Anyone who has been reading this blog will know that I have been struggling with Blastocystis homins and Dientamoeba infections since contracting them, four years ago, in the Byron Bay hinterland. More on my story here.
Today I’d like to share my herbal treatment For Blastocystis hominis and the success in finally treating both Blastocystis hominis and Dientamoeba with herbal medicines.
Thankfully there are natural treatments for Blastocystis out there that work! I wasn’t convinced until I cleared them myself.
First Off What Is Blastocystis?
Blastocystis spp. (also known as Blastocystis hominis) is a protozoan parasite that can cause a range of different symptoms in people including abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue and skin rashes. Surprisingly there are some people that have a Blastocystis infection and show no symptoms (1).
We have had some difficulties categorising this unicellular organism. At various times it has been classified as a cyst of a flagellate, vegetable, yeast, and fungus and finally landing on the protist classification (2). It also has the ability to take a whole range of different forms from vacuolar, granular, and ameboid, cyst, avacuolar, and multivacuolar (3) with the ameboid form suspected as causing the most symptoms in infected people (4).
Is Blastocystis really to blame here?
This is the million dollar question. I have spent a lot of time researching and speaking to experts on the subject of Blastocystis trying to get to the bottom of that very question. Originally I thought that Blastocystis was an outright pathogen and should be treated in anyone that came back with a positive stool test. After years of looking into it I now think that there is one of two things going on here.
Number one. You may have contracted a particularly virulent ‘strain’ of Blastocystis and this may be the cause of all of your gut symptoms. This is definitely possible and certain strains of Blastocystis have been found and do cause symptoms.
Number two, and possibly…maybe.. more likely. Blastocystis has come back on your stool test and you have blamed this particular bug for what is really some other gut condition hiding behind it. Things like bacterial overgrowths in the small intestine (SIBO) and large intestine may be the real issue here. Other things to be on the look out would be food intolerances (coeliac disease is a big one) and possibly leaky gut.
This second option makes Blastocystis a harder bug to treat because we aren’t 100% sure that it is causing your symptoms. A healthy approach to this particular conundrum would be to keep your mind open to other possible issues that could be causing your gut symptoms and not to focus solely on Blastocystis clearing as your main objective.
Ok. Now that little disclaimer is out of the way let’s cover how I managed to clear my Blastocystis infection.
The Many Attempts, Finally Success
I have tried a number of different approaches to eradicate the bugs from my gastrointestinal tract.
The first attempt was the front line approach from conventional medicine. Metronidazole, brand name Flagyl here in Australia had very little impact on the gut infections. I am not a huge fan of antibiotics but I figured take them, get rid of the bug and then rebuild. Since then I have come across dozens and dozens of people that have tried Metronidazole with no success. There have been case studies showing an increase in the cyst count for Blastocystis spp. after taking it. I have been speculating on how this might come about. Antibiotic resistance is a real issue with gut infections. My thoughts are that many Blastocystis strains are resistant to Metronidazole and the antibiotic cleared the gut for them to take hold.
With such dismal results I turned to herbal medicine and changed my diet considerably (article on that part coming soon). Ok onto herbal treatment for Blastocystis hominis number one.
Herbal Attempt for Blastocystis Infection – Number One
For my first herbal treatment for Blastocystis I combined bereberine HCl with a herbal mixture which included a number of very obscure herbs from the Amazon. This was on the recommendation of a health coach who left me in the lurch when we discovered that it hadn’t eliminated the bugs. I definitely won’t be recommending him anytime soon.
After the herbal treatment I felt better, my gut symptoms improved dramatically. At that time I was already familiar with the importance of retesting. Lo and behold my stool testing came back showing both the two protozoan bugs were still there. Not only that but after about a month or two of feeling normal again my gut symptoms came back but this time with some non-gut related symptoms including
- Brain fog
- Food allergies
At this point I was concerned with the state of my microbiome. I have seen a number of different cases where people continually blast their guts with antibiotics and strong antimicrobial herbs in an endless attempt to eradicate the infections.
