Blastocystis Parasite – What Is It And Why You Want To Get Rid Of It
Blastocystis Parasite – What Is It And Why You Want To Get Rid Of It
There is much conflicting information to be found on this particular parasite – the Blastocystis Hominis parasite. Some say it’s harmless and to be left untreated as part of your microbiome. But many medical practitioners and functional medicine experts will tell you that it definitely isn’t harmless and if you do have it, you want to eradicate it from your system.
It can cause unwanted symptoms and impact your health and wellbeing. Also, Blastocystis seems to be developing resistance to antibiotics such as metronidazole so functional medicine has a critical role to play in its eradication – natural treatments and tailored diets are effective getting rid of this parasite and returning you to good health.
What is the Blastocystis parasite?
Blastocystis is a microscopic, single-celled parasite that can live in your digestive tract. It is a protozoan parasite which means it is an organism that has adapted to live in human cells or tissues.
Blastocystis in humans was once identified as a single species, Blastocystis hominis. Researchers have found several variations — either different species or different strains within a species. In fact, there are currently 22 subtypes of Blastocystis, which are widely distributed across human and animals.
The scientific name used now is Blastocystis spp, an abbreviation that means “multiple species.” A blastocystis infection is called blastocystosis. 
It’s prevalence often exceeds 5% in the general population of industrialised countries and can reach 30–60% in developing countries.  The prevalence of Blastocystis infection is higher than that of other intestinal parasites, such as Giardia, Entamoeba, or Cryptosporidium. 
It can be transmitted via food or water or by contact with human or animal faeces. People who live in or travel to developing countries and people who work with animals are at a particularly high risk of contracting the parasite. It is also frequently found in people who are immunocompromised.
Historically, Blastocystis has been seen as a harmless yeast and in fact, some studies in the 1970s suggested that it was a beneficial organism for some people.
In the last decade, however, studies have revealed that it can cause a wide variety of gastrointestinal issues, playing a significant role in irritable bowel syndrome. It has also been found to be linked to skin issues including the development of cutaneous lesions.
For some people, Blastocystis causes now symptoms but for some, it can cause a wide variety of problems.
Signs and symptoms possibly associated with Blastocystis include:
- Watery diarrhoea
- Abdominal pain
- Excessive gas
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Anal itching
Some studies have linked blastocystis to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) as it is frequently reported in the stools samples of people with IBS.
How do I get tested for Blastocystis?
A number of lab tests help diagnose parasitic diseases and other non-infectious causes of gastrointestinal symptoms:
- Stool (faecal) exam. This test looks for parasites. Your doctor might give you a container with preservative fluid for your stool sample. Refrigerate — don’t freeze — your samples until you take them to your doctor’s office or lab.
- Endoscopy. If you have symptoms, but the faecal exam doesn’t reveal the cause, your doctor might request this test. When you’re under sedation, a special camera on a tube is used to exam your digestive tract.
- Blood tests. A blood test that can detect blastocystis is available but not commonly used. However, your doctor might order blood tests to look for other causes of your signs and symptoms. 
Eradicating Blastocystis the natural way
Conventional medications for eliminating a blastocystis infection include antibiotics, such as metronidazole or tinidazole, combination medications, such as sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim and anti-protozoal medications, such as paromomycin which is a much better antibiotic option.
But as we talked about earlier, this parasite seems to be developing antibiotic resistance, rendering it more difficult to target and eradicate. Also, conventional medications used to treat diarrhea can serve to make the problem worse by irritating the in intestinal lining so that parasites are able to further bind to the intestinal walls and within the mucus of the walls.
Treating Blastocystis naturally is a great option for effective eradication.
Effective herbs and plants
Garlic – Parasitology Research published a study from the department of medicine at The Aga Khan University in 2011 which demonstrated garlic was an equally effective agent against B. hominus as conventional prescription medication.
Wormwood – Known in traditional medicine to eliminate worms, it is a mild sedative and can increase stomach acidity.
Black Walnut – A traditional remedy to fight parasites and fungal infections, it also promotes good digestion and serves as a mild laxative.
