Parasites- What are they?

Parasites are organisms that live on or within a host. In our case, us and will survive and feed at our expense. The prevalence of parasites differs from country to country.

There are 3 main types:

  • Protozoa
  • Helminths (worms)
  • Ectoparasites

Many of them are able to multiply in humans, which continues their survival and also allows serious infections to develop from just a single organism.

Protozoa and helminths largely affect the gut, while ectoparasites include lice, mites and tics  that can attach to or burrow into the skin, staying there for long periods of time.

The majority of protozoa and helminths tend to be non-pathogenic (meaning they don’t cause disease) or result in very mild illness. Some, however, can cause severe disease in humans.

How on earth did I get parasites?

  • Parasite infestation typically occurs when a person drinks contaminated water or eats contaminated food, or it can be transferred directly via faecal-oral contact.
  • Drinking unpasteurised milk, contaminated water or eating undercooked meat are common causes of infection.
  • Infection can also be passed on from animals including chickens, birds, pigs, cattle, kangaroos, cats, rats, dogs.
  • Travelling in developing countries, working with young children and animals, having concurrent gut infections, low diversity in ‘good’ gut bacteria and lowered immunity can leave you susceptible to contracting a parasite infection.
  • Other species of protozoa, plasmodium, develop in mosquitoes, and infected mosquitoes transmit the parasite to humans by biting them. Plasmodium destroys red blood cells which impacts organ function and causes a disease in humans known as malaria.
symptoms

How do I know I have them?

Many parasites lie dormant for extended periods of time.

Initial symptoms, for some people, tend to be gut symptoms like diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, gas or fatigue.

When parasites invade the red blood cells or organs, the consequences can become more serious.

The diagnosis of parasitic infestation can be challenging as some people may have no symptoms, or symptoms can be vague and non-specific.

Testing for parasites

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and microscopic stool testing are the most accurate way to detect parasites.

The shedding of some parasites is cyclical and may not be detected on some samples. Therefore, multiple samples may be required if you suspect an infection.

A comprehensive stool analysis/profile (which I offer in my practice) are useful in identifying the role and state of the gut bacteria, while assessing digestive and inflammatory markers, giving you a detailed overview of the function of the gut.

What to expect from your doctor

Antibiotics are often used to treat parasites.

The Alternative Approach

The main aim is to restore function of the gastrointestinal tract. This may include:

  • Eradication of the parasite infestation
  • Reducing signs & symptoms
  • Reducing any malnourishment
  • Restore gut bacteria
  • Reduce any inflammation
  • Heal the gut mucosal layer
  • Support the immune system

Some dietary recommendations may include:

  • High fibre diet

    Foods such as oats, flaxseed, psyllium husk or slippery elm are useful in protecting against continued infection and make the environment less hospitable to the parasites.

  • Low sugar diet

    High sugar foods feed the parasite.

fibre
  • Keep hydrated

    Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol as these can dehydrate during infection.

  • Probiotics

    It is important to nurture the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut as they will compete with he parasites for space in the gut and for nutrients. They also support the immune system, while reducing digestive symptoms such as diarrhoea.

  • Replenish lost nutrients

    As parasites often feed of the nutrients you have consumed, there may be some nutrient deficiencies.

  • Herbs

    Many herbs can be used to support the eradication of the parasites and their eggs, while others can be useful for reducing signs & symptoms and supporting gut & liver function.

*Note: always consult/work with a qualified, registered practitioner before taking any products/supplements*

hydration
wash-hand

To prevent reinfection, remember to:

  • Eat food that is well cooked and avoid eating uncooked or rare meat
  • Store cooked and uncooked food correctly
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after handling animals, nappies, going to the toilet or preparing food
  • Drink filtered water
  • When travelling only drink bottled water

I can help you

If you are experiencing digestive issues described in this article or you suspect you may have a parasite, book a FREE 15 minute chat with me and we can discuss testing and we can begin finding the ROOT CAUSE of your symptoms.