Chronic Headaches & Pork Tapeworms

Chronic Headaches & Pork Tapeworms
4.8 (96%) 5 votes

Chronic headaches such as migraines or “tension” headache symptoms may be a sign of pork tapeworms in the brain.

Discuss
Republish

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Neurocysticercosis is the infection of the human central nervous system by pork tapeworm larvae. Little baby pork tapeworms invading one’s brain “has become an increasingly important emerging infection in the United States,” and it is the #1 cause of epilepsy in the world. It is the most common “parasitic disease of the human brain,” and used to only be found throughout the developing world—”with the exception of Muslim countries,” of course. That all changed about 30 years ago, and now it’s increasingly found throughout North America.

Besides seizures, the pork parasites may actually trigger brain tumors, cause an aneurism, or psychiatric manifestations, like depression. But, who wouldn’t be depressed, having worms in their brain? It can also result in dementia. But, the good news is, with deworming drugs, it’s often reversible. Only rarely do you have to open one’s skull, and extract the larvae surgically—once they get into your eyeballs, though, you really do have to remove them, dead or alive.

I’ve talked about pork tapeworms before, but what’s new is that we now know that they may present as chronic headaches—either migraines or so-called tension-headaches—even when the worms in your head are dead. What they think is happening is that our body tries to chip away at their calcified bodies, and it may release bits of them into the rest of the brain, causing inflammation that could be contributing to headaches.

Now, it’s still rare, and even if you live in an endemic area, you can avoid getting infested with an adult tapeworm in the first place by “cooking pork thoroughly.” But what does that mean, exactly? Well, first of all, it’s found in some parts of pig carcasses more than others. And, you can freeze the little suckers to death, no matter how infested the muscles are, by storing pork, cut up into small pieces, for a month at subzero temperatures. Then, cook the meat for more than two hours. That is one well-done pork chop.

The New England Journal of Medicine recently featured a case of some guy who must have had thousands of pork tapeworm larvae wriggling through his muscles. See all those little white streaks? Each one is a baby tapeworm. But that’s why you can get infected by pork, since they get into the muscles. So, cannibals might want to cook for two hours, too.

Not all parasites are associated with meat, though. “An anxious but healthy 32-year-old male physician presented to the family medicine clinic with a sample of suspected parasites from his stools, which had been retrieved from the toilet that same day.” And here they are. They look to be about an inch long. He had previously traveled to India; had Chinese food the night before—who knows what they were. Maybe it was hookworms? “The sample was sent to the microbiology laboratory for analysis. Later that day, the microbiology physician called to report positive identification of Vigna radiata (previously known as Phaseolus aureus) in the stool sample.” Or, “[i]n common parlance,…a bean sprout.” They were bean sprouts!

“The patient was called and gently but firmly informed of the diagnosis. Given the nature of the identified specimen, the information was presented in a non-judgmental, respectful manner so as not to offend the sensibilities or sensitivities of the patient.”

“[Their] parting advice to fellow physicians in cases of this nature would be as follows:…as comical as the findings might seem, try not to laugh!

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thank to Roberto J. Galindo via Wikimedia. Thanks to Ellen Reid and Shane Barrett for their Keynote help.

 

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Neurocysticercosis is the infection of the human central nervous system by pork tapeworm larvae. Little baby pork tapeworms invading one’s brain “has become an increasingly important emerging infection in the United States,” and it is the #1 cause of epilepsy in the world. It is the most common “parasitic disease of the human brain,” and used to only be found throughout the developing world—”with the exception of Muslim countries,” of course. That all changed about 30 years ago, and now it’s increasingly found throughout North America.

Besides seizures, the pork parasites may actually trigger brain tumors, cause an aneurism, or psychiatric manifestations, like depression. But, who wouldn’t be depressed, having worms in their brain? It can also result in dementia. But, the good news is, with deworming drugs, it’s often reversible. Only rarely do you have to open one’s skull, and extract the larvae surgically—once they get into your eyeballs, though, you really do have to remove them, dead or alive.