Goldenseal – Helps promote healthy immune function, fights inflammation and infections while cleansing the body and improving digestion.
Clove – Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine has a 2015 published study showing that clove oil, along with five other traditional Chinese herbs (cinnamon bark, rhizome alpiniae officinarum, prickly ash peel, orange fruit, and Manchurian wildginger) were tested in patients with demodex, a parasite. Results found that none of the natural remedies had side effects, and clove oil was particularly effective. 
- Probiotics – Probiotics will add the beneficial bacteria to your gut microbiome. They will support your system by building immunity, helping your digestion and improving your inflammatory response.
In particular, adding probiotics such as Saccharomyces boulardii (S. boulardii) to your regimen can often effectively eradicate B. hominis, as well as other protozoa. 
- Zinc – many of people are found to have a zinc deficiency. It is important to ensure you are getting enough zinc if you have a parasite as it helps to improve immunity and build healthy intestinal walls.
Focussing on your diet to improve symptoms and eradicate Blastocystis
Many people see the benefits of commencing an eradication diet to determine which foods are exacerbating symptoms and which are not causing problems. There are a number of foods that are best to avoid. These include:
- Carbohydrates, sugars and processed foods – Blastocystis hominis mainly feeds off the sugar derived from the digestion of the carbohydrates in your diet. Sugar molecules can be obtained from either the sugar found in fruits, added sugar and dairy products, as well as from starches found in potatoes and grain products. 
- Alcohol – alcohol has a very high sugar content so best to avoid it altogether
Eat more of the following:
- Fibre – fibre helps you to remove the toxins from your body. You can get fibre naturally in fresh vegetables and other sources but if you wish, you can add it to your diet with psyllium.
- Protein and healthy fats – these cannot be used by Blastocystis for food. Try to include free-range eggs, poultry, meat, olive oil, avocado and unsweetened nuts and nut butter. Coconut oil has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
- Green such as spinach and broccoli – these are excellent in the restoration of your gut microflora imbalance and strengthening the immune system.
- Fresh ginger which has anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic properties
- Onions, leeks, chives and other “bitter foods” are highly beneficial for digestive health.
- Fermented and cultured foods are known for their probiotic properties, helping restore the good bacteria in your microbiome. Incorporate kefir, sauerkraut and yogurt into your diet regularly. 
- Pineapple, papaya and their juices – These fruits contain compounds that can help decrease production of pro-inflammatory cytokines that can result in colon inflammation. As part of a juice cleanse, their juices can also have anti-parasitic effects.
- Apple cider vinegar can help to restore healthy pH balance and can generally improve digestion. 
After incorporating probiotics into your daily regime and overhauling your diet, if symptoms persist, you may need to add conventional medication such as conventional antimicrobials or antibiotics. Conventional treatments include medications such as metronidazole, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, nitazoxanide, iodoquinol, paromomycin, ketoconazole and tinidazole. When paired with probiotics, these can be even more effective in the eradication of Blastocystis. 
Mental health and Blastocystis
It’s vital that you look after your mental health and reduce your stress levels if you are eradicating Blastocystis from your body. Stress alters the oxidant-antioxidant state and immune cell responses which disrupts its function to combat infection.  So take up yoga, meditation or gentle exercise and get outside in nature regularly. Do whatever it is that makes you relax and feel good.
How can I prevent getting infected with Blastocystis?
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet, changing nappies, and before handling food.
- Avoid water or food that may be contaminated.
- Wash and peel all raw vegetables and fruits before eating.
- When traveling in countries where the water supply may be unsafe, avoid drinking unboiled tap water and avoid uncooked foods washed with unboiled tap water. Bottled or canned carbonated beverages, pasteurised fruit drinks, and steaming hot coffee and tea are safe to drink. 
How we can help
At Advanced Functional Medicine, our team of experts are experienced with identification and clearance of Blastocystis Hominis, or any other parasites you may be harbouring in your gastrointestinal system.
Parasites can cause such a wide-range of symptoms and can really affect your overall sense of wellbeing, so its important to get tested and get rid of them.
Contact us now to find out more.