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There are multiple types of intestinal parasites that can infect human bodies, such as tapeworms, pinworms, hookworms, and more. In recent years, there’s been discussion of another potential intestinal inhabitant called the rope worm.

While some people believe that so-called “rope worms” are intestinal parasites, the more plausible theory is that these “worms” are more likely strands of intestinal mucus.

Belief in rope worms is only a recent development. In 2013, a non-peer reviewed research paper was published by Dr. Alex Volinsky and his colleagues claiming that the rope worm, otherwise known as funis vermes, is a parasite that spends its entire life inside of the human body.

Volinsky and his colleagues say that there are five stages of the rope worm life cycle. They claim that there are various methods of extraction for each developmental stage, including salt milk enemas, baking soda enemas, and eucalyptus/lemon juice enemas.

They believe that if these rope worms aren’t flushed from the body, they can release toxins that may have negative cognitive effects.

The rope worm myth is often associated with proponents of the medication ivermectin, who believe without proof that it’s an effective treatment for COVID-19.

There’s no scientific evidence for the existence of these “rope worms.”

The intestinal lining or mucus buildup theory claims that these long rope-like structures are simply shed pieces of intestinal mucus.

Intestinal mucus is produced as a barrier to prevent harmful microorganisms from entering the bloodstream through the intestines. As with all cells in the body, these intestinal barrier cells routinely turn over and shed.

While routine shedding is normal, excessive or altered shedding of intestinal mucus may be a sign of gastrointestinal conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or colon cancer.

During enemas and colon hydrotherapy sessions, some people experience a flushing of what’s believed to be a buildup of mucus. This buildup of mucus, which is sometimes referred to as mucoid plaque, actually closely resembles what others believe is the “rope worm.”

There’s no definitive scientific proof that mucoid plaque buildup even exists. However, there’s even less scientific proof for the existence of the rope worm as an intestinal parasite.

Perhaps the most critical evidence against the parasite theory is the fact that when the DNA of the “rope worm” specimen was tested, it consisted of 99 percent human DNA.

It’s believed that eating a diet rich in processed foods may contribute to the presence of rope worms or the buildup of mucoid plaque. While there’s no scientific proof to support this theory, there’s merit behind the idea of maintaining a healthy gut.

Gut health is just as important as heart health, lung health, and the health of any other organ in the body. Even if the literature doesn’t prove the existence of rope worms or mucoid plaque, here are some ways you can take care of your digestive system:

  • Drink plenty of water. Hydration is important for all the cells of the body, including the mucus-producing cells of the intestines. Hydration is also important to prevent constipation. Make sure you’re keeping up on your water intake throughout the day.
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are full of fiber, which can help keep the digestive tract functioning smoothly. These foods are also good sources of antioxidants, which help to support your gut health.
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. It’s no secret that a lack of sleep can have negative effects on the body, including our digestion. Keeping a healthy, consistent sleep schedule and sleeping seven to nine hours per night can help support a healthy microbiome.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. Stress, anxiety, and other strong emotions can influence gut health and your digestion. For example, depression has been linked to symptom flareups in patients with IBS. Using relaxation techniques may help to reduce the negative impact on your digestion.
  • Keep an eye on the symptoms of food intolerances. Food allergies and sensitivities can affect anyone, from children to older adults. If you have gastrointestinal symptoms when you eat certain foods, it may be worth a visit to a doctor just to check for food intolerances.

“Rope worms” are allegedly discovered during enemas and colonics. There’s little evidence to support the theory that these “worms” are a newly discovered type of human parasite.

The more likely explanation for the expulsion of these rope-like strands is the shedding of intestinal mucus. However, both theories lack the necessary scientific evidence to definitively say what these “rope worms” really are.

If you’re experiencing an increase in mucus or notice the presence of worm-like strands during colon cleansing, it’s always best to schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor or gastroenterologist.