Symptoms of intestinal parasites and a functional medicine approach
Symptoms of intestinal parasites and a functional medicine approach
Parasites are more common in humans than you think and as a functional medicine practitioner, I often detect parasitic infections in my patients. We commonly administer parasite treatment in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and throughout Australia as these parasites are more common than most think.
Many patients contract them overseas and bring them home but others contract them in Australia. We having been providing natural parasite treatment from our Perth clinic Australia wide for a number of years.
Parasites can be an underlying contributing factor to many chronic health problems and can sometimes be the reason why previous attempts at healing have been unsuccessful.
A parasitic infection may fuel changes in the microbiome but can also take advantage of an already compromised gut. Holistic solutions and supporting the gut terrain with natural parasite treatment are key. 1
What is a parasite or parasitic infection?
A parasite is any organism that lives and feeds off of another organism. Intestinal parasites are tiny organisms that feed off the material in your body.
The two main types of intestinal parasites are helminths and protozoa.
Helminths are parasitic worms that live inside the gastrointestinal tract and although they do not typically result in acute health issues, they can contribute to long-term, sometimes severe, chronic health problems because of the way they deplete the body’s resources.
Single-cell protozoan parasites, like giardia, can multiply in your body and can contribute to acute health issues, such as extreme diarrhea. If left untreated, this could lead to severe dehydration, and even death. 2
How do you contract a parasite or parasitic infection?
The following increase your risk for getting a parasitic infection:
- Living in or visiting an area known to have parasites
- Poor sanitation (for both food and water)
- Poor hygiene
- Age. Children and the elderly are more likely to get infected.
- Exposure to child and institutional care centres
- Eating undercooked meat and raw fish, contaminated fruits and vegetables (especially those you usually eat raw)
- Having a weakened immune system
Once a person is infected with a parasite, it is very easy to pass it along. If you have a parasite and do not wash your hands after using the bathroom, you can easily pass microscopic parasite eggs onto anything you touch. It is also very easy to contract a parasite when handling animals.
The risk of parasitic infection is certainly high in rural or developing regions where food and drinking water may be contaminated and sanitation is poor. But there’s a common misconception that in the western world, because of our advanced cleanliness, parasites aren’t common. The opposite, however, may be true. Our overuse of drugs and our lack of connection with the land may explain the increasing numbers of people harbouring parasites:
“Through our obsessive focus on cleanliness, high usage of antibiotics/anti-fungals and anti-parasitic drugs, and our now broken relationship with soil and Mother Nature, we are creating the perfect storm to have an ever-increasing infection rate of GI parasites.” 4Dr Will Cole, IFMCP, D.C.
Who is most at risk of a parasitic infection?
Parasites are more likely to multiply in people with microbiome imbalances or compromised immune systems. Being in poor health is increases your chances of having parasites take up residence in your body.
They can cause nutrient deficiencies and a suppressed immune system, which can further perpetuate disease and severe gut dysfunction. This can create a vicious cycle in the sense that poor health weakens the immune system, thus attracting parasites, and an overgrowth of parasites weakens your health even more.
Types of parasites – including Blastocystis hominis and Dientamoeba fragilis
There are a variety of parasites that can take up residence in humans.
Some types of parasites include:
Blastocystis hominis is a microscopic organism that is sometimes found in the stools of people who have ingested contaminated food or water. It can be found in healthy people who aren’t having digestive symptoms, and it’s also found in the stools of people who have diarrhea, abdominal pain or other gastrointestinal problems.
Clinically, Blastocystis hominis is the most common parasite we find and treat. This parasite often contributes to chronic disease in the body and can be an underlying cause of disease. We provide treatment for the blastocystis hominis parasite in Perth and Australia wide.
Dientamoeba fragilis: a parasite that lives in the large intestine. This protozoan parasite may be either asymptomatic or symptomatic. D. fragilis is commonly found in faeces, both of people who are well and in people who have diarrhoea or other intestinal symptoms. It is uncertain how it is spread although it may be spread through contamination of hands, objects or food with infected faeces. The parasite is then taken in by the mouth. Alternatively, is may be spread by threadworms (pinworms).
D. fragilis might be protected by threadworm eggs. The second most common parasite I find in clinic, often found in people that have visited Asia, India or South America. But also found in many Australians and residents of THE USA that have visited these countries. We regularly treat Dientamoeba fragilis with antimicrobial herbs and a functional medicine approach with excellent success.
An amoeba that feeds on cells in the human colon. It is the cause of amoebic dysentery (bloody diarrhea) as well as colonic ulcerations. The infection is also referred to as amebiasis.
Also known as roundworms, or nematodes. Most people get strongyloides by coming into contact with contaminated soil. It’s most often found in tropical and subtropical climates, but it can occasionally be found in more temperate climates.
A microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal illness known as giardiasis. Giardia (also known as Giardia intestinalis, Giardia lamblia, or Giardia duodenalis) is found on surfaces or in soil, food, or water that has been contaminated with faeces from infected humans or animals. Natural giardia treatment includes eating ginger and cinnamon. 5
A microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal disease cryptosporidiosis. There are many species of Cryptosporidium that infect animals, some of which also infect humans. The parasite is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and makes it very tolerant to chlorine disinfection. While this parasite can be spread in several different ways, water (drinking water and recreational water) is the most common way to spread the parasite.
