That weird feeling in your body may be due to a parasite…
Protozoa (one-celled mobile microorganisms) and helminths (worms) are the two principal kinds of intestinal parasites you may need to worry about from time to time. Increased immigration and worldwide travel have led to a growing number of cases of parasitic infection in New Zealand and Australia. Parasitic infection may be much more common than you might think. These pesky organisms can decimate your immune system and make you susceptible to other forms of infection.
Intestinal parasites setup their homes inside your gastrointestinal tract (aka your gut). They grow there and feed off the nutrients that you eat. They can be microscopic (small enough that you can only see them through a microscope) or macroscopic (visible with the naked eye).
They’re commonly transmitted through undercooked meat, polluted water, pets, insects and unsanitary practices like failure to wash hands after preparing food or going to the bathroom. An intestinal parasite could be living inside you right now, wondering and waiting for you to eat your next meal.
Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up a list of possible clues which may tell you that you might be providing a humble abode to intestinal parasites. Here are some common signs and symptoms:
1. Tummy pain (abdominal pain). The source of your pain could be from your stomach or intestines.
4. Blood in your loose stools (dysentery). Fresh blood in your poop could mean you may have an intestinal parasite excavating your gut wall.
6. Itchy feeling around your rectum (rectal itch)
7. Itchy feeling around your vulva (vulvar itch)
8. Weight loss
9. Literally, a worm present in your stool.
10. You feel tired most of the time.
Note: Helminths and protozoa can live inside you for many years without you noticing them OR without you experiencing any of the abovementioned clues. Nasty, huh? If you feel one or some of the symptoms enumerated, consult your doctor for a check up.
There are a variety of tests that may be ordered by your doctor to determine if you have intestinal parasitism. Here are the most common ones used:
Stool analysis. This test is also called a fecalysis. You submit your poop so it can be analysed using different techniques. A fecalysis is ordered to look for the parasites or their ova (eggs) in your stool. Some parasites will require a stain to be applied to your stool specimen so they can be properly seen and identified. Make sure you understand and follow the instructions for how to collect a stool sample. Listen carefully.
Colonoscopy. This test involves inserting a tube with a tiny camera into your rectum to your colon. It’s usually reserved for cases where the offending intestinal parasite cannot be seen in your stool sample. The tube also has a device which can take samples from the lining of your stomach or intestines. It can even take pictures. Smile…you pesky parasites.
Imaging Procedures. Some intestinal parasites can be nasty enough to cause damage not just to your gastrointestinal tract, but to your abdominal organs as well. X-rays, CT scan and MRI are some of the well-known imaging procedures which may be used to locate the ungrateful organisms within your abdominal organs.
Natural Remedies for Intestinal Parasitism
Here are some natural remedies you could try out to lessen the severity and shorten the duration of your symptoms:
1. Enzymes – both digestive and systemic or proteolytic enzymes. Digestive enzymes will help to break down your food more effectively which means less food for your parasitic residents. Having adequate stomach acid is also vital as it helps to sterilise everything you eat and drink on its way down.Proteolytic enzymes digest proteins. Parasites, like other living organisms, are made up of proteins. When taken 30 minutes before meals proteolytic enzymes may help destroy parasites residing in your gut. This may even sound the alarm to make other parasites run for the nearest exit (your anus).
2. Herbs. The following herbs have proven their worth when combating intestinal parasites. Ask your naturopath about them.
Grapefruit seed extract
Pumpkin seed oil
3. Fibre helps to sweep the intestinal walls of waste matter and parasites. Worms in particular hate fibre. Eat plenty of fibrous vegetables like the cabbage family and you can add ground flaxseeds to your diet for extra soluble and insoluble fibre. That should show them who the boss is!
4. Avoid carbohydrates (especially processed ones) as much as possible. Parasites love to eat sugar. Loading up on carbohydrates is just like giving them a free ticket to ride inside your intestines. Don’t do that.
5. Vitamin C and Zinc. Both these micronutrients strengthen your immune system. You’ll be needing them to help your immune system fight these parasites.
6. Some common herbs and spices can also help to keep parasites out or make your intestinals an unwelcome place for them.
7. Fermented foods can help to heal your intestinal environment and together with a probiotic supplement can help to reintroduce the good guys again. This will help guard against invading parasites in the future.
Note: Make sure you visit your doctor first before you try out any alternative treatments. Having only one of the above symptoms doesn’t automatically mean you have parasites. Your doctor can perform tests to determine whether you have a parasitic infection or not. It’s then important to find out the exact type of intestinal parasite before you can go about getting rid of it (or them).