The Wormy Secret About Sushi

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The Pure TheraPro Team

The Pure TheraPro Education Team is comprised of researchers from diverse backgrounds including nutrition, functional medicine, fitness, supplement formulation & food science. All articles have been reviewed for content, accuracy, and compliance by a holistic integrative nutritionist certified by an accredited institution.
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California rolls, rainbow rolls, unagi and spicy tuna. . .if you love sushi as much as I do, your mouth might be watering right now! A new study, however, may have you rethinking your sushi fix. In the last several decades, there’s been a 282-fold increase in parasites transmitted to humans from eating raw or under cooked seafood. These parasites can greatly affect your health.

The most common type of parasite in sushi is a roundworm called anisakis, which is roughly 2 cm long. Some sushi-eaters who have contracted this nasty parasite have even claimed to have coughed them up after a night of sushi bingeing.

Anisakis is also called herring worms. When ingested by humans, the parasite can burrow into the intestinal wall and create symptoms similar to food poisoning—nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Although in most cases, this parasite doesn’t survive long term in the human digestive tract, it can cause many symptoms that further inflammation, exacerbate existing gut issues and can have detrimental effects in people who are immuno-compromised.

Anisakiasis, the term used to describe this parasite infestation, can be diagnosed with an endoscopy, which will show whether the parasite has attached to the stomach wall lining. Severe symptoms can also include bowel obstruction, internal bleeding, gut inflammation and even anaphylaxis.

Many times, cases of anisakiasis are under-reported due to lack of knowledge. Endoscopies aren’t ordered for every case of stomach upset and digestive discomfort. They are usually diagnosed as food poisoning, which resolves in a few days to a week.

The worst cases of anisakiasis involve the parasite penetrating the intestine where it can eventually develop a mass of white blood cells and immune tissue called a granuloma. As your body tries to ward off the parasite, this is part of the inflammatory immune response which may present and be misdiagnosed as Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Disease or appendicitis.

But it’s not just the anisakis parasite that sushi-lovers need to worry about. Although not as common, tapeworms can also be contracted from eating raw fish.

One man, for example, arrived at a hospital carrying a plastic bag that contained a 5 ft, 6-inch tapeworm that he expelled in the toilet after experiencing abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. He admitted to eating salmon sashimi on a daily basis.

Tapeworms may not initially present with symptoms, however, they have the ability to grow rapidly in a host (you) as well as multiply prolifically. Tapeworms possess both male and female reproductive organs, so they can self-fertilize and hence, reproduce! As science fiction-like as it sounds, the tapeworm’s head is only instrumental in gripping and digging into your intestinal wall; they get their nutrients through absorption via their skin.

Tapeworms can grow unnoticed in a host until they get extremely large and symptomatic, even causing bowel obstruction. In extremely rare cases, parasite larvae can move to other parts of the body via the bloodstream and affect other systems. It can be fatal if the infection impacts the brain.

If there aren’t symptoms, how do you know if you have tapeworms? You might see rice-like white bits in your stool, which can be tapeworm segments. You may also experience some digestive upset. Thankfully, detoxifying your system and taking parasite-cleansing herbs such as wormwood, black walnut, licorice and clove and oregano oil can help eradicate an infestation.

Of course, the best way to prevent getting parasites from eating sushi is to avoid eating it—but many of us can’t do that! Sushi restaurants usually have cooked fish or vegetarian options on the menu. Some other safe sushi tips include sticking to restaurants with staff that’s trained in preparing, handling and storing raw fish. Gas station sushi and all-you-can-eat sushi buffets may not be the safest options.

Thinking about making sushi at home as a fun date night? Think again. Even if you purchase sushi-grade fish at your local grocery or fish market, most people aren’t trained in handling raw fish properly. Your freezer is also not cold enough to kill parasites.

Tuna is noted to be the safest sushi option, being that they’re fast swimmers who naturally avoid parasites. Tuna also freezes and defrosts quickly, making it a safer option than other sushi-grade fish.  

If you’re pregnant or immuno-compromised, it’s best to avoid eating sushi, being that you’re at an increased risk of potential infection.

Although you may want to expose your kids to multicultural foods to become more worldly, children under 5 should not eat sushi, as they are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses due to their undeveloped immune systems.

If you do experience a night of gut-wrenching pain, diarrhea and vomiting or suspect that you may have food poisoning, parasites, gut dysbiosis and other digestive issues, here are some supplement recommendations:


Saccharomyces 10B:

This is your first line go-to. Research has confirmed the unique Saccharomyces boulardii strain DBVPG 6763 survives stomach acid to colonize in the intestinal tract while acting as a temporary flora to protect the beneficial organisms of the intestine. Additionally, it works with the body to re-establish the microflora, thereby helping to maintain and support healthy immunity, digestion, and gut health.  It's also safe for children and pets!

Leaky Gut Defense:

Moving forward, a great cleansing product is our Leaky Gut Defense, which helps keep invaders such as parasites and bacteria like h. Pylori from affecting your digestive tract. This formulation includes specialized ingredients for improved gastrointestinal support. Included is concentrated extract of licorice that has been processed to remove glycyrrhizin (reducing risk of side effects accompanying licorice). Glutamine serves as the key nitrogen source for the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Arabinogalactan from the North American larch tree is a naturally occurring polysaccharide - delivering optimal support for GI health. Research shows that Arabinogalactan may assist role in the creation of gut microflora and may increase valuable short-chain fatty acid production.


Power Probiotic Daily:

If you suffer from a chronic digestive condition, autoimmune issues, candida or recurrent yeast infections, restoring a healthy balance of "good bacteria" in your GI tract is vital!

This probiotic is a four-strain vegetarian, dairy- and gluten-free probiotic totaling 30 billion CFU† per capsule and provides four researched strains of useful bacteria, including the extensively studied HN019 strain of Bifidobacterium lactis. These live microorganisms have proven health benefits and well-established safety, and have been tested for epithelial cell adhesion and/or resistance to low pH.

Encased in innovative stomach acid resistant capsules called DRcaps®, this  further supports resistance to low pH and the delivery of microorganisms to the small intestines.