Doctors Thumb Down TikTok Deworming Trend, May Cause Long-Term Damage to Gut

Photo: (Photo : NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images)

The latest TikTok deworming trend might convince some online users to try it, but doctors warn netizens not to follow the fad even if access to antiparasitic medication is easy.

Dr. Kimberly Kolkhorst, a gastroenterologist, is aware of the TikTok deworming trend, but she said there is no reason to take medications, especially for those in the U.S.

Speaking with Valley News Live, Kolkhorst said parasitic infections are rare in developed countries like America since people don't eat raw meat and the water system is clean. In her years as a gastroenterologist, she has encountered just one case of parasitic infection.

The doctor also warned that taking antiparasitic medications without proper medical advice could lead to long-term gut damage.

"I never recommend taking anything that's not an FDA approved medication because with that, you don't actually know what you're getting and therefore safety is an issue," she said.

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How the Trend Started

A mom on TikTok received over six million views as she talked about taking a deworming medication that has been popping up on the platform's ads. She also said that people in other countries "deworm themselves all the time," so she tried one product.

@pengken007You have worms!!! #freaked  #intestinalworms #worms #paraguard #disturbed #ohmylanta #icant #intestinepro ♬ original sound - user5165758229144

While she didn't say if she had seen a doctor for her stomach issues, the mom concluded that she had worms after taking the medication. Other TikTok users also shared that they have seen dead carcasses of worms coming out of their bowel movement, their urine, and skin. They allegedly feel a lot better after days of taking the medication.

However, Dr. Sabine Hazan, another gastroenterologist, said that people taking deworming medications, despite no doctors' inputs, could be excreting fibrous tissues or good microbes that actually help the body. Hazan said that this could be risky because once good microbes are destroyed, there is no way for the body to get them back.

Dr. Cynthia Sears, an infectious disease specialist from Johns Hopkins University, agreed with Kolkhorst that parasitic infections are rare in the U.S. because there are fewer chances of exposure. However, it may still happen for some people, especially those who have traveled to countries where worms are more common.

Sears also said that parasitic infections do not lead to worms coming out of the feces, urine, or skin. In most cases, the symptoms might not manifest unless they get proper tests at the hospital. Common symptoms like diarrhea, fatigue, or bloating are not specific to this condition.

Deworming by Eating Papaya Seeds

Aside from taking antiparasitic medications, some users use papaya seeds to participate in the TikTok Deworming Trend. They basically eat a spoonful of papaya seeds and wait a few hours later for the worms to pass with their poop.

Experts are also not recommending this procedure due to a lack of scientific data, even as papaya seeds may contain compounds that could kill parasites or expel these from the body. As with the other doctors, William Schaffner of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine said that it's rare for medical workers to treat people with parasites in their intestines since these cases no longer happen in the U.S.

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