Most people believe that parasites are a condition of third-world countries. But the truth is, 90 percent of Americans will have a problem with parasites at some point in their lifetime. You may even have parasites living in your intestines right now! And, since they sometimes go undiagnosed, they could have been there for years. Here’s what you need to know about parasites.
A parasite is an organism that lives off other organisms or a host to survive. Sounds a little like the movie aliens, doesn’t it? And, in a way it is. Because parasites are foreign invaders living, feasting and digesting inside your body. But here’s the thing: parasitic infections are more common than most people think. Particularly in those who suffer from thyroid and autoimmune disease, says Dr. Amy Myers.
On the other hand, some parasites may never affect their hosts. Some research has even suggested that tapeworms could be beneficial for your health (thanks, I’ll pass). However, parasites can damage and destroy tissue and produce toxic waste that causes a whole lot of unwanted and often debilitating health problems.
You could feel ill most of the time and not even realize you have a parasite. In fact, you could be on a slew of medications and still have no idea that the root of your problems is actually a parasitic infection.
Here’s what may be living inside you
The most common types of parasites are flatworms, roundworms, tapeworms, threadworms, pinworms, whipworms and hookworms. They cause a variety of problems for their host, including extreme hunger and inability to gain weight. Others feed off red blood cells, causing anemia. And still others lay eggs that can cause itching, irritability and even insomnia.
How does someone get a parasite?
There are many ways to contract a parasite, but the most common is through poor hygienic practices. A compromised immune system can also increase your chances of getting a parasite.
Too much sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, heavy metals (from vaccines and dental fillings), stress and certain toxins can weaken your immune system. Additionally, a diet high in wheat, dairy and unfiltered tap water may also create a friendly environment for parasites to thrive.
Infestation and spread begin with:
- Drinking water or eating foods that are poorly sanitized.
- Practicing poor personal hygiene.
- Swimming in lakes, rivers or ponds where giardia or other parasites thrive.
- Traveling to a foreign country that doesn’t practice sanitary food, water or environmental practices.
- Owning pets such as dogs or outdoor cats that have not been dewormed on a regular basis.
- Being bitten by insects, such as mosquitos, that carry parasites.
- Having unprotected sex with someone previously infected.
- Working in childcare.
- Regularly working with soil.
- Working in areas where you might come into contact with feces on a regular basis.
Here are the signs you’re hosting a parasite:
You have constipation, diarrhea and gas
These are the more common symptoms of parasitic presence. If you have unexplained constipation, diarrhea, gas, intense burning, bloating of the abdomen, cramping or other symptoms of IBS, you could have a parasite.
You have trouble falling sleeping
Can’t fall asleep? It could be a nasty parasite. Parasites, especially those that prefer to live in the intestinal tract, can cause a host of sleep disorders. Experts suggest that many parasites are most active at night and during early morning hours. They can also affect the nervous system as well.
You have an unexplained rash, hives or eczema
Parasites that attack the intestinal tract may cause inflammation and skin irritation like rashes, hives and eczema. Some parasites may even cause rosacea, sores, lesions and ulcers to break out.
You’re grinding your teeth in your sleep
Who would have thought grinding your teeth indicates parasitic presence? But that’s what studies suggest. Bruxism is the medical term used for teeth grinding, gnashing and clenching the teeth when a person sleeps. This happens because of anxiety and restlessness caused by parasites eliminating their waste and toxins into the body.
You’re always hungry
A tapeworm can’t live freely on its own. It survives within the gut, feeding on the food you eat. Tapeworm eggs normally enter a human host via animal, contaminated water and food, especially raw or undercooked meat. Sometimes there is a loss of appetite, suggests Medical News. However, some may experience a rise in appetite.
You have achy joints
Pain or aching in your muscles or joints may be a sign of a trichinella, which leads to trichinosis, according to Dr. Oz. This may happen if you eat raw or undercooked meat from infected animals. The result is extreme muscle pain and tenderness.
You are fatigued or exhausted all the time
If you feel tired and depressed most of the time, it may be the result of a parasite invading your body. Experts agree parasites can deplete the body of vital nutrients. When vitamins, minerals, fats and carbohydrates are depleted, you’re left feeling drained and exhausted. This can ultimately lead to mental fatigue and depression.
How to prevent parasitic infections
There are many ways to lower your risk of contracting a parasitic infection, according to Healthline. Here are a few:
- Wash your hands regularly, especially after handling raw uncooked meats.
- Make sure to cook your foods to the recommended internal temperature.
- Drink only clean water that’s been filtered, and bottled water when traveling.
- Avoid cat litter and feces when you’re pregnant. Outdoor cats can come into contact with infected birds and rodents, thus transferring parasites through their litter. Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that can seriously harm pregnant women and their developing babies. So, if you’re pregnant, ask someone else to change the litter.
- Practice safe sex and use condoms.
- Avoid swimming in polluted water and swallowing water from lakes, streams or ponds.
How to kill parasites naturally
If you believe you have a parasitic infection, talk to your doctor. He or she can help diagnose the cause of your symptoms and recommend the best treatment plan. Early detection may help prevent the spread of infection to others.
But if you’ve been diagnosed with a parasite, now what? Your doctor may suggest drugs to eliminate that nasty bug. But you can also choose a more natural approach. Keep in mind some conventional medical treatments may rid parasites faster. But alternative treatments may be helpful along with conventional medications.
The following natural treatments may help keep parasites at bay, suggests the University of Maryland.
- Eliminate simple carbohydrates, like those found in processed foods, fruits, fruit juices, dairy products and all sugars — except honey.
- Eat raw garlic, pomegranates, pumpkin seeds, carrots and beets. These foods are traditionally used to kill parasites. Research suggests mixing honey and papaya seeds to kill parasites. Follow by drinking lots of water to help flush your system.
- Eat more fiber, which also helps eliminate worms.
You may also want to include coconut oil in your diet, which is known to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
— Katherine Marko