Let’s face it, parasites are gross and the thought of having one makes most people really unhappy. The truth is, however, that parasites are quite common in humans and can affect you at any time. Most people don’t even realize they have a parasite or may go symptomless for many years. Awareness is the key to understanding if a parasite could explain your current symptoms.
What is a Parasite?
A parasite is an organism that lives and feeds off of another organism. In humans, parasites can take up residence anywhere from the eye to the anus and anywhere in between. It is important to note that not all parasites live in the intestinal tract and not all symptoms related to parasites are digestive in nature. Some common parasites in humans include:
Pinworms are tiny, white worms that commonly affect children before the age of 12. Pinworm infestation is caused by ingestion of fecal matter usually from one child to another. They make their home in the colon and rectum while feeding on the bacteria in this area. Pinworms cause anal itching after the female pinworm lay her eggs in this area. This causes scratching, disturbed sleep and abdominal pain. As if that isn’t bad enough, this cycle can repeat over and over if the child scratches and puts their fingers back in their mouth, on a toy or on another child.
This cunning parasite is obtained mainly through drinking contaminated water or eating raw or undercooked pork. Once in the intestines they latch onto the intestinal wall with suckers and hooks and feed on the digested nutrients of the gut. They begin to grow and can get as long as 20 feet. If the eggs are ingested, they can hatch in the stomach and travel from the small intestine to other parts of the body through the blood stream, including the muscles, eyes and brain.
This is another parasite that likes to hide out in raw or undercooked pork. Properly cooking pork products is crucial to killing these suckers. The larvae migrate to the small intestines and grow into adults. The larvae can also make their way to the muscle fibers through the blood stream. Symptoms in early trichinosis include fever, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Although most cases can be mild, fatal heart complications and breathing problems can ensue with more severe infection.
Hookworms are one of the parasites that don’t enter the human body through the digestive tract. Rather, they can take up residence by entering the hair follicles or sweat glands usually from walking or sitting on contaminated soil. From there, they travel through the skin, into the blood stream and can make their home in the lungs causing a cough and shortness of breath. They can sometimes make their way to the small intestines if they are able to get to the throat from the lungs. Hookworms can cause anemia and nutrient deficiencies by sucking blood from the intestinal wall.
Are you sufficiently disgusted yet? It is also important to mention that parasites are very easy to pass along and contamination can be found in, not only food and drinking water, but pools, lakes, on toys, furniture, cars and on and on. This is why thorough hand washing with soap and water after using the restroom, after being outside and when dealing with small children is of utmost importance. But even the most conscientious of us may still come in accidental contact with a parasite, so keeping an eye out for signs and symptoms can be a great way to minimize prolonged exposure.
Many of the signs and symptoms of parasitic infection are digestive in nature, including gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and vomiting. Other symptoms that may not be as revealing including inability to gain weight, constant hunger despite eating often, insomnia, chronic headaches, muscle and joint pain, unexplained rashes, severe depression and/or anxiety, persistent fatigue and malaise. If you have been having progressively failing health, visiting doctor after doctor and not able to get an explaination for your symptoms, consider parasitic infection as a potential cause.
It is also important to note that because parasites are opportunistic, they are more likely to thrive in a sick and fragile body. So caring for yourself everyday by making appropriate lifestyle decisions with regard to food, drink, sleep, stress-response, and behavior can be a powerful preventative tool.
Diagnosis of parasitic infections is routinely made by integrative and functional medicine practitioners who utilize specialized and comprehensive stool analysis. These tests will look for bacteria, yeast, parasites and their eggs. Additionally, if a pathogen is found, the lab can test antimicrobial and natural agents that are best suited to kill the pathogen. Further, with this testing, even if the parasite is dead, they can still be detected. This is one of the major disadvantages to traditional or conventional stool analysis.
Treatment of parasites can include a combination of herbal therapeutics like berberine, wormwood, black walnut, garlic, caprylic acid and bearberry. Other useful therapies include coffee enemas to purge intestinal parasites, ozone therapies, rife frequency generators and near-infrared sauna therapy. Nutritional balancing is a wonderful long-term solution to rebuild and heal the body, to not only create a less suitable environment for parasites to thrive, but also to prevent reinfection.
Scientific American, Worms “N’ Us: A Look at 8 Parasitic Worms That Live in Humans, http://www.scientificamerican.com/slideshow/worms-human-parasites/, A division of Nature America, Inc. 2015
The Center for Development, Parasites and How To Eliminate Them Naturally, http://drlwilson.com/Articles/PARASITES.HTM, April, 2015