A new trend has recently emerged on TikTok where users are eating papaya seeds to flush their system of intestinal parasites. While it may seem obvious to many that following medical advice given on TikTok is probably not the best idea, this trend has taken off on the platform. 

What’s the science behind it all? And should you be worried about worms in your intestines? 

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The Science

This trend didn’t come out of the blue. There have been legitimate scientific studies looking into the benefits of papaya seeds in relation to intestinal parasites. One pilot study conducted in 2008 fed air-dried seeds mixed in honey to asymptomatic Nigerian children that they knew had parasites. The seeds did help flush intestinal parasites out with the children’s poop, and the scientists acknowledged that this method of parasite removal was low-risk, cheap, and particularly helpful for those living in tropical communities. 

There are a few things to take away from this study: 

  1. It was conducted on children who actually had parasites and needed the remedy. 
  2. The study took place in Nigeria, an environment where intestinal parasites are more common. 
  3. Qualified professionals conducted this control experiment. In other words, it wasn’t conducted by Gen Z TikTokers. 

Should You Be Worried About Intestinal Parasites? 

The short answer to this is no. 

This isn’t the first time people in developing countries have become worried about parasites. There is a whole industry dedicated to selling uninformed and worried consumers medication to ‘cleanse’ their system of potential worms and other nasties. In reality, the idea that everyone in the United States secretly has an intestinal parasite is a myth. 

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If you’re genuinely worried about having a parasite, talk to your doctor. You only need to cleanse your body for parasites if you have a parasitic infection. 

Medical News Today lists common symptoms of a parasitic infection:  

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But just because you experience one or many of these doesn’t mean you should self-medicate with papaya seeds. Talk to your doctor and get a legitimate diagnosis and treatment plan. 

Dangers of This Trend 

TikToker Ramenasaidwow documented her journey following this trend. She ate half a papaya’s worth of seeds and had horrible side effects. Ramena ended up using the bathroom three times in two hours, and documented that at one point, she felt so nauseated she couldn’t move. 

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Although she claimed that she pooped out some worms, there is not any evidence to show if this is accurate or true. There’s also no proof that what she saw were actually parasites. We simply have to take her word. She had no reason to take the papaya seeds other than to see what would happen. 

While some might see Ramena’s experience as a ‘success’, in reality, she just made herself incredibly sick with absolutely no medical guidance. This is evidence that just because something is natural, doesn’t mean it’s safe to experiment with trying to use it as a medicine. 

At the End of the Day… 

Please don’t try this at home. TikTok is fun and entertaining, but it absolutely does not replace real personalized medical advice. 

Doctors are there for a reason, and if you’re feeling anxious about having a parasite, you should talk to yours. More likely than not, they are going to reassure you that you have nothing to worry about. 

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