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    TikTokers Are Are ~De-Worming~ Themselves With Gnarly Results — Here's Why You Shouldn't Join The Trend

    Here's why experts say this isn't a trend you should jump on.

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    Kathy Hoang / BuzzFeed

    Hello, friends! We are back again with another episode of Find the Facts — a series where we debunk viral information from the internet and learn about things we may not know but should.

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    Kathy Hoang / BuzzFeed

    Today we are discussing gut health — specifically when it comes to this viral TikTok that has been making the rounds about this woman claiming she had intestinal worms:

    The woman in the video can be seen and heard discussing her recent experience with what she claims to be intestinal worms after seeing other TikToks about a certain digestive supplement called Paraguard. Her experience goes as follows, "So, it kept coming up on my TikTok that people were taking Paraguard (a digestive supplement for your intestines — look at the review photos at your own risk) for intestinal worms and I thought, No way — there's no way I have worms or anybody has worms. And they kept saying in other countries people de-worm themselves all the time — every six months, every two to three months... So, I HAVE WORMS. And you know what that means? You have worms; everybody has worms!!! We need to de-worm ourselves, everybody, get something."

    And she is not alone. All over TikTok, you can find videos of people sharing their experiences "de-worming" themselves and discussing things like FINDING DEAD CARCASSES in their feces, urine, and even coming out of their skin!!! 🤢

    In the video above, the woman can be heard saying, "I've worked in the medical field for 18 years, and not once have I ever de-wormed myself...until now. I did the same thing everyone else is doing, the Paraguard — but I did the pills...dead carcasses everywhere! I took 4 a day for the last 11 days... I eat healthy, but that doesn't matter if you have worms for 40-plus years. I did have a little bit different carcass situation...I peed them out, and they came out of my skin. Overall, I feel better, I have more energy, my skin is clear, and I just feel like I don't have worms anymore."

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    Kathy Hoang / BuzzFeed

    If you're like me and you've seen these TikToks, you may have been tempted to run to Amazon and add a "de-wormer" to your shopping cart. But before you do that, let me break down everything I learned on this subject after speaking to two credible experts: gastroenterologist Dr. Sabine Hazan and Dr. Harriet Holme.

    Sabine Hazan, Harriet Holme

    Dr. Hazan is the creator of ProgenaBiome, a state-of-the-art genetic research sequencing laboratory. She is also the author of Let's Talk Sh!t, a humorous explanation of gastrointestinal disorders, treatments, and next-generation hope for gut-related diseases.

    Dr. Harriet Holme is a former pediatrician who is now a Registered Nutritionist (AfN). She has a PhD in genetics and is a lecturer in nutrition. Dr. Holme is the author of Eating During Pregnancy and Postpartum Nutrition: An Expert’s Guide to Eating After a Baby. She also has a podcast called Eating for Health.



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    Kathy Hoang / BuzzFeed

    I know you're all scrolling down right now to see if everyone really has worms — so let's start there. According to Dr. Hazan, we all have healthy parasites in our gut. "It's a part of our microbiome. Your stools are supposed to be composed of bacteria, fungus, parasites, etc.," she explained.

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    But Dr. Hazan said it's NOT a good idea to order the pills people are taking without talking to a healthcare professional first because a) you might not even have harmful parasitic worms, and b) they can potentially destroy your microbiome — which consists of bacteria that helps digest our food, regulate our immune system, produce vitamins, and protect against bad bacteria that can cause disease.

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    "The things people are claiming to see in their poop after taking these pills may not even be worms. It could just be fibrous tissue coming out as a result of taking the pills. They may be removing good microbes in their gut, which is detrimental, because once they are destroyed you can't get them back," she said.

    Dr. Holme also explained that Paraguard is an herbal supplement, and she has not seen evidence suggesting that it is effective in treating worms.

    Freeform

    Paraguard is formulated with a combination of extracts of fennel seed, marshmallow root, black walnut hull, pumpkin seed, slippery elm bark, wormwood herb, clove bud, garlic bulb, oregano leaf oil, and peppermint leaf oil.

    So how do you know if you have the ~bad~ kind of parasites that require medical intervention? Rectal itching, weight loss, abdominal pain, and diarrhea can be a sign of worms, but you may not experience any signs at all. "My advice is for people to remember to get regular physical exams and blood work*. If you are worried about having intestinal worms, ask your healthcare provider for a test FIRST. Most stool tests are cheap and can detect worms," said Dr. Hazan.

    Juan Gartner / Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF

    *Dr. Hazan said a Complete Blood Count (CBC) can give hints as to whether or not you have parasites or worms in your body. In addition, a Comprehensive Metabolic Panel test can also be done. 

    Now that we've discussed the possible symptoms of worms, let's talk about how you can get them. Dr. Holme said that walking outside barefoot, playing or sitting in the dirt, not washing your hands after defecating, drinking well water instead of tap water, and eating raw or undercooked pork and beef can lead to a parasite infection.

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    By now, hopefully, you've stopped freaking yourself out over the possibility of having worms, so let's switch gears and discuss how you can have a healthier gut. "Most people think that the gut is the stomach, and if they're having abdominal pain, they think it's their stomach. Actually, the majority of times, it's not just their stomach — it's their colon. So, my focus is really on the bacteria and the microbes in the colon," said Dr. Hazan.

