The defining characteristic of a parasite is an organism that benefits at the expense of another.
While this seems straightforward enough, sometimes a parasitic infection goes completely undiagnosed.
- Parasitic infections are more common than you may think.
- Many times, a parasite can thrive in the human body and show no signs of its presence.
- Other times, a person will feel constantly ill, be on several medications (including antipsychotic drugs), and have no idea that a chronic parasitic infection is at the root of their problems.
Parasites come in many shapes and sizes.
One of the most common parasites to infect human beings is the yeast-like Blastocystis hominis, a single-celled parasitic organism that causes abdominal cramping, bloating, gas, and sometimes anal itching.
Other common parasites are:
- Tapeworms, which can grow as long as 60 feet while living in the human intestines. There are currently more than 5,000 different species of tapeworm.
- Hookworms. If given the chance, they will suck blood from our intestinal walls.
- Giardia, a single-celled parasite that is usually the result of drinking infected waters. It typically survives in chlorinated water and commonly lives in mountain streams, earning it the name, “backpacker’s diarrhea.” About 2.5 million cases are reported annually. (1)
- Blood flukes. They mature first in snails and then complete their life cycle by burrowing through human skin and swimming through veins. Blood flukes infect more than 200 million people. There are also other species of flukes found living in the liver, lungs, and pancreas.
- In the case of malaria, a new generation of parasitic microbugs will burst from a single red blood cell.
- Pinworms, the most common roundworm in the United States. Worldwide, roughly 209 million people are infected. (2) The most common sign of pinworm infestation is anal itching at night, which is when the female pinworm migrates to the perineum to lay her eggs. Children are the most common carriers.
A hookworm is a common parasite that will suck blood from intestinal walls. In many cases, you could be carrying a parasite without even knowing it!
The strength of your immune system can determine whether or not you know that you are hosting a parasitic bug.
While it is true that many times one person can harbor a parasite without ever knowing it, another person could be infected with the same parasite and feel completely devastated and fatigued, without ever knowing that a parasitic infection is at the root of a lingering illness.
Why is this?
- When the immune system is weakened by fatigue, there is always the danger of initiating an inflammatory cascade throughout the body.
- This is especially true of the gut, which has a direct line of communication to the brain via the vagus nerve.
3 Red Flags That May Indicate You Are Carrying a Parasite
1. Chronic digestive issues. If you harbor a parasite, any work you may do to heal your gut will be constantly undermined. This is because parasites often create intestinal inflammation and destroy the intestinal lining of the gut.
If you are eating a highly alkaline diet, ingesting good bacteria and cultured foods on a daily basis, and still experience severe digestive pain, gas, bloating, and fatigue, you may want to consider a parasite cleanse.
- Remember, even without a parasite, it may take as long as six months to begin to see improvements in digestion while following the Body Ecology principles.
- This is because it can sometimes take as long as six months to completely cool down an inflammatory response in the gut.
2. Various forms of mental distress. This includes depression, anxiety, body aches, headaches, eye aches, visual hallucinations, behavioral changes, and a strange sensation that something is stuck in the head.
- Very often, these symptoms are treated with anti-depressant pharmaceuticals and go unresolved. Diagnosis can even go so far as schizophrenia. (3)
- Additionally, these symptoms are usually paired with digestive issues.
The gut is full of both neurons and neurotransmitters, specifically serotonin. It makes up what is known as the enteric nervous system. As we mentioned above, the gut and the brain have a direct relationship, commonly called the gut-brain axis.
- This relationship means that distress in the gastrointestinal tract can show up in the nervous system.
- When there is inflammation in the gut, this can lead to inflammation in the brain.
- Likewise, inflammation in the brain has also been linked to directly cause inflammation in the gut.
- Inflammation of the brain will cause mental distress, like depression, anxiety, and cognitive disorders.
3. Autoimmune disorders. Many times, autoimmune conditions have a relationship to one another. The autoimmune flare-ups that have been documented to be specifically related to parasitic infection are gut and joint related, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and reactive arthritis. (4)(5)
- Parasites infecting the gut can ignite an inflammatory cascade within the body.
Finding the Root Cause of a Disorder
Keep in mind that the strength of a person’s immune system and endocrine system largely determines how severely a parasitic infection will affect that individual.
This depends on:
- How the parasite lives off its host.
- The toxins or waste products it eliminates.
- How a parasite activates the immune system.
- If an individual’s immune system is weak or fatigued.
Chronic disease can be troublesome to treat, mainly because it is necessary to find the initial cause of the dysfunction. Consider parasites if you eat a perfect diet, practice stress management, and still struggle with:
- Digestive disorders
- Mental distress
- Autoimmune disease
What to Remember Most About This Article:
In many cases, a parasite infection will go completely undiagnosed. Yet parasite infections are more common than many people realize. The strength of your immune system will determine whether or not you are vulnerable to a parasite infection.
Here are three red flags that indicate you may be carrying a parasite unknowingly:
- Chronic digestive issues, even when eating a highly alkaline diet rich in good bacteria.
- Mental distress like anxiety, depression, hallucinations, and behavioral changes.
- Autoimmune disorders like reactive arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome.
If you eat a perfect diet, practice stress management, and still struggle with the issues above, a parasite could be to blame.
- Furness BW, Beach MJ, Roberts JM. Giardiasis surveillance—United States, 1992–1997. MMWR CDC Surveill Summ. 2000;49(7):1–13.
- Goldmann DA, Wilson CM. Pinworm infestations. In: Hoekelman RA. Primary pediatric care. 3d ed. St. Louis: Mosby, 1997:1519.6
- M. Novotna, J. Hanusova, J. Klose, M. Preiss, J. Havlicek, K. Roubalova, and J. Flegr. “Probable neuroimmunological link between Toxoplasma and cytomegalovirus infections and personality changes in the human host.” BMC Infect Dis. 2005 Jul 6;5:54.
- K. Hanevik, V. Dizdar, N. Langeland, and T. Hausken. “Development of functional gastrointestinal disorders after Giardia lamblia infection.” BMC Gastroenterol. 2009 Apr 21;9:27.
- Chelsea E. Matisz, Jason J. McDougall, Keith A. Sharkey, and Derek M. McKay, “Helminth Parasites and the Modulation of Joint Inflammation,” Journal of Parasitology Research, vol. 2011, Article ID 942616, 8 pages, 2011. doi:10.1155/2011/942616