A parasite is any organism that lives on or inside of another organism and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense. The human body, being comprised of millions of cells, by its very nature will contain parasites. While some of these parasites can provide positive contributions to the body, there are a great many others who can cause great harm.

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In fact, some of the leading causes of death in the world are caused by parasites, malaria and dysentery among them. While this may appear to be a problem only in the developing nations, the fact is that parasitic infections occur frequently in the United States as well, except that treatment is more accessible and hygiene standards are greater so there is a significantly lower chance of the infection causing a fatality.

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Parasitic infections are often quite insidious. The most common place they live in the human body is in the intestinal tract where it receives a regular supply of fresh nutrients, it has a dark and moist environment to proliferate in. Limited immune system accessibility means less likely to be caught squatting by the “landlords”. Everything a growing parasite needs.

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Parasites can also remain dormant for long periods of time without causing symptoms, even years. But when they do become symptomatic, they can cause all sorts of symptoms both minor and severe. Because of the thousands of species of parasitic organisms that can affect humans, the potential symptoms are almost limitless. Logically, one would assume that since most parasites occupy the intestines most of the symptoms would be related to the digestive tract, but that is often not the case. Parasites can migrate to other parts of the body and cause serious harm. Some parasites travel into the liver and cause liver damage. Some can enter the brain. Others can move into the heart. In fact, it is not a farfetched theory to hypothesize that perhaps many of the idiopathic conditions in medicine could be peripheral side effects of one or more parasitic infections!

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While it would take an entire library to discuss every species and sub-species of human host parasite, we will dive into some of the most common parasites that affect humans in the United States.

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At the top of the list of common parasites is Giardia, which is a parasite that spreads through fecal contamination. Anyone who is an avid outdoorsman should be familiar with this parasite as it is very often found in rivers, lakes, and streams that have been contaminated with animal droppings. A parasite, however, doesn’t make it to the top of the list through animal-human transmission only. Humans pass it to each other by insufficient hygiene like not washing one’s hands after changing diapers of infected children, eating food that has been contaminated, contact with the anal area during intercourse with an infected person, etc.

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Some of the common acute symptoms of a Giardia infection (giardiasis) are: 

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- Diarrhea

 

- Gas

 

- Greasy stools that tend to float

 

- Stomach or abdominal cramps

 

- Upset stomach or nausea/vomiting

 

- Dehydration (loss of fluids) 

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Other symptoms can include hives, and swelling of the joints and eye, as well as weight loss. There is also research the shows that