Types of Helminth parasites
Tiny, fairly harmless worms most more common in children. These roundworms, when fully matured, live in the colon and rectum. The female lays eggs around the anus, usually during the night. The eggs can survive on bedding, clothing, and other materials. People contract them when they touch the eggs and end up putting them in their mouths. The eggs are so small you can even breathe them in if they become airborne. They’re easily passed among children and caregivers or in institutions. Natural pinworm treatment or threadworm treatment includes eating raw garlic, coconut oil and raw carrots.
You can get a tapeworm, which is a type of flatworm, by drinking water contaminated with tapeworm eggs or larvae. Raw or undercooked meat is another way tapeworms can find their way into people. Tapeworms embed their heads into the intestinal wall and remain there. From there, certain types of tapeworms can produce eggs that mature into larvae that migrate to other parts of the body. A tapeworm looks like a long, white ribbon. They can grow up to 80 feet long and live in a human for up to 30 years. Natural tapeworm treatment includes eating papaya seeds, garlic, pumpkin and ginger.
A type of flatworm. People are less likely than animals to contract flukes. Raw watercress and other freshwater plants are the main sources of flukes in humans. You can also get them when you drink contaminated water. They make their home in your intestines, blood or tissues. There are many varieties of flukes.
Transmitted through faeces and contaminated soil. The most common way to make contact with this type of roundworm is to walk barefoot on soil infested with hookworm larvae. They can pierce through the skin. Hookworms live in the small intestine, where they attach themselves to the intestinal wall with a “hook.”
Are passed among animals. The most common way people get trichinosis is by eating under cooked meat that contains the larvae. The larvae mature in your intestines. As they reproduce, those larvae can travel outside the intestines into muscle and other tissue.
Common signs and symptoms of a parasitic infection
Parasites can live in the intestines for years without causing symptoms. 7 The signs of a parasite can often appear unrelated and unexplained. Some of the symptoms include:
- Unexplained constipation, diarrhea, gas, or other symptoms of IBS
- Trouble falling asleep or waking up multiple times during the night
- Skin irritation or unexplained rash, hives, rosacea, or eczema
- Grinding your teeth in your sleep
- Pain or aching in your muscles or joints
- Headaches, brain fog and mood related issues
- Fatigue, exhaustion, depression, or frequent feeling of apathy
- Never feeling satisfied or full after your meals, especially combined with weight loss
- Diagnosis of iron-deficiency anaemia
- Traveling internationally and getting traveller’s diarrhea while abroad
- History of food poisoning and “your digestion just hasn’t been the same since” 8
Natural parasite treatment Perth
Conventional medicine prescribes antiparasitic drugs, such as praziquantel and mebendazole. These drugs can have side effects so, in accordance with your doctor’s recommendations, it is beneficial to also look at treating your parasitic infection naturally.
At our Functional Medicine clinic we commonly see patients that have tried two or three rounds of antibiotics and not been able to clear their parasites. We have then successfully cleared the parasites through our antimicrobial parasite treatment at our Perth clinic. Antimicrobial treatment can be more effective as it can be administered for a longer period of time at high doses to kill the parasite.
Treating parasitic infection with a Functional Medicine approach involves testing, diet advice and correct prescription of supplements and herbs.
I recommend a diet to support a parasite cleanse, which involves a balanced diet high in nutrients and low in refined sugars and processed foods. Fibre is very important to keep your bowel movements regular while you cleanse, quality grass fed meats if you eat meat and fresh vegetables are the staples.
Combined with probiotics, a nutrient-rich diet will strengthen your immune system and not only help eliminate parasites from your body but help protect you from another infestation.
Some diet tips for an effective parasite cleanse
Foods to introduce into your diet if you have a parasitic infection include:
- Eat raw garlic, onions, pumpkin seeds, pomegranates, beets, and carrots, all of which have been used traditionally to kill parasites. In one study, researchers found that a mixture of honey and papaya seeds cleared stools of parasites in 23 out of 30 subjects.
- Drink plenty of water to help flush out your system.
- Eat more fibre, which may help get rid of worms.
- Keep your digestic tract healthy with probiotics (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacilus plantarum, Saccharomyces boulardii, and bifidobacterial). Kefir, sauerkraut and yogurt can keep parasites in check and improve the health of the gut.
- Papaya juice can have anti-parasitic effects.
- Coconut oil has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
- Take Vitamin C and zinc to help support the immune system.
Foods to avoid if you have a parasitic infection include:
- Sugar – Feeds parasites and lowers immune functioning.
- Processed foods – Foods that are highly processed do not support immune health.
- Alcohol – Does not allow for proper immune system functioning.
- Wheat – Many grains, especially those containing gluten, can break down into sugar quickly and cause intestinal inflammation.
- Pork – Can be highly contaminated with parasites. 9
Herbs to treat a parasitic infection
A few of the herbs that help to fight parasitic infections include:
- Oregon grape
- Curled mint
- Black walnuts
How we can help with treatment of your parasite infection
At Advanced Functional Medicine, we often see patients with long-term health issues that have not been resolved. In some of these patients, after testing, we discover that parasites have been impacting their health and well-being in many different ways.
Interventions, including diet modifications, herbs, and supplements are part of a functional medicine approach.
If you would like more information on parasites, testing for parasites and effective treatment of parasites, please contact us at 1800 11 22 36 or complete the form below.