Are Intestinal Parasites Affecting Your Mental and Physical Health?
Although intestinal parasites are believed to be restricted to third world countries, this is an inaccurate perception. Undiagnosed parasite infection is very common in the United States and other industrialized countries within all social classes. Many practitioners believe they are one of the primary underlying causes of many chronic mental and physical health conditions that plaque our society today.
As a matter of fact, it is quite easy to acquire a parasitic infection. They are commonly found in your water, food, day care centers, preschools, lakes, streams, and rivers. Your pets are one of the biggest carriers, including dogs, cats, pigs, horses, goats, and rodents. If you have a pet, you most likely have parasites; especially cats.
In a survey of salad bars in New York City, every one of them tested positive for ova and protozoa, which may have been acquired from those who prepared it, other patrons visiting the salad bar or the area where the food was grown. If you eat in salad bars frequently, you have an increased risk of contracting an infection.
When these unwelcome visitors take up residence in your body, they consume your nutrients for survival and emit a variety of toxins like ammonia that can impair not only your gastrointestinal tract, but your detoxification system, brain, autonomic nervous system and immune system as well and lead to a wide variety of psychiatric and medical health conditions. Parasites not only feed on the food and nutritional supplements that you consume, but they also feed on your cells, blood, and glucose.
If you have a chronic health condition or psychiatric disorder, you should always explore this arena, especially if you have not responded to other treatments and interventions. Practitioners with expertise in this area, feel that undiagnosed parasite infection is one of the primary reasons that an individual does not recover from other chronic health conditions.
Types of Intestinal Parasites
There are 2 primary types of parasites, but many different species within those types.
Worms include pinworms, tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, threadworms like strongyloides, schistosoma (blood flukes), liver flukes and others. They attach themselves to the lining of your intestines, where they may cause internal bleeding, nutrient depletion and anemia.
Protozoa are one celled organisms like Cryptosporidium parvum, Giardia, various Entamoebas, Babesia, Dientamoeba fragilis, Blastocystis hominis, Chilomastix mesnili, Endolimax nana and others that are invisible to the naked eye and initially cause diarrhea. Diarrhea may become acute or chronic or disappear completely making the individual think the problem is gone, but then new symptoms develop.
Common Symptoms of Intestinal Parasites
- abdominal pain
- itching around anus or perineum
- burning, stabbing, poking, cutting or cramping in abdominal area and/or rectum
- stinging like a bee sting in rectum
- pain in lower right quadrant area of abdomen near the appendix
- sudden urge to eliminate
- feels like something is moving around in your intestines
- blood in stool
- anal leakage
- loose stools
- joint pain
- weight loss
- weight gain
- loss of appetite
- increased and insatiable appetite
- muscle pain and/or weakness
- flu-like symptoms
- unexplained sweating
- enlarged lymph nodes
- B12 deficiency
- shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
- pain or congestion in lungs
- crawling under skin
- bone loss
- chronic fatigue
- hair loss
- foul smelling gas
- anxiety, depression, OCD, panic disorders, or any other mental health issues
- muscle cramps
- impaired concentration, attention and memory
- rheumatoid arthritis
- extreme hunger even after eating (we're not talking about cravings here, we're talking about real hunger. Feeling like you haven't eaten even though you have.)
- MS and other autoimmune conditions
- irritable bladder or chronic bladder problems that don't respond to treatment
- cravings for sugar and/or fat
- hypersensitivity to chemicals, foods, EMFs etc.
As you can see, there's a wide range of possible symptoms that one may experience when they have parasites. Generally, one won't experience all these symptoms, it will depend on what type of parasite you have, how severe they are, what are other health factors may be present, how much inflammation they are causing, and how long you've had them. However, if you have some type of GI or bowel disorder, chances are very good that parasites are present.
Symptoms may range from acute to chronic and change from day to day. There may be periods of time when symptoms settle down and almost disappear and there may periods when they flare with a vengeance. For example, some people experience absolutely no gastrointestinal symptoms what-so-ever, while other people can be incapacitated with GI symptoms. One individual may alternate between constipation and diarrhea.
