One out of 4 people have parasites!! Most people don’t know it because parasites can mask themselves with many different symptoms. A parasite is an organism that lives on or in an animal (or human) and robs its host of nutrients. It can cause a host of problems such as weaken the immune system, irritate tissues, cause diarrhea and other chronic digestive disorders, as well as cause achy joints and muscles. Parasitic infections are often misdiagnosed as peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, or allergy.
Parasites are contracted by consuming contaminated food or water, having contact with an infected insect, pet or wild animal, touching the parasite or its eggs, and even inhaling dust laden with parasite eggs.
The most common parasites are giardia, pinworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and Blastocystis hominis.
Diagnosing parasites can be frustrating. Most doctors will order a random stool sample, which is unreliable. They often give false negatives, indicating no infection when infection really does exist. If you’re testing for parasites, make sure the lab analyzing the tests is experienced in parasites. I use Diagnos-Techs Lab or Genova which are specialists in this area. Ask your practitioner about the tests he or she will order and how reliable they are. There are many antiparasitic drugs available including Metronidazole (Flagyl), Mebendazole (Vermox), Tinidazole (Tindamax) and others. Although they are generally quite effective, they don’t come without their side effects which include headaches, abdominal pain, dizziness, depression, nausea, and vaginitis, to name a few. With these side effects, many people are turning to alternative remedies. Some of theses remedies include wormwood, sour plum, red thyme oil, lemon balm leaf, coptis root and rhizome. I suggest speaking to an herbalis/nutritionist to help guide you in this process.
Of course the best thing is to avoid contracting parasites all together. Here are some suggestions:
1. Avoid undercooked food. Bake meat at 325 degrees F., poultry at 350 degrees and fish at 400 degrees.
2. Choose organic meats as much as possible. They tend to be healthier and more resistant to infection.
3. Wash your hands after using the toilet, changing a child’s diaper or petting an animal. Sounds so basic, but it works!
3. Keep pets healthy. Wear gloves when changing cat litter. Consider having your cat or dog dewormed every 6 months.
4. Don’t drink unfiltered water from rivers or streams. Bring water purification tablets or a water filter.
5. Get tested for food allergies. When the mucosal barrier of the intestine is compromised (food allergies causes inflammation), the opportunity for microbes, antigens and toxins to enter the blood stream increases. A breakdown in the intestinal lining can lead to imbalances in digestive enzymes, beneficial bacteria and hydrochloric acid which all play a part in keeping the immune system strong and resistant to infections.
Parasitic infection is a growing problem. International travel has increased since 1990. Travelers become infected overseas and unknowingly carry parasites back home. There has also been an influx of immigrants from countries where parasites thrive. Daycare workers are not as diligent in washing hands after changing diapers. There’s been a growing popularity of sushi and consuming other raw foods, such as the raw foods diet. These undercooked foods makes us more vulnerable to food-bourne parasites. Lastly, antibiotics continue to be overused, which disrupts the body’s natural ecology. If you have any symptoms described above, get tested.
References: Gittleman, A. “Worms, Germs & Other Parasites”. Health Confidential, Gastroenterology. Jan. 1994.
Lezak, M. “Herbal Antimicrobials for Intestinal Infections”. ANSR-Applied nutritional Science Reports. April 2000.