I’ve talked about pork tapeworms before, but what’s new is that we now know that they may present as chronic headaches—either migraines or so-called tension-headaches—even when the worms in your head are dead. What they think is happening is that our body tries to chip away at their calcified bodies, and it may release bits of them into the rest of the brain, causing inflammation that could be contributing to headaches.

Now, it’s still rare, and even if you live in an endemic area, you can avoid getting infested with an adult tapeworm in the first place by “cooking pork thoroughly.” But what does that mean, exactly? Well, first of all, it’s found in some parts of pig carcasses more than others. And, you can freeze the little suckers to death, no matter how infested the muscles are, by storing pork, cut up into small pieces, for a month at subzero temperatures. Then, cook the meat for more than two hours. That is one well-done pork chop.

The New England Journal of Medicine recently featured a case of some guy who must have had thousands of pork tapeworm larvae wriggling through his muscles. See all those little white streaks? Each one is a baby tapeworm. But that’s why you can get infected by pork, since they get into the muscles. So, cannibals might want to cook for two hours, too.

Not all parasites are associated with meat, though. “An anxious but healthy 32-year-old male physician presented to the family medicine clinic with a sample of suspected parasites from his stools, which had been retrieved from the toilet that same day.” And here they are. They look to be about an inch long. He had previously traveled to India; had Chinese food the night before—who knows what they were. Maybe it was hookworms? “The sample was sent to the microbiology laboratory for analysis. Later that day, the microbiology physician called to report positive identification of Vigna radiata (previously known as Phaseolus aureus) in the stool sample.” Or, “[i]n common parlance,…a bean sprout.” They were bean sprouts!

“The patient was called and gently but firmly informed of the diagnosis. Given the nature of the identified specimen, the information was presented in a non-judgmental, respectful manner so as not to offend the sensibilities or sensitivities of the patient.”

“[Their] parting advice to fellow physicians in cases of this nature would be as follows:…as comical as the findings might seem, try not to laugh!

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thank to Roberto J. Galindo via Wikimedia. Thanks to Ellen Reid and Shane Barrett for their Keynote help.

 

Doctor's Note

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

Other parasites in meat include toxoplasma (see Brain Parasites in Meat), sarcosystis (see USDA Parasite Game), and Anisakis (see Allergenic Fish Worms). There are even some critters in some dairy products (see Cheese Mites & 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’s the last time you heard of someone coming down with Dutch elm disease?

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

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

27 responses to “Chronic Headaches & Pork Tapeworms

Commenting Etiquette

The intention of the comment section under each video and blog post is to allow all members to share their stories, questions, and feedback with others in a welcoming, engaging, and respectful environment. Off-topic comments are permitted, in hopes more experienced users may be able to point them to more relevant videos that may answer their questions. Vigorous debate of science is welcome so long as participants can disagree respectfully. Advertising products or services is not permitted.

To make NutritionFacts.org a place where people feel comfortable posting without feeling attacked, we have no tolerance for ad hominem attacks or comments that are racist, misogynist, homophobic, vulgar, or otherwise inappropriate. Please help us to foster a community of mutual respect. Enforcement of these rules is done to the best of our ability on a case-by-case basis.

  1. 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?




    0
  2. 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.




    0
  3. 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 nutritionfacts.org. 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!




    2
    1. 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!




      0
    2. 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…




      0
    3. 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.




      0
    4. 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.




      0
    5. 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!




      0
  4. 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.




    0
  5. 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. :-)




    0
    1. 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. :-(




      0
    1. i was a suspect host. so after researching and talking to a “doctor” i optioned for D.E. Freshwater food grade Diatomaceous Earthworkshealth.com 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. http://youtu.be/nP4oQlqVlNk




      0
  6. “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.))




    0
  7. 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!




    0
    1. 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




      0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This