One of the systems affected most often by parasitic infection is the nervous system, particularly the autonomic nervous system which makes symptoms like insomnia; sleep disturbances; hyperactivity; restlessness; nervousness; anxiety; hypersensitivity to chemicals, foods, sounds, etc.; and feeling stressed out very common. If you have an autonomic nervous system disorder, parasites are often one of the primary underlying contributing factors.
The toxins that they emit affect the brain and impair neurotransmitter function, which can result in depression, anxiety, mania, paranoia, fear, memory, learning disabilities, lack of focus and concentration, schizophrenia and just about any other mental health, behavioral or cognitive symptom you can think of. These toxins can also impair the detoxification system, making the individual more sensitive to the effects of toxins (e.g. chemical sensitivities) and making it difficult for them to eliminate toxins.
A parasite infection can be a primary contributor to or perpetuator of Candida overgrowth, as the ammonia and other toxins that it emits kills off your friendly flora, which allows Candida to take over. Additionally, it is believed that parasites can house Candida inside of themselves. For these reasons, Candida infections may be secondary to parasites and most people with yeast overgrowth are also dealing with a parasitic infection. Parasites can make you crave certain foods just like Candida does. Some parasites like sugar and some like fat, so you may crave either one; but they also eat protein. They frequently occur in conjunction with pathogenic bacteria as well; and may house them too.
Like all microbes, parasites are very intelligent and have crafted a variety of ingenious ways to evade elimination. They may mutate, develop resistance against medications and herbs, invade a cell so that the immune system cannot access them and create biofilms, which are complex sticky structures that enable them to hide out from your immune system and evade medications or anything that tries to kill it; all of which make them very difficult to eradicate.
Parasites frequently migrate from the intestinal tract and may be found in the blood, liver, gallbladder, lungs, bile ducts, kidneys, brain, and even the eyes. They may move around your gastrointestinal tract too, but one of their favorite spots to congregate is in the caecum, the first section of your large intestine which resides down around your appendix. So your symptoms may vary depending on where they are at any given time.
Since parasites consume your nutrients and your glucose, nutritional deficiencies and hypoglycemia are very common. If you are anemic and/or have a B12 deficiency, you should always suspect parasites. According to Dr. Leo Galland, iron supplements and probiotics are a food source for protozoans.
On the spiritual level, like all chronic health conditions, a parasite infection can wreck havoc on one's ability to experience inner peace, tranquility, feelings of connectedness, creativity, and self-awareness, and lower the quality of life.
We are all exposed to intestinal parasites, but they only cause problems in some people. It is believed by most practitioners with expertise in parasites that individuals who have intestinal permeability (leaky gut, insufficient friendly flora and impaired immunity are the ones who are vulnerable to infection. When the gut is healthy, the immune system will take care of the problem. Insufficient hydrochloric acid is also a primary contributing factor.
How to Diagnose Intestinal Parasites
According to Dr. Klinghardt and Dr. Charles Gant, two leading specialists in the field of microbes, you rarely see evidence of a parasite. Their intention is not to deliberately harm the host, but to simply have a comfortable place to live. So they will lurk quietly in the background a lot of the time.
Since most main stream practitioners will not acknowledge a condition exists without a lab test to prove it, most people with parasite infections go undiagnosed, because all lab tests that we have for diagnosing them are unreliable. They are masters at evading detection and most tests come back negative for people who are indeed infected. Parasites are only in the colon during the last part of their life cycle, during other times, they are in the biofilm in various other places in the body.
Additionally, stool should really be examined within 15 minutes of elimination, which never happens, because some parasites secrete an enzyme that will digest themselves when exposed to air and some parasites are not in the bowel. Dr. Gant tells a story that he had a patient once that clearly passed a roundworm after taking an anti-parasitic medication. They sent the worm off to one of the conventional labs to be tested and even it came back negative.
The most reliable lab test available is the GI Effects Stool Test by Metametrix, because it looks for the DNA of the organism, rather than the organism itself, however, even it doesn't find everything either. The GI Effects test often comes back with a result of "taxonomy unavailable" which means a parasite was found but its species is unknown. Metametrix states this is probably not a serious issue and doesn't strongly encourage you to address it. That has not been my experience. Many people with taxonomy unavailable have serious parasite infestation. So do not disregard treatment if you see this in your results.
Using older methods of diagnosis, Dr. Gant states he observed an incidence of parasites in about a 17.9 percent of samples submitted. With the GI Effects test, he observes an incidence of about 50 percent in samples submitted. So that is a significant improvement and also demonstrates that the prevalence of this issue is very high.
For the most part, a diagnosis must be made based on symptoms and likelihood of incidence and proceed accordingly.
On the authority of Dr.Charles Gant, other telltale signs that are indicative of a parasite infection include the following:
- Indistinct feelings of itching, skin irritations or something crawling; particularly at night.
- An imbalance between lactobillus and bifidus, with the former being low and the latter being higher.
- Bloody stool, caused by parasites chewing through the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Yeast and bacteria are incapable of this activity. (However, bloody stool can also occur from hemorrhoids and anal fissures.)
- Anemia, or low iron and TIBC, and/or ferritin with no known cause. This is caused by #3.
- Pain or discomfort in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen, known as the caecum. (near the appendix, where parasites like to accumulate.)
- Deficiencies in amino acids as indicated by an amino acid (plasma) test, despite adequate consumption of protein. Parasites can consume your protein.
- Deficiencies in other nutrients like zinc and selenium with no plausible explanation.
- A positive response or worsening of symptoms when administered an anti-parasitic medication.
- A history of travel to foreign countries, especially if followed immediately by an acute episode of gastrointestinal distress that then seems to clear up later. (This significantly increases your risk, but many people who have never traveled in a foreign country acquire parasites as well.)
- Itching of anus or rectum
- Unsuccessful treatment of yeast or bacterial overgrowth when the patient was completely compliant with the protocol.
Furthermore, Dr. Gant feels that if you have one type of parasite that you can assume you have a variety of others, because if the gut and immune system are vulnerable to one microbe, then it is vulnerable to many. Additionally, once a microbe takes up residence then it impairs immune function even more, leaving the door open for others. For the same reasons, parasites never occur alone; they are always accompanied by yeasts, fungi, viruses and/or bacteria. Each of the other microbes must be addressed as well.
Since we frequently do not know which kind of parasites we are dealing with, then a broad range of anti-parasitic medications must be used to cover all the bases. Although Dr. Gant practices Integrative Medicine and is in favor of pharmaceutical drugs only as a last resort, he feels that parasites cannot really be eliminated without prescription based medications, in combination with herbs, homeopathics, oxidative stress, colonics, zappers, etc. We want to hit them with an arsenal. However, the medications you take must be taken in a specific order. If you attempt to kill off the small parasites before killing off the big parasites, then the large ones begin to migrate and the big ones often carry the smaller ones inside them. Treatment often has to be repeated numerous times, as parasites lay eggs when they are threatened.
Furthermore, treatment requires a comprehensive approach that supports the liver and kidneys, keeps bowels moving and reduces exposure to electromagnetic fields. The liver and kidneys are needed to help eliminate toxins, constipation often occurs with treatment because it is the parasites last ditch attempt to hold on and electromagnetic radiation causes parasites and microbes of all kinds to proliferate and release more toxins.
Klinghardt Academy's Biological Medicine 2012 Conference Highlights. Townsend Letter, 2012. http://www.townsendletter.com/June2012/klinghardt0612.html
Dr. Charles Gant, Parasite Protocol, 2012 Class Webinar from the Academy of Functional Medicine & Genomics.
Galland, Leo, M.D. “Dysbiotic Relationships in the Bowel,” American College of Advancement in Medicine Conference, Spring 1992.
Mary Budinger. Townsend Letter. October 2009. http://www.townsendletter.com/Oct2009/dispatch1009.html