The Hookworm

Adult Female Ancylostoma sp
Adult Female Ancylostoma sp courtesy of CDC

If you read the gruesome description of hookworm behavior as described by Carl Zimmer in his book Parasite Rex you will cringe.

The hookworm larvae gets into your body in one of two ways: it gets swallowed or it pierces your skin...usually through your hands or feet...and travels through your bloodstream to your heart and lungs2. From there it eventually makes it way to your throat and then heads down your esophagus to your intestine.

Once this creepy parasite reaches your innards, the hookworm rips into the tissue of your intestine with its powerful mouth and daggerlike teeth3. Once attached to the wall of your intestine it sucks your blood as if it were a little vampire. And like a leech, the hookworm produces an anticoagulant that prevents local clotting allowing the hookworm to dine unimpeded. After feeding for a couple of hours, it releases its grip and moves to a new location.

Sounds gruesome doesn't it? There are several different types of hookworms1 but the two most common in the case of human hookworm disease are ancylostoma douoenale and necator americanus.

Anthelmintic Foods

An anthelminitic is a substance that can destroy or eliminate parasitic worms, especially intestinal worms.

  • Black Walnut
  • Wormword
  • Clove
  • Tansy Tea
  • Hagenia
  • Kaljoni (Nigella sativa seeds)
  • Male Fern
  • Garlic

The Three Worm Herbs

Dating back hundreds of year, there are many references to the effectiveness of Black Walnut, Wormword and ground Clove as treatments for many types of intestinal worms.

Dr Hulda Clark, a controversial Canadian doctor claims that these three herbs taken in combination will eliminate over 100 different types of parasites.

Other Effective Foods

Other foods that are said to be effective against intestinal parasites are watermelon, papaya and pumpkin seeds. Turmeric juice combined with milk is commonly used in Indian to fight and prevent parasites. And Cinnamon is also believed to be an effective deterrent.

Regular consumption of these natural and healthy foods can help prevent a parasite infection.

Keep parasites at bay with Cinnamon Tea.

Over 1 Billion People are Infected with Hookworm

While the hookworm kills only 0.0065% of its victims (mostly children), this parasite is a monster that robs children of their life potential. It stymies their growth and affects their learning because it deprives them of nutrients leaving them lethargic and undernourished.

Like the pinworm, hookworms are roundworms or nematodes and it is widely reported that more than 1 billion people are infected in the tropical areas of the world including: Africa, Asia, Central America, South America, Caribbean Islands and the southeastern United States.

People living in poverty and with poor sanitation are the most susceptible to parasites. The World Health Organisation reports an improvement in the health of pregnant women and a 41% decrease in infant mortality rates in areas where widespread deworming campaigns are conducted.

Prevention of Hookworm Infections

They are not contagious in the way that pinworms are easily passed from person to person or animal to person. The eggs of a hookworm must hatch and stay in soil to develop to the infective stage. So unless you eat the soil or consume contaminated food or water hookworm is contracted when the larvae penetrate your skin. So think twice about walking barefoot in sand and soil, wear gloves when you work in the garden and wash your hands before preparing food. Treat your pets to stop the spread of hookworms in your own garden and you can minimize the presence of hookworm by treating the soil with borax. Take care to treat water that may be contaminated by boiling.

Symptoms of a Hookworm Infection

The first symptom of hookworm is stinging sensation followed by a severe itch where the infective larvae enters your skin. A red rash may also occur. This symptom can last a couple of weeks. When the worm travels through the lungs on its way to the esophagus it will in rare cases cause coughing or wheezing. These symptoms can then be followed by acute abdominal pain, nausea, anorexia, vomiting and bloody diarrhea or black stools (melena) depending on whether the infection is light or heavy.

Anemia may develop as a result of the blood loss caused by the hookworm. The symptoms of anemia include: fatigue, pallor, a racing heart, shortness of breath and in severe cases chest pain on exertion. Unchecked, anemia can result in death and it is a particular danger for children.

Eosinophilia is an abnormal elevation of white blood cells (eosinophils) and the condition is determined by a blood test. Eosinophilia can be caused by any number of ailments and is not unique to hookworm disease. In the rare case that a hookworm of the type A. caninum migrates to the intestine, eosinophilic enteritis may occur. In addition to the marked increase in white blood cells it may be accompanied by abdominal pain.

Diagnosis of Hookworm

The hookworm can survive from 5 to 10 years and a hookworm infection is diagnosed by identifying the eggs in stool samples. Several samples may be required before eggs are spotted.

Natural Remedies and Other Treatments for Hookworm

Doctors may prescribe the drugs pyrantel pamoate, albendazole, mebendazole and thiabendazole all of which are not recommended for pregant women and very young children.

Side Effects of These Antithelmintic Drugs

Click on the links above to see the side effects of each individual drug. The side effects vary but include such things as loss of appetite, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry eyes, giddiness, headache, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, sleep disruption with severe side effects listed as rash, hives, breathing difficulties, tightness of chess, swelling in the mouth, face, lips, eyes, and tongue; loss of hair (alopecia), seizures, yellowing of eyes or skin, fever, chills, blistered skin...and the list goes on.

There are a wide variety of natural anthelmintic (anti-worm) foods (see sidebar) that may be used to treat hookworm but as with the pharmaceutical alternatives the doses required to purge worms are also not recommended for pregnant women or young children.

Don't forget to treat and clean your pets as they are a common source of worm infections. Dogs and cats are natural hosts for hookworm which means if your pets are infected they are contaminating your garden.

Try Worm Out - a child-safe natural remedy.

Read about another safe natural remedy to expel intestinal worms.

Hookworm Prevention

Avoid walking barefoot or sitting in sand or soil that may be contaminated with hookworm. Wear gloves when gardening. Deworm your pets on a regular basis.

Routinely wash your hands with soap and warm water before dining and especially after using the toilet and touching pets. This is the number one rule for preventing any sort of parasite infection.

Footnotes

  1. Ancyclostoma douodenale, Necator americanus, A caninum, A braziliense, A ceylanicum, Ternidens diminutus, Oesophagostomum apiostosmum, Syngamus laryneus...to name a few.
  2. Cutaneous larva migrans (CLM) occurs where the larvae of hookworm pentrates the skin and travels along under causing an extreme itch and a red rash that includes a path-like raised eruption. CLM usually occurs on the buttocks, legs or feet after a visit to the beach because the larvae responsible for this affliction commonly occurs in beach sand but can be found elsewhere. The dog and cat hookworm Ancyclostoma braziliense is most responsible for CLM.
  • as descrbed by Carl Zimmer in his book Parasite Rex. It reads like a thriller! If I'd read this book when I was a teenager I'm sure today I would be a scientist, a parasitologist!
  • Learn more about How to Get Rid of Worms in Humans.

    Learn more about parasites in humans sypmtoms or about the giardia lambia parasite or how to do a parasite cleanse or a complete body cleanse.


    Contributing Editor Gigi Gerow

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