Digestion 101: Parasites


Most of us associate parasites only with third-world countries, drinking contaminated water or eating spoiled food. The reality is very different. Parasites can live in almost every environment, can be passed from person to person, from animal to person and can live in our body systems for years, continually reproducing using the food that we eat. Many countries, such as Australia, consider parasites a standard health issue, and most Australians perform anti-worming or anti-parasitic protocols two or even three times each year. They assume that everyone has parasites. Here in the United States, we should be doing the same. And it’s not just the people eating sushi... You can encounter parasites at the beach, while sitting in the sand. You can find them while swimming in a mountain lake. They are following you while you hike a trail. They are staring at you from the vegetables at the grocery store. The fact is, we encounter parasites every day. As long ago as 1976, a nationwide survey in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that one in every six people selected at random had one or more parasites. Up to 35% of the population is infected with hookworm, roundworm and pinworm. Parasites are generally larger than bacteria and viruses, but they are usually so small that you canot see them without a microscope. Others, such as worms, can grow quite large and can be seen with the eye, as many parents have had to witness with their children. The four major groups of parasites are protozoa (giardia), nematoda (roundworms, pinworms), cestoda (tapeworms) and trematoda (liver flukes). Parasites can enter your body in one of four ways: through food and water intake; through a transmitting agent, such as a mosquito; through sexual contact; and through the nose and skin.

The digestive system takes in hundreds of substances each and every day that the body must process. Many of these substances may actually irritate our intestinal tract, or we may not have sufficient immunity in our saliva and hydrochloric acid in the stomach to eliminate toxic bacteria. Even a disturbance in flora can cause "dysbiosis", a condition of imbalances in the ratios of bacteria in the digestive tract. Then when we encounter parasites in our food, at the beach or while camping, these foreign microbes are invading an already compromised digestive system. We may experience alternating constipation and diarrhea, unexplained constant bloating, rectal itching, abdominal pain, changes in skin or hair, or even very severe symptoms of food poisoning. Even if we are treated to alleviate acute symptoms, our digestion may never be the same afterwards. If these symptoms began while camping, we would never think it was a parasitic infection. We would think it was something in the food, the water, stress or simply change of environment. We would automatically assume it was a passing thing, and that we are fine now.

But we aren’t fine. The symptoms continue, perhaps at a less-intense level. This is the essence of a parasitic infection. Many times, medical and pharmaceutical options may eliminate the immediate problems, but the secondary generation of parasites may be encased during the original treatment, and so escape unscathed to continue to cause problems. Parasitic issues alone can begin a cycle of autoimmune issues, due to the fact that our immune system is working day and night to control the parasitic infection in our digestive tracts.

Continual parasitic issues will cause chronic pain, inflammation and irritation. Any irritation to the mucosal lining of the intestinal tract can cause malabsorption, the inability to absorb nutrients, which can deteriorate tissue and reduce the body’s ability to heal. It can even push the immune system into chronic fatigue by increasing the levels of eosinophils. It is thought that even juvenile arthritis may be linked to parasitic issues. Add to this pre-existing candida yeast overgrowth, loss of natural intestinal flora, or simply stress, and our digestive process can become agony. Parasites also destroy cells faster than cells can be regenerated, irritate body tissue and produce toxic substances. This depresses the immune system even more.

I have seen digestive symptoms that have gone on for two years or more and in fact, were begun by a parasitic encounter. So not only treating the current problem, but preventing any future issues is crucial. Every single person, man, woman, child and dog should all be doing an antiparasitic regime every year, and when living in warmer climates, every season. You should just make the assumption that you have a cozy critter inhabiting your body and eating your food.

An antiparasitic regimen includes herbs that are strongly favored for eliminating parasites, fibers to cleanse the digestive tract, garlic and goldenseal to sterilize the tract and prevent bacteria from taking advantage of the situation, and natural probiotics to restore normal immunity. The best herbal antiparasitics are Wormwood, Black Walnut Hulls, Garlic, Aniseed, Gentian, Myrrh, Euphorbia, Pau D’Arco and Qing Hao. These should be done usually for ten days, then staid for ten days, then redone for another ten days. Along with these and throughout the staid period, intestinal fiber such as slippery elm and barley bran can be great to cleanse the intestinal tract. Then following up with a strong probiotic can help to bring back the normal protection the intestinal tract requires.

So don’t bring back an unwanted souvenir from your next holiday. Protect yourself throughout your trip and leave the critters where they are...