If this is a question you are asking yourself, then more likely then not you may have some un-welcomed company! It certainly amazes me within my practice that so many people think that having chronic digestive problems, gas, constipation, skin rashes, pains in the stomach area, fatigue and other “vague” symptoms are just something you have to live with.
Parasitic infections contribute to a variety of major diseases including Chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, rheumatoid symptoms, chronic fatigue syndrome, and AIDS. In one study 50 percent of the people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome had intestinal parasites. This percentage is even higher in people with chronic fatigue syndrome.
How many people do you know suffering from chronic fatigue and have been ill for months, but doctors can’t find anything wrong with them? Any person with chronic gastrointestinal complaints such as bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, excessive gas, chronic constipation, multiple allergies especially to food, and unexplained fatigue, should be screened for parasites. People, we may be living longer, but we are not living healthier and although there are many factors that contribute to this decline in health, parasites may be one of the most overlooked! If your health problem persists, think parasites!!
What is a parasite?
Parasites are organisms that live in or on another organism (the host) at the expense of that host. These parasites reap havoc on your digestive system, and as mentioned above often leave you malnourished and with a plethora of debilitating symptoms.
Parasites feed off your nutrients and love sugar! The destruction within the digestive tract leads to digestive issues and often constipation. Many parasites, including roundworms, thrive on a body that is constipated and eating sweet foods, even natural sources such as juices. Other parasites get their food from the cells in your body. They attach themselves to these cells and are able to derive their nutrition from the cell itself. These are significantly more dangerous then parasites that stay in the digestive tract, because they can travel to places in the body where they can do damage to vital organs.
What most people do not realize is that we will all be infected with some form of a parasite throughout our lives. In fact, no organ is immune, your blood, your muscles, your heart, your lungs, and your brain are all possible sites for parasitic infestation. About one-third of the parasites in humans live in the digestive tract and the other two-thirds live somewhere else in the body
Parasites multiply at an incredible rate and have the ability to remain in your body for 10,20, and even 30 years! In one study done in 1979, 600 British former POW’s from World War II were examined. Even thirty years later, 15 percent of these soldiers were still infected with a parasite, Strongyloides, acquired during that war!
The longer a parasite is in the body, the more damage it will do, depending on the target sight of infection. For example, if the parasite is in the intestinal tract the body will produce more mucous in order to protect the intestinal cells, interfering with digestion and over time, leading to malabsorption and malnourishment.
How Do You Get Parasites?
Parasites live everywhere and are commonly transmitted to humans in diverse ways. Some of the ways parasites are spread include:
eating under-cooked meats and fish
Poor inspection by government officials
eating raw food such as salad, fruits and other vegetables- U.S. imports 30 billion tons of food a year. Some of our produce comes from developing nations where sanitation facilities are less advanced or they commonly practice the use of human feces as fertilizer.
food handlers – people who prepare food, as well as the general population, do not wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Many parasites are spread by fecal-oral contact, this lack of personal hygiene may be one of the greatest factors in the spread of parasites.
placing hands in the mouth after having contact with something that has a parasite in or on it
inhaling dust that contains the eggs or cysts of these organisms
drinking water from lakes, rivers, and streams, and creeks
contact with pets and other animals
Most common parasites:
In the United States, the most common human parasites, apart from head lice, are the microscopic protozoa varieties that are transmitted by air, food, water, insect animals, and other people.
Giardia lamblia - is a single cell protozoan and known to be the most frequent cause of non-bacterial water-borne diarrhea in North America. Found in waters of lakes, streams and oceans, giardia is a cyst in its survival form in the environment and infective stage of the organism. After swallowing one of these cysts, it reaches the intestines where it changes to its next stage and multiplies. It can also coat the lining of the intestine and prevent digestion and assimilation of foods.
Entamoeba histolytica - is a single cell parasitic ameba that infects predominantly humans and other primates. It reaches the small intestine where this parasite is satisfied to grow and multiply in the open spaces of the bowel, where it feeds on bacteria, tissue or blood cells and is known to cause dysentery and injury to the liver and lungs
Blastocystis hominis - linked to acute and chronic illness, this organism infects the intestines where the small intestine meets the colon. It is difficult to eradicate because of its ability to lodge itself into the wall of the intestine.
Dientamoeba fragilis - is associated with diarrhea, abdominal pains, intense anal itching, and loose stools
Cryptosporidium – is a single cell, microscopic animal that can infect a human’s digestive tract and cause severe gastrointestinal disease. This tiny parasite has become a significant threat to those with low immune function or with AIDS.
What are some of the symptoms associated with parasites?
The most commonly reported symptoms of parasitic infection are diarrhea and abdominal pain. It is common that over half of the people with parasites are without obvious symptoms, but there still may be some non-specific ones that could suggest that parasites are somewhere in the body:
Foul-smelling stools that are worse in the afternoon and evening
Bowel habits have changes over several days or weeks or even months. Now there are soft or watery bowel movements or occasional constipation.
The presence of abdominal cramps and rumblings and gurglings in the stomach area at times different from hunger and eating.
Pains in the chest or heartburn
Sore and swollen breast unrelated to menstrual cycle
Flulike symptoms (coughing, wheezing and fever)
Food allergies to many different foods
Itching around the anus, especially at night
Losing weight, yet have a ravenous appetite
What do you do if you do have a parasite?
It is important to understand and be aware of how parasites spread and the sources of potential infection. It makes sense that you will reduce your risk to parasites when you reduce or eliminate the factors from your environment that promote parasitic infection. A healthy immune system is the best protection from catching parasites.
As mentioned earlier…if your health problem persists, think parasites! It is recommended to work with your local health care practitioner to help in identifying if there could be parasitic activity.
Some questions that you can ask yourself as well present to your health care provider:
Have you ever traveled out of the country?
Have you eaten foods that you find questionable?
Do you have pets that sleep in your bed, have they been dewormed regularly or do they often lick your face?
Have you ever been on antibiotics? – excessive use of antibiotics encourages the spread of parasites as they weaken the bodies ability to fight back.
Do you frequent restaurants?
Do you or any family members work over seas?
How is your diet? – poor diet leads to a sluggish bowel, imbalances in microflora in the gut and this encourages the overgrowth of pathogens!
Could your partner have been infected? – parasites can easily pass through sexual fluids…if one person gets treated, so must the other to avoid reinfecting.
Other steps you will need to take…
You will need to establish what type of parasite you have and the only way to do this is through a full stool lab. It is recommended you request a lab that requires several samples (the large intestine averages 60in. in length)
Once you have identified the pathogen you will need to begin treatment. There are several parasite cleanses out there so you will need to consult with your health care practitioner on which one is best for you.
Once you have rid the body of the pathogen it is recommended that you proceed with a full gut healing program in order to restore proper digestion.