin B12 from your body, causing a variety of neurological symptoms2.

If your tapeworm infection does cause symptoms, common ones are:

  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Hunger or loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Nutrient deficiencies

Fighting Tapeworms

So what can you do if you still want to eat some fish but don’t want to get a tapeworm infection?

Luckily, there are many natural herbs and foods you can incorporate into your life that have been evidenced to kill parasites.

Here’s a list of a few foods and supplements to make it harder for tapeworms to settle in you.

1. Garlic

Humans have long known that garlic has tremendous anti-microbial properties. And it’s also delicious. Incorporating fresh garlic into your meals is a great way to make your gut inhospitable to bad bugs.

Garlic has had some success in ridding animals of parasites3. In fish that were fed garlic, levels of parasites in their intestines substantially decreased compared to those who didn’t ingest garlic3.

Garlic has effectively killed some human-prone parasites in test tubes, and mixtures of herbs containing garlic have effectively killed the flatworm species of which the tapeworm is part 4.

2. Pumpkin Seeds

Our discussion of pumpkin seeds begins in 2009. That year, a Tibetan woman was suffering from a confirmed tapeworm infection and decided to ingest pumpkin seeds in an effort to expunge the parasites5. Researchers say that 19 out of the 20 tapeworms were cleared from the woman’s body5.

In one shockingly awesome study, 75% of people infected with tapeworms “expelled whole tapeworms” in their stools after just taking pumpkin seeds 6

In one shockingly awesome study, 75% of people infected with tapeworms “expelled whole tapeworms” in their stools after just taking pumpkin seeds 6!

And it only took a little over 14 hours for such a dramatically positive result to occur 6!

Pumpkin seeds can be consumed in intact seed or butter form. Either way, they are delicious.

3. Coconut

Coconut is a very divisive food. - Some people love it; others can’t stand it. But if you like it, it is great for killing the bad guys in your guts. In mice and rats infected with tapeworm, a mixture of coconut and onions “eliminated all” tapeworms7.

Coconut and onion was found to “decrease substantially” the “worm load” in horses and sheep8.

This tropical food pairs well with practically any type of food. Coconut mixes well with both sweet and savory and can be consumed in many different forms: oil, flakes, “butter,” or even flour.

4. Pineapple

Pineapple contains a very useful enzyme called bromelain, which is a proteolytic enzyme that digests or breaks down proteins. The enzyme has been evidenced to actually break down and kill parasites.

In one study on parasitic nematodes that commonly attack plants, bromelain was one of the enzymes verified to harm the parasites9. In fact, bromelain was the most effective proteolytic enzyme against one of the parasites found in soil9. The researchers could see, through microscopes, the enzymes eating away at the structures of the parasites9.

In another study, fresh pineapple juice caused the “rapid ulceration” (broke the parasite membranes) and eventual “digestion” of parasitic worms 10.

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Evan Burns

MSC in Nutrition

Evan Burns

MSC in Nutrition

Evan has years of experience researching and writing about the health effects of food and nutritional supplements.

He is especially passionate about nutritional pharmacology and the bioavailability, efficacy, and actions of supplements. He wants to spread knowledge about how effective diet and supplements can be at treating ailments and promoting well-being.

Most people in first world countries don’t think much about parasites. They think they only affect the poorer parts of the world, where unclean water and food are the norm.

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