Parasite Infection

Parasite Infection: Overview

Intestinal parasites are micro-organisms that live in the intestines.  Some cause problems while others can live for long periods in the bowel without causing symptoms or requiring treatment. Infection by intestinal parasitic worms (geohelminths) is widespread throughout the world, affecting hundreds of millions of people.  Children are particularly susceptible and typically have the largest number of worms.  Three of the most common kinds of worms are roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) and hookworm (Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus).  These worms live in the intestines and their numbers build up through repeated infection.  It is possible to be infected with more than one kind of worm.

A parasite survives by hijacking another organism, robbing it of nutrients and thanking it by leaving behind toxic waste.  Obviously, we would be much happier without having these pintsized freeloaders around. 

Yet, there are over 100 different types of parasites that can live in human hosts.  Since the world's population is becoming more mobile, with US tourists traveling to foreign countries where parasites are prevalent and immigrants moving to the US from these countries, parasitic infections are increasing.  The fact is, parasitic infections may have reached epidemic levels in the US and most other countries.

Types of Parasite
Parasites include an amazing cast of characters that can end up taking residence in our bodies.  There are four different groups to choose from: roundworms, single celled protozoa, tapeworms and flukes.

Roundworms exist worldwide, especially in warmer climates.  25% of the world's population may be infected with roundworms (which can reach the size of pencils) and include hookworms, whipworms, pinworms and trichinae.  Hookworms migrate down the digestive tract where they attach to intestinal walls and ingest blood.  The victim may experience nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, anemia and listlessness.  Whipworms are small, about 3 to 5 centimeters long, and infect the large intestine.  Pinworms are the most common roundworm in the US and inhabit mostly crowded areas such as schools, day care centers and mental hospitals.  They can be as contagious as the flu and usually infect several members of one family.  Trichinae are tiny roundworms found in the muscle of infected animals, usually pigs, that cause trichinosis, a disease characterized by intestinal disorders, fever, muscular swelling, pain and insomnia.  If you eat pork, be careful since even a small uncooked portion can lead to infection.  Always cook pork until it's well done.

Minuscule, single celled protozoa permeate our environment and harm more people worldwide than any other parasite.  Protozoa form cysts, or a resting stage, where they become resistant to temperature extremes, chemicals and drying.  Humans can easily ingest these small cysts and many of us have been exposed.  Yet, our immune systems come to the rescue and eliminate the cysts, keeping them under control.  Individuals with a weakened immune system due to stress or illness, however, may experience outbreaks curable with certain herbs.

Common throughout the world, tapeworms are long and ribbon-like.  Humans can ingest tapeworm larvae by eating raw or under cooked beef, pork and fish or from coming in contact with infected animals or contaminated grains.  Tapeworms live in our intestines and absorb nutrients through their skin.  People with tapeworm infections feel dizzy, toxic, have unclear thinking, high and low blood sugar levels, hunger pains, poor digestion and allergies.

The various species of flukes – tiny flat worms that look like odd-shaped pancakes – include blood flukes, fish flukes, intestinal flukes, liver flukes, lung flukes, lymph flukes and pancreatic flukes.  Humans can become infected by eating raw or under cooked seafood, eating infected vegetation like water chestnuts or watercress or drinking or wading in infected water.  Once inside the body, flukes migrate to various organs and may cause liver swelling, jaundice, weakened lungs and blood clots.

Causes and Development

Worms are prolific little creatures.  They can release tens of thousands of eggs at a time and it's the eggs or the freshly hatched larvae that we inadvertently pick up as we walk barefoot or garden in infected soil.  Parasitic infection may spread through contaminated water, fruits, vegetables, grains, poultry, fish or meat.  Parasites, in addition, can be transferred from pet to owner.  Since children spend more time outdoors, they're more likely than adults to be exposed to parasites.

People become infected with intestinal worms through contact with soil that has been contaminated with human feces from an infected person.  In the case of roundworm and whipworm, people can become infected when they ingest the worm eggs, either by eating contaminated food (e.g.  fruits or vegetables that have been watered with water containing contaminated soil), or by geophagic activity (ingesting contaminated soil directly).  People become infected with hookworm when the larvae burrow through the skin of bare feet.

Signs and Symptoms

Parasites are responsible for many ill health conditions including diarrhoea, gastrointestinal upset, vaginal irritation, joint pain, nervous diseases, immune dysfunction and chronic fatigue.  Long term, undetected infestation can cause many systemic problems.  For the very old, very young or immunocompromised, a parasitic infection can be extremely problematic.

