There are a vast number of worms that can live within the human body. The worms live in the digestive tract, especially in the intestines, from where they obtain their nutrition. Hence, worms are parasites living within the body of humans, who are the hosts. Since worms live inside the body of their host, they are also biologically termed as endoparasites.
Worm infestations are present in people of all ages but they are much more of a problem in children who are just beginning to learn to cope with their parasitic enemies. They are cause of common bowel complaints and visits to the doctors. However, with some elementary information and knowledge, a person can quite effectively face the problems of worm infestations. Ayurveda has several effective remedies for solving all kinds of worm problems.
Intestinal worms, quite simply put, are worms that live within the intestines of humans. These are parasitic worms which feed on the food that passes through the human digestive tract. All these worms spend their entire lifetimes in the intestines of humans. They breed within the intestines and hence increase their populations. The worms have hook-like attachments on their heads (called as scolex) by which they attach onto the inner lining of the intestines.
Though worms are generally found in the intestines, they can also be found within the stomach and the rectum. However, worms are found to a much greater extent in the intestines, hence they are generally referred to as intestinal worms.
Worms are present in the intestines of all human beings. However when the populations of these worms increase beyond a particular limit, then there are several digestive problems that may occur. Stomach aches are common. At such times, we say that a person is suffering from an intestinal worm infestation. In Sanskrit, this type of a worm infestation is called as krimi roga.
Two types of worms are known to cause infestations in humans. These are:-
Flatworms belong to the class Cestoda. They are also known as tapeworms. They are very simple organisms as they do not have a mouth and an intestinal tract. For this reason, they absorb predigested food from the host. Tapeworms can reach a staggering length of 100 feet within the human intestine.
Common roundworms that are found in humans are:-
Pinworms or threadworms are common roundworms. The two most important roundworm parasites are Enterobius vermicularis and Enterobius gregorii. Enterobius vermicularis are found in the small intestine and the colon in humans. These pinworms are less dangerous because they do not generally enter the bloodstream and other organs. Only in some rare instances can they be found in the vagina, fallopian tubes and the uterus. Sometimes they can enter the liver and cause jaundice. Enterobius gregorii is considered to be a sister organism of the Enterobius vermicularis. Their location, behavior, morphology and life cycle is identical to Enterobius vermicularis.
Ascaris lumbricoides are the most commonly found roundworms. They are passed on through contaminated food and fecal matter. They are found mostly in the tropical countries and in areas where good hygiene habits are not followed. These roundworms are more dangerous as they can pass from the intestines to the respiratory tract and cause severe complications.
Trichuris trichuria or the whipworm is so named because of the whip-like posterior end of the intestinal parasite. These are dangerous organisms that can cause bloody diarrheas and even rectal prolapse in extreme cases. Whipworm infestations are mostly observed in children.
Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus are both hookworms. These worms can cause anemia in the people they affect. Hookworms are vigorous blood suckers due to which they can affect the inner lining of the stomach.
There are several ways in which intestinal worms can be caused in human beings.
The most prominent mode of transmission is through any kind of contact with the feces of an infected person. This can be when human excrement is used as fertilizer in farms, or when clothes of infected people and soiled diapers of children are washed. People who are in contact with the soil that contains human feces (like farmers) stand a high chance of getting infected with intestinal worms.
Eating food that is contaminated with the worms is another common way of transmission. Similar infection is caused by consuming contaminated water. Worms can exist on the outer layers of the food. Hence people consuming foods without washing them thoroughly are prone to intestinal worms.
Raw meats, milk and eggs can contain worms that can cause intestinal infections. Meats like beef, pork and fish that are undercooked contain live worms.
People maintaining poor hygiene habits can not only get themselves infected with intestinal worms, but they can also pass on the infections to other people.
Worms like hookworms enter the human body through the soles of the feet. Hence people who move around on the open ground with bare feet have a very high degree of getting infected with hookworms.
Worms are transferred during sexual contact. Cunnilingus (i.e. stimulating a woman’s genitals with the mouth), fellatio (i.e. stimulating a man’s genitals with the mouth) and anal rimming are very common modes of transmitting worms from an infected person to the other.
Ayurveda treats intestinal worms as a vitiation of the kapha dosha, which governs the balance between the internal and external composition of the human body. This is because all the intestinal worms have a life-cycle that moves in and out of the human body. Though the infection is internal, the mode of transmission is always external.
Different types of worms have different modes of transmissions. The following table shows these different modes:-
Since worms are normally found in all human beings, mostly there are no symptoms observed with a few worms living inside the intestines. In adults, there are no symptoms observed till the infection reaches a drastic limit. Most of the symptoms are observed in children. The common symptoms of Intestinal Worms in humans observed are:-
The symptoms begin as a mild tickling sensation and gradually get converted into a severe itching or pain. This itching is developed near the anal opening and the adjoining skin.
The abdomen may become distended. Grumbling noises are heard inside the abdomen due to the activity of the worms. There is occasional pain in the abdomen, which surges and ebbs.
The person may lose the appetite. Nausea sets in, and vomiting can occur.
In most worm infections, there are diarrheas. The diarrheas may be with or without bloody discharge depending on the severity of the complications.
People with worms are often flatulent. The gas released is mostly with bad odor and released noisily.
The mouth becomes quite parched. Bad breath is commonly observed.
Fevers are also common symptoms.
Worms are so commonly found all over the world, and in all kinds of climates, that it is very difficult to say who is not at risk from them. Almost everyone in the world has been infected with worms at one or other time in their lives. Yet, there are a few groups of people who are more vulnerable than others. The following is a list of people who are the most susceptible to worm infections:-
Children are at the highest risk of krimi roga. In infants, worms can pass in through improperly boiled milk; and in children the different foods that they eat can cause worm infections.
People who live in very close contact with the soil are also vulnerable. These include people who work intimately with the earth, such as farmers and gardeners. Even people who are in the habit of strolling barefooted in their gardens and lawns can attract pinworms and hookworms through the soles of their feet.
People who do not take care much of their own personal hygiene are at a very great risk of inviting some worms into their intestines.
Intestinal worms can cause severe complications in the people they infect, and may even lead to the death of the person. The following table lists some of the important complications that each kind of worm can cause:-
Following clean hygiene habits is the best method of preventing intestinal worms. The following are some guidelines:-
Always ensure that the water you drink is properly filtered and boiled.
The food must be properly cooked, especially if it is red meat like beef and pork.
Vegetables must be washed thoroughly before putting in the cooking pot.
Fruits must be washed thoroughly, and ideally peeled, before consumption.
After outdoor activities like gardening, wash your hands and legs thoroughly with a disinfectant soap. Hands must be washed after each visit to the toilet.
All laundry must be washed on a daily basis. Underwear must be washed and dried separately from other clothes. As an extreme measure, each person’s clothes must be washed separately.
Footwear must be worm whenever stepping out of the house.
If one person in the house is affected, then treatment must be given to all members living in the house. This is to prevent further transmission.
One must ensure that whatever food is consumed, it must be washed and cooked thoroughly. The same applies for drinks.
Some foods to avoid during worm infections are:-
Some foods that are beneficial during worm infections are:-
Ayurveda is a very effective means to cure intestinal infection. The following is a list of the herbs that are beneficial with their actions on the human body:-
The following Ayurvedic preparations are highly beneficial in treating intestinal worm problems (they are to be taken with honey):-