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TikTok Has Convinced People They’re Infested with Worms

Wellness influencers are claiming that parasitic worms cause every mental and physical problem under the sun.

Credit: Fablok / Shutterstock

There are parasites inside of you. Controlling your sleep, hunger, emotions, and mental state. That sounds like the plot of a sci-fi or body horror film, right? Surprisingly, a massive movement of people on TikTok who are linking parasites in our bodies to mental and physical health issues has emerged. They are promoting various ‘cures’ that supposedly guarantee to kill off all parasitic worms. This latest conspiracy is no small affair, as the term “parasite cleanse” has 450 million hashtags on TikTok. But just how true are these rumours and where can we draw the line between them being science and science fiction?

Like most TikTok theories, it’s impossible to track down exactly what started this parasitic worm theory. The biggest name tied to the parasite craze is Alexia Icenhower, a conspiracy theorist. She claimed during an interview that she cured herself of kidney disease, severe allergies, and autism by ridding herself of these parasitic worms. Subsequently, many of her ideas were echoed by the countless wellness influencers who have hopped on the parasite cleanse trend. They too claim they’ve cured everything from autism to IBS by performing a cleanse and killing these parasites. Why do they all think thousands of people are ill thanks to parasites? Consequently, the hype around parasitic worms has generated a whole new genre of TikTok videos: parasite cleanses.

Credit; femmeyogipreneur / TikTok

Detoxes, ParaGuard, and Papaya seeds are all ‘cures’ for parasites.

The spread of the parasitic worm theory has come mostly from the endless stream of ‘parasite cleanse’ videos. The variety of ‘cures’ shown in these videos is vast. While some suggest natural remedies like eating papaya seeds every day whilst others promote a certain diet. Undoubtedly the most popular remedy is taking Paragaurd drops, a herbal supplement.  TikToks tagged with the hashtag #paraguard have been viewed 146 million times in total. Those who take part in this cleanse rave about how they see immediate results, showing highly graphic ‘evidence’ of this. ParaGuard, owned by a small company called Zahler, have even started sponsoring people who use their products. Zahler’s behaviour is pretty suspicious, as the company had little social media presence prior to this trend. Furthermore, many of these sponsored videos parrot the unsupported claim that ‘80 per cent of all humans have intestinal parasites’.


Day one (or should i say 5 minutes in) to my parasite cleanse and wow. #paraguardparasitecleanse

♬ original sound – Kerrymcdd
Credit: kerrymcdd / TikTok

Notice something about all these ‘cures’? None of them are used by licensed medical professionals and none of them require a prescription. Obviously, the correct and proper treatment for worms is antiparasitic medications such as mebendazole, which can only be prescribed by a doctor. Most of the ‘cures’ and products being promoted on TikTok have not been tested in medical trials for safety or efficacy. This makes them actually dangerous to use in the amounts people cite as needed to kill worms. Even herbal products like ParaGuard can cause serious medical issues when used too much.

The ‘parasite cleanse’ trend is a prime example of harmful misinformation

Despite what TikTok is telling you, you most certainly do not have worms inside you. worm infestations in the western world are incredibly rare and only occur when someone has been travelling to other countries where hygiene is more basic. Furthermore, a worm infestation doesn’t ever cause all the highly complex mental health conditions TikTokers claim it does. However, the various cleanses and cures they promote could cause medical issues. Cleanses, detoxes, and supplement overdosing can cause digestive issues and even liver or kidney disease. Ironically, trying to cure yourself of some mysterious made-up parasite could end you up in a hospital.

The real infestation here is the misinformation kind. TikTok is a breeding ground for misinformation, as it isn’t as restrictive about dangerous health claims or trends as other platforms. Thanks to how the algorithm works and how quickly information moves on the app, it takes no time for a piece of false information to go viral. Not only is there a severe lack of evidence to support the claims about parasites and cleanses, but they spread a toxic idea that issues like autism or chronic illnesses should be ‘cured’. Furthermore, there is a heavy ‘anti-medicine’ narrative on TikTok, where DIY, untested solutions to complex medical issues are promoted as being better than what a licenced doctor could offer. Of all the things to worry about, parasites in your intestines aren’t one of them. It should be how easily false medical advice is allowed to spread.

Written By

Postgraduate student studying journalism at Edinburgh Napier University. Fandom enthusiast and ex-Wattpad writer.

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