Signs of infection include less conclusive symptoms such as a runny nose, nighttime restlessness and blisters on the lower lip inside the mouth.  If you become infected, be prepared for a rough time.  Infected individuals may feel bloated, tired and hungry.  They may have allergies, anemia, lethargy, fuzzy thinking, headaches and roller coastering blood sugar levels.  They may experience restlessness, hair loss, diarrhea, arthritis, mineral imbalances and nighttime teeth grinding.  One or more symptoms may occur to a greater or lesser degree depending upon the individual.

Especially with heavier infections, intestinal parasites can also cause symptoms such as:

  • Loose, foul-smelling stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Mucous in stools
  • Abdominal cramps and gas
  • Loss of appetite
  • Distended abdomen
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Listlessness and generally feeling unwell.
These symptoms may last for weeks and return several times a year.  Other parasites are nearly harmless (at least in small quantities) and often don't cause symptoms.  In North America and Europe, parasites rarely cause serious complications.  The incidence of parasite infection is both overestimated and underestimated, depending on who you are listening to.  If you have symptoms suggesting their presence, you should be carefully and even repeatedly tested, if necessary.

Treatment and Prevention

It doesn't take Stone Age sanitation habits or a lengthy trip exploring dense jungles to increase parasitic infection risks.  Parasites are almost everywhere.  Yet, many medical doctors hesitate to diagnose parasitic infection and won't treat the infection unless symptoms are serious.  Even though we've always had to deal with parasites, medical doctors have found that patients don't want to hear about them.

And it's just as well.  The drugs most physicians use against parasitic infection work on the premise of differential toxicity which means that the drug is hopefully more toxic to the parasite than to us.  Side-effects include nau sea, vomiting, abdominal pain, rashes and headaches.

Fortunately, there are gentler herbal remedies that rid systems of persistent parasites.  Some work better in combinations and some are very strong, so it's best to obtain advice from an herbalist before ingesting them.

Take herbal remedies before meals on an empty stomach and, if you can, wait until just before the full moon since worms may be more active then.  Begin taking herbs five days before the full moon and continue for about two weeks.

A combination of pumpkin seed, garlic, cramp bark, capsicum and thyme, can chase away tapeworms.  An herbal mixture of black walnut leaves, wormwood, quassia, cloves and male fern, helps eliminate roundworms.  Three parts capsicum, two parts wormwood and one part sage is an effective combination against worms.  Black walnut, sassafras and pine needles also works.

Preventing Re-infection:

  • Periodically consume curry meals (highly anti-parasitic) followed by probiotics treatment (to re-establish healthy intestinal flora).
  • It is a realistic approach to EXPECT to become infected by destructive parasites and to undergo a periodic (i.e.  annual) parasitic cleanse, as most fresh waters globally located near human habitation ARE polluted.
  • Be sure that all meat, chicken and fish is cooked thoroughly.
  • Don't use a microwave to cook meat, chicken or fish.  Microwaves often don't heat foods completely.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables in clean water before eating (to prevent roundworm and whipworm infection)
  • Always wash your hands, kitchen counters and utensils with hot soapy water after cutting or handling raw meat, chicken or fish.
  • Be sure that all meat, chicken and fish is cooked thoroughly.
  • Don't use a microwave to cook meat, chicken or fish.  Microwaves often don't heat foods completely.
  • Always wear shoes or slippers (to prevent hookworm infection)
  • Do not use water from septic tanks or other potentially contaminated sources for watering vegetables
  • Contain all fecal matter (e.g.  by using a toilet or latrine, rather than "as nature intended" outside)
  • Teach children proper hygiene i.e.  washing hands after going to the toilet, playing outside and before preparing or eating food.
  • If you have parasites, you can reduce the likelihood of passing them on to others by carefully washing your hands after having bowel movements and cleaning the genital area before having sex.
  • Wear gloves when changing the cat box.  Deworm pets periodically.
  • Avoid swallowing river, stream or lake water when swimming in them.  Better yet, avoid swimming in them altogether.
  • Eat high-fiber foods and avoid sugar and other refined carbohydrates.
  • Keep your body slightly acidic by including pumpkin seeds, calmyrna figs, garlic, apple cider vinegar, cranberry juice and pomegranates in your diet.
  • Avoid eating water chestnuts and watercress.

Complications

As worm populations build up over time, many of the health problems caused by these worms become chronic.  The worms can cause malnutrition as they rob the body of food – either by reducing appetite, or by preventing food from being absorbed properly once it has been eaten.  Children with chronic worm infections and large numbers of worms may become stunted and underweight.

Heavy infections with roundworm can cause bowel obstruction.  Intestinal worms – especially hookworm – can contribute to anemia by causing intestinal bleeding and thus loss of blood.  The larger the number of worms, the more likely they are to make a person ill.  Chronic infections can lead to long-term retardation of mental and physical development and, in very severe infections, even death.

The long-term presence of parasites may contribute to the development of food allergies.

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Parasite Infection:

Lab Values - Cells

Macrocytic red cells may be a sign or symptom of Parasite Infection Macrocytic red cells

Fish tapeworm infestation can cause enlarged red blood cells.

Symptoms - Bowel Movements

Orange/unusual stool color may be a sign or symptom of Parasite Infection Orange/unusual stool color

Some types of parasite are known to change stool color.

Symptoms - Gas-Int - General

Symptoms - Head - Eyes/Ocular

Conditions that suggest Parasite Infection:

Allergy

Digestion

Infections

Yeast / Candida Infection may suggest Parasite Infection Yeast / Candida Infection

Intestinal parasites such as worms destroy friendly bacteria in the gut, making yeast overgrowth possible.  It is common for Candida patients to also have parasites and parasites should be suspected if Candida overgrowth recurs.

Bacterial Dysbiosis may suggest Parasite Infection Bacterial Dysbiosis

Small bowel parasites may predispose a person to bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.

Lab Values

Metabolic

Parasites

Symptoms - Gas-Int - General

Counter-indicators

Tumors, Benign

Risk factors for Parasite Infection:

Symptoms - Gas-Int - General

Parasite Infection can lead to:

Metabolic

Recommendations for Parasite Infection:

Botanical

Black Walnut is highly recommended for Parasite Infection Black Walnut

A common natural remedy for flushing parasites out of one's system is a blend of 3 herbs: Black walnut (green hull) tincture, wormwood capsules, and fresh ground cloves (to kill the parasites' eggs).

Wormwood may help with Parasite Infection Wormwood

Artemesia annua has primarily been used for treatment of protozoan infection.  The most active ingredient, artemisinin, is a potent prooxidant whose activity is enhanced by polyunsaturated fats such as cod liver oil and antagonized by vitamin E.  Artemisinin is used intravenously in Southeast Asia for the treatment of cerebral malaria; it has no known side-effects except for induction of abortion when used at high doses in pregnant animals.

Digestion

Parasite Cleanse is highly recommended for Parasite Infection Parasite Cleanse

If you suspect parasites, you may simply have to confirm this by taking an anti-parasite cleanse.

Drug

Conventional Drug Use is highly recommended for Parasite Infection Conventional Drug Use

For those not afraid of using pharmaceutical remedies, treatment for intestinal worms is simple, cheap and effective, with a single dose of Albendazole (400mg pills), which kills the adult worms.  As reinfection may occur (particularly amongst children), treatment is advised once a year, or every six months if reinfection is a big problem.  Those who should not be treated by these means include: those who are already unwell for some other reason, e.g.  with a fever (treatment should be delayed until they are feeling better); girls/women are pregnant (treatment should not be given during the first three months of pregnancy); those with chronic illness such as sickle cell anemia.

Lab Tests/Rule-Outs

Test for Parasites is highly recommended for Parasite Infection Test for Parasites

Many types of parasite do not show up on tests because most labs only test for a limited number of strains (for example, 50) whereas there are over 1,000 that can affect humans.  One of the tests used to detect parasites is CDSA.

Mineral

Zinc may help with Parasite Infection Zinc

Tissue damaged by intestinal parasites demonstrates an enhanced recovery rate with adequate zinc intake.

KEY

Weak or unproven link: may be a sign or symptom of; may suggest
Weak or unproven link:
may be a sign or symptom of; may suggest
Strong or generally accepted link: is often a sign or symptom of; often suggests; often increases risk of; often leads to
Strong or generally accepted link:
is often a sign or symptom of; often suggests; often increases risk of; often leads to
Definite or direct link: strongly suggests
Definite or direct link:
strongly suggests
Strong counter-indication: often contraindicates
Strong counter-indication:
often contraindicates
May be useful: may help with
May be useful:
may help with
Very useful: is highly recommended for
Very useful:
is highly recommended for