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    And a healthier gut starts by paying attention to what you eat. "We especially have to be very careful with industrialized meat. The animals from the farms that pack up cows and chickens in these little, closed areas are not healthy. Imagine you put a bunch of humans in one little room and you feed them in that one little room — they're going to get sick because they're lacking diversity. Diversity is key. So how do chickens and cows get their diversity? They roam around the earth and start eating from the soil. But we've damaged the soil with all of these pesticides, and, on top of that, we are feeding the animals antibiotics. So, we need to ask ourselves: What kind of foods are we eating as human beings?"

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    Dr. Hazan added, "The FDA pushed the movement to stop giving antibiotics to animals because they noticed it was harming the human beings who were eating them. We started seeing cases of Clostridioides difficile or C. diff, a bacteria that flourishes because food microbes have been killed off. When a 17-year-old eats a hamburger and all of a sudden has C. diff, you have to pay attention to what they are eating and what the cow is eating. Up to 80% of the grains that feed the beef in this country come from abroad — so what microbes are we bringing in that feed those cows? And then what microbes are we ingesting that fed the cows?"

    Dr. Hazan also emphasized the importance of eating natural foods grown from the earth. "When you alter the soil and crops with chemicals and pesticides, you alter their natural microbes, creating an imbalance, and with that imbalance comes a lot of other problems."

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    As someone who doesn't grow their own food, when I think of eating "natural food" — to me — it means that I have to buy the more expensive foods with the "organic" label. But Dr. Hazan and Holme actually aren't convinced that buying "organic" is better. "The nutrient content in organic and non-organic foods is very similar — and the chemicals in foods are thought to be within generally safe levels. At some life stages, such as trying to conceive a baby, where pesticide levels may impact gamete formation (eggs and sperm), it may be better to swap to organic food. Fundamentally though, it is still better to have non-organic fruit and veggies than none at all. And there isn't evidence to support organic food providing benefits for gut health," Dr. Holme said.

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    "You have to read the labels. If you look at the label of 'organic' food and it says it's from a different country, it's really not organic. There is no oversight with foods coming in from different countries — no one is coming in and testing the microbes of those foods," added Dr. Hazan.


    And because I am guilty of eating both diet and processed foods, I also wondered how those types of foods are affecting my gut health. Unfortunately, Dr. Hazan said that there have not been enough studies to draw a definite conclusion, but she is performing more studies in her lab. "We want to see — I want to see for me so I can prove it to myself — is it OK? What is it doing to my gut? I also want to know what medications and vitamins are doing to the gut. We are at the beginning of understanding," she said.

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    "Currently, we are trying to see if vegan, vegetarian, or carnivore is better. However, the problem is that it is so complex because we are all very different in our microbiome. So, how do we compare what's good for one person versus another? You hear of the person who is doing fine as a carnivore — no heart disease, living until 100. But then, vice versa, you hear there's someone else who eats a piece of meat and gets completely inflamed — so for that person, meat may not be a good idea. We have to look at it as a whole; it's not a one-pill solution because we are all individual people."

    Dr. Holme said that in order to maximize your gut health, you should focus on a diet centered on eating a variety of fruit and vegetables⁠, eating at least 30 grams of fiber per day (including whole-grain carbohydrates⁠), eating fermented foods and drinks (such as kefir, tempeh, miso, kimchi, and sauerkraut⁠), and avoiding trans fats, sweeteners, and antibiotics when possible.

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    Another topic that often comes up when we talk about gut health is pre and probiotics. Dr. Holme believes that probiotics aren't necessary. "Most people should avoid probiotics and instead focus on eating foods that support a healthy microbiota and gut. Research on probiotics has only been done for very specific indications with specific strains. So just taking a probiotic has no guarantee of benefit, as it may be the wrong strain for the wrong indication. Probiotics — for most people — probably have no effect."

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    "Unfortunately, probiotics have far fewer regulations than drugs. This gives people the impression that there is no risk of harm. However, there is evidence that some people who take them after a course of antibiotics can actually prevent gut microbiota reconstitution." 

    You can read more about what gut microbiota reconstitution means here.

    Lastly, let's talk about a common gut problem: bloating. Dr. Hazan says if you're bloated all the time, you should keep a diary of what you're eating to see if there is a correlation. "Realize that just because you ate nuts at 2 p.m., it doesn't mean that they're the cause of the pain you're having at 10 p.m. Your intestines are like a hose — if a portion is blocked, pressure is going to build up behind it. That pressure is your gas; that pressure is the microbes in your gut all in disarray. So look at your diary and track your diet first," she said.

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    "There isn't just one quick test to determine gut health. Instead, incorporate gut health tips into your diet; if you have any symptoms such as cramps or bloating, then seek advice. It is possible from a stool sample to sequence all the bugs in your gut, and this can be useful to identify problems, but more information about normal variety is needed to understand this further," added Dr. Holme.

    As always, if you have specific gastrointestinal questions, ASK YOUR DOCTOR! Special thanks to our experts, Dr. Hazan and Dr. Holme. If you want to learn more about ways to keep your gut healthy, you can visit Dr. Hazan's website or follow her on Instagram — and you can visit Dr. Holme website, listen to her podcast, and follow her on Instagram.

    Want the facts on a topic?! Message me @callmekristatorres!

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