With this in mind I turned towards a rebuilding approach. I focused on different prebiotics including lactulose, fructo-oligosaccharides and different colonic foods like green tea polyphenols. I also began consuming more probiotics including Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07
The rebuild phase is important. Building up my reserves and caring for my gut flora helped when I took the second round of herbal antimicrobials. Onto herbal treatment for Blastocystis number two.
Herbal Treatment For Blastocystis Number Two
Herbal treatment for Blastocystis number 2. At this point I was feeling pretty good. I still had issues with different foods including gluten and dairy but my digestive symptoms had improved immensely. This time I opted for a very different herbal approach.
Instead of taking berberine HCl I opted for herbs high in berberine and other similar alkaloids. The thinking behind this approach involves the drug-resistant methods that many infectious organisms use to avoid being killed by the antimicrobials. Berberine as an extract is one molecule. It is true that most of the research points to it as the most efficacious and ‘active’ but there are dozens of different berberine like alkaloids in different herbs. It has been suggested that these similar molecules have a synergistic effect, almost overwhelming the microbe’s ability to process them.
With that in mind I opted for herbs such as Goldenseal, Barberry and Coptis. Other herbs in the mix included Wormwood, Black Walnut and Garlic. The Naturopathic tradition has a number of overarching principles. One of these is to support the different body systems during a herbal treatment or intervention. Thinking along these lines immunomodulating herbs such as Cat’s Claw and antioxidants such as Olive Leaf are helpful.
Even with all this in mind my second herbal attempt failed to eradicate the two bugs.
Onto herbal treatment for Blastocystis number three!
Herbal Attempt Number Three
At this point I was getting quite frustrated. I even spent some time considering another round of antibiotics (different ones this time). I had seen a number of people pursue the antibiotic route with no success. Some even ending up taking the triple therapy that the Centre for Digestive Diseases recommends in Sydney, Australia, still with no luck in eradicating Blastocystis.
Thankfully I stuck to the herbal antimicrobial approach. For the third time I repeated herbal attempt number two but I extended the treatment. I also changed a number of things including
- Upping my garlic consumption – sometimes eating cloves of crushed garlic and at other times sticking to the garlic capsules
- Lactulose – this prebiotic helps to acidify the gut. It boosts beneficial bacteria in the colon, increases short chain fatty acid production and reduces the ability for Blastocystis and Dientamoeba to produce their protease enzymes which protects them from our secretory IgA antibodies.
- Probiotics – I focused on taking probiotics daily including, S. boulardii, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07
- Biofilms – While I haven’t seen any quality research on Blastocystis forming biofilms this does not mean that they don’t. For the third attempt I threw everything I had into the mix. This included nattokinase, green tea polyphenols (high in catechins) and serrapeptase in rotation.
After the herbal treatment I was very keen to retest. Waiting the 4-5 weeks before retesting was difficult but as recommended by a number of different clinicians it is better to wait to let the dust settle.
Testing For The Fifth Time
At this point I am well aware of the importance of retesting after treatment. I learned this very big lesson the hard way by thinking I had killed the infections and not retesting the first time. After a few months my gut symptoms came back with a vengeance. It still took another month or two to realise and get tested again!
After one round of standard antibiotics, multiple rounds of herbal treatment for Blastocystis, half a dozen tests and retests my last PCR stool test came back clean and clear for the two parasitic infections that I have been struggling with for the past four years! Hallelujah.
To Those Struggling With Gut Issues
If you have read this far then I’ll bet you are struggling with gut issues. Maybe you already know that you have a parasite infection and have tried antibiotics or a herbal treatment for Blastocystis. Many people have emailed me asking for help with their health issues. Currently I am still a student of herbal medicine (counting the days until graduation) and as such am unlicensed and can’t give any direct advice. It absolutely breaks my heart because I know how it feels. I’ve been there. I also find it incredibly hard to recommend a specific clinician to help. Most of the ones I would recommend are booked out and are not accepting new clients. Others are still take the nuke the gut approach which can be just as destructive as broad spectrum antibiotics.
What I can do in the situation I find myself in is keep researching the complexity of gut health and keep publishing articles. In this way I can share what I’m learning and hopefully help anyone out there that needs it. I now know that a herbal treatment for Blastocystis is possible and that gives me hope for anyone out there struggling with this difficult to treat bug.