Doctor's Note

I previously covered the topic of brain infections with pork tapeworms in my videos:

Other parasites in meat include toxoplasma (Brain Parasites in Meat), sarcosystis (USDA Parasite Game), and Anisakis (Allergenic Fish Worms). There are even some critters in some dairy products (Cheese Mites and Maggots).

Eating Outside Our Kingdom describes a brain malady caused not by meat parasites, but by meat proteins.

One of the nice things about eating plant-based is that plant parasites, like aphids, don’t affect people. When is the last time you heard of someone coming down with Dutch elm disease?

For more context, check out my associated blog post: Chronic Headaches and Pork Parasites.

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  • VegAtHeart

    Is this neurocysticercosis only possible if one eats uncooked pork from infected pigs? Are there specific traditional dishes that involve uncooked pork? What is the probability of getting infected upon eating uncooked pork?

  • Blanster

    I wanted to understand how common this is (even though I’m a vegetarian) and this is what I found in a Google search:

    Dr. Theodore Nash,
    chief of the Gastrointestinal Parasites Section at the National
    Institutes of Health (NIH), cites side effects such as stupor, coma,
    loss of motor functions, violent seizures, blindness and even death.

    Although clear figures are difficult to ascertain, Nash estimates that
    2,000 people in the United States might have brain tapeworms. Global
    numbers are much higher, though estimates are difficult to assess
    because neurocysticercosis is most common in impoverished areas with
    poor public-health systems. Nash estimates that anywhere from 11 million
    to 29 million people have neurocysticercosis in Latin America alone.

  • Thea

    re: “try not to laugh”
    Can I giggle in the privacy of my own home? ;-)

  • Scott R

    Real life story. I work at a seafood restaurant. With my severe discount, it was pretty standard for me to eat wild Copper River salmon 3-4 times a week, seared to a beautiful rare to medium-rare. This was standard practice for about a year, year and a half.

    One day, I get severe constipation (at the time I was quite regular and regularly ate salads and veggies, as well as animals), this lasted about four days. I decide to tackle the problem with Dulcolax (some kind of laxative). I take two, no immediate recovery (here in America, we demand results, not excuses), so I pop three more. Problem solved! I was painting the toilet in no time!

    Little did I know the strength of these little pills. I had severe diarrhea for 3 days… Like 8-10 times a day. I was really concerned about dehydration, and the violent bowel movements were really wearing me out physically. I tried to lay low for a bit.

    Day three, I decided to continue on with my life (after visiting the bathroom four times that morning). So I go shopping at Sam’s Club (with my parents lol…) and the debilitating-punch-to-my-gut feeling returns, by this point, I’m familiar with the routine and know what’s in store. I excuse myself and brace for the pain in a well stocked bathroom stall. Like clock work, the janitor is going to have their work cut out for them.

    –Disclaimer, it get’s a bit (more) descriptive here..–

    But this time was different, after finishing, there appeared to be a long piece of lettuce hanging about six inches out of my anus, I’m a bit confused to see anything resembling food after 20+ bouts of explosive diarrhea over the last few days. “Whatever, grab a fist full of TP and pull it out,” I think to myself.

    I kept pulling it out, gently, replacing my toilet paper hand armor as necessary. I managed to extract about three feet before the “lettuce” became taut like a shoelace and snapped apart.

    I watched in the reflection between my legs in the water of the toilet (you know what I’m talking about, don’t play coy), as the “lettuce” proceeded to slither it’s way back up my asshole. I was hopeless, I couldn’t maintain any kind of grip on the slimy bastard as it proceeded to violate my derrière and flee to the safety of my innards.

    One can only imagine my horror when I realized it wasn’t a rib of romaine.

    I’m not a total idiot (although, in retrospect five dulcolax is pretty stupid), and coincidently I had recently heard about this new trend diet called the “Tape Worm Diet” where people voluntarily infect themselves with tape worms to reduce their caloric intake. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to connect the dots. “Mother F’er, I got a tape worm!” I lamented to myself.

    I knew “Wall-e” (since Sam’s Club was a part of Wallmart, and Wall-e is just a great movie overall, seriously, check it out), as he had become to be known, had won this round. I exit the stall, defeated, a broken man, face paled, covered in sweat and fear; I looked like I had witnessed a murder.

    My parents immediately noticed my distress, “What’s wrong Scott? Are you okay?” they inquire.

    “Mom… Dad… I think I have a tape worm. I named him Wall-e” They don’t believe me. I proceed to describe the story, they laugh at me. My parents are awesome.

    As a young, uninsured, bachelor, college drop out turned musician of Generation, I knew there was only solution…. le interwebz. Hours or googling and research, I learn all about tape worms, the different kinds (fish, pork, beef), their overall anatomy and risk factors involved. Given my dietary choices, I was convinced Wall-e was a fish tapeworm.

    Some good news, some bad news. Good news, the internet says the fish tapeworms are the least likely to leave the intestines and party down in the rest of the body (much like the pork does), bad news, these bastards can grow to be over 30 feet long! I learned that they tend to anchor themselves in the small intestine and cover as much surface area as possible to maximize their nutritional absorption. The laxatives must have really shook Wall-e up and peeled him off the walls of my small intestines and swept most of him away in the sh*t storm.

    I have my diagnosis. Now enter the beauty of the international latticework that is the internet. I managed to get an “online diagnosis” from a doctor in Asia (granted, I had to do a bit of homework… here what I have, here’s the meds I need, sign on the dotted line and I’ll give you twenty bucks), and a pharmacy in Turkey that would accept the prescription. It only cost me $50 for everything, diagnosis, meds, and shipping. See, being uninsured isn’t so financially debilitating.

    Long story, even longer, the US postal service lady comes to my door a couple weeks later with a sketchy package from Turkey half expecting it explode half expecting to give her ricin poisoning. I tear the package open. The meds have some fancy, 28-syllable, pharmaceutical name and they’re made by Bayer brand, good enough for me, what choice did I have after all.

    Google research told me that there are a couple different kind of tapeworm killer meds, one paralyzes the worm and you crap him out whole, the other removes the protective coating on the worm that keeps them safe from digestive juices.

    I was praying that I had the former of the two. If Wall-e was to be my first offspring, I wanted him in his full glory when I sh*t him out! I popped a couple dulcolax (I didn’t want to put up a fight lol..), wait a couple hours eat one of these meds. They’re about the size of a Tums, you chew and swallow them. They taste kind of like vanilla, surprisingly satisfying actually.

    Again, like clockwork, painful cramping of projectile diarrhea looms it’s ugly head. The showdown begins… man vs. worm. I grab a bucket from the garage, some latex gloves, and queue Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with the volume set to 11. This will be the best Facebook photo ever.

    You can imagine my disappointment when the bowl was filled with tapeworm confetti. “Oh well, I’m glad that sh*t is over,” I sigh. Wall-e was no more.

    I spent the next week trying to convince everyone I knew they had worms and to eat some “vanilla worm assassins”. Apparently, I was the only one with a Wall-e.

    This experience began my odyssey into the world of nutrition, health, wellness and fitness. A long chain of events that opened my eyes to the corruption and the pathetic state of our food system. Through links, facebook pages, references and conversation I finally discover An absolute God-send in a sea of misinformation, lies, oppression and deceit.

    Dr. Greger, if you read this, I’ve learned SO much from your website. I can’t even begin to describe let alone thank you enough for inspiring me to take control of my health and elevate myself above all the fucking bullshit that is pumped into our brains and onto our dinner plates. Although, I’m not 100% plant based (yet) thought I’ve eliminated the majority of animal based food from my diet.

    I’m sure you can’t even begin to quantify the countless number of diseases you’ve helped prevent, lives you’ve helped save through prevention and proper nutrition. You’ve changed my life, and subsequently I’ve been been reaching out to friends and family, emailing links and preaching the perils of hot dog cigarettes.

    I’ve motivated my parents (my mom is a two time colon cancer survivor) to start drinking a veggie/fruit blend every morning. She has, in turn, motivated my obese brother to take control of his health and put down the chicken wings and booze. It’s not an overnight change, but a lifetime journey. I also have my girlfriend on board (she can’t cook worth a damn so she eats whatever I put in front of her.)

    I’m in the best shape of my life. I feel happier, healthier, and younger than than I ever thought possible. Every day it gets better and this is only the beginning of my journey! You and your website were the catalyst for my life style change. Your facebook link to Rich Roll’s online video series was the final straw. I bought a vitamix the next day.

    I would say I love you, but the internet is already a creepy enough place :P. Take care and keep saving lives!

    • Toxins

      WOW! Once I started reading I couldn’t stop. What a story Scott! I am glad you managed to rid yourself of the tapeworms although it was in a sketchy fashion. Keep up the plant based eating and if you have any questions, Dr. Greger, myself, or other NF Team members will gladly assist you. What a fantastic story!

    • Oliver Hugh Perry

      hilarious! great stuff

    • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

      The reasons to go plantbased are various, but this is one of the more entertaining! This scary story must convince even the most hardcore meateater…

    • Coacervate

      Oeeww, my sphincter just slammed shut. Ever hear of epazote?

    • b00mer

      Holy **** what a story! If I weren’t already vegan, this would be enough to make me never go near fish again. Also I have to say you have quite a gift when it comes to writing. Impressive that you could make a horror story that hilarious.

    • Thea

      Scott R: You have a future in comedic writing. Wow.

      Thanks for taking the time to share all this with us. I’m glad you found the site!

    • signalfire1

      Hi Scott! Consider standup comedy. Really :)

    • Teresa Lynn

      Wow, what a story. Hilarious but I’m going to have to investigate this. I was raised with a dad who passed on very bad diet habits including the hot dogs and pretty much no vegetables other than corn and potatoes. I did give up all pork products completely a few yrs ago and have been trying in the last yr to find ways to cut things out that I’ve discovered are very harmful for you like hydrogenated oils and so on. It’s downright scary what I’m finding out is in our food and water! I try to share things I learn with my family and friends an FB and no one seems to want to listen. I keep trying though. Thanks for the post.

    • Tan

      Thanks for sharing. I’m happy for you. RIP worm.

    • Ryan

      Oh my!! When I started reading I was wiped out from a long day at work…then I found my cheeks (on my face) hurting because I was giggling so much!! I lost it when I read, “and queue Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with the volume set to 11”. Thank you so much for the excellent writing/story. I so enjoyed it!

    • Scott R

      Thanks for the kind words everyone! This one just hit too close to home for me not to share. I’m glad you all enjoyed the story.

    • nojofan

      I was giggling the moment you said you popped three more Dulcolax! :)

      Seriously, stand-up comedy is definitely your calling.

  • JulesV

    OMG ! Glad I am vegan.

  • rick

    Just taking this opportunity to say that Dr Greger’s stuff is the best information, on nutrition, on the planet – Up to date, based on science and delivered by an expert.

    • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

      And with great humor!

  • kitsy

    Hilarious story! It reminded me of my own miserable experience during the holiday season, 8 or 9 years ago. I was not a vegan at that time, and did a lot of eating out at that time –.not only at friends’ houses, but also local restaurants. I had a “What’s that squiggly looking stuff in the toilet bowl?” thing going on. This annoying diarrhea lasted several months before I finally (embarrassed as hell when I turned over my BM specimen) saw a doc. She gave me some deworm pills, and it did the job. (I eat pumpkin seeds every day now; I read somewhere the little rascals don’t like them.)

    As an aside: Some years before that, I looked in the toilet bowl and saw something white attached to you-know-what. Huh? Turned out I’d scarfed down one of those stickers you see slapped on various fruits and veggies. Yeah, I could still make out what it said. :-)

    • kitsy

      Oops, looks like I hadn’t edited this very well. Didn’t mean to write “at that time” twice in one sentence.

      I hate it when that happens. :-(

  • sammie

    So … how are they diagnosed and how are they gotten rid of? What should I request my dr do?

    • Merio

      I think this link could help:

      anyway worms infection normally do not show symptoms so if you think to have this nasty passengers in your bowel i think it’s better to talk with your doctor… problably he will tell you to collect some stools to make lab analysis…

    • tin top

      i was a suspect host. so after researching and talking to a “doctor” i optioned for D.E. Freshwater food grade Diatomaceous to be exact. after ingesting a heaping tbl spoon a day in about two weeks time i noticed a major improvement in my gut… less gas, constant gurgling sounds stopped, and all discomfort simply went away. no spaghetti in the toilet so probably not tapeworms. around the second week i did feel tired, exhausted some days. i guess when they die its a strain on your body but sooooo glad they’re gone. D.E doesn’t disturb your gut flora ( no pre-biotic/pro-biotic follow up) and all the side effects are health promoting! not to mention silica is ancient microscopic freshwater plants called diatoms …. PBWF too! well sort of. by the way i thought it was funny that the wise “doctor ” i spoke to is my vet for whom D.E. is a well know subject. if you got them so do your pets, stats show indoor animals increasing your risk as well. parasite screen is only $60 for fydo or whatever sample you may bring to the lab.

  • JBdisqusblip

    “Bean sprouts”? My mama always said, “Don’t wolf your food”. Chewing is an (obviously) essential step in human digestion. He did demonstrate another essential (but often neglected) last step of good digestion, a cursory stool assay. (A nutritional stool assay is also a good part of an annual physical, (also rarely done.))

  • Linda

    Should we former meat eaters get tested for worms? Or is there a simple protective measure like eating raw onion and garlic? My sister has migraines. What type of test should she get to rule out parasites? Thanks!

    • I still am a meat eater, although I don’t feel OK, I fought some bacteria already, but I think I am still infected, I really would like to know what type of test should we get to rule out parasites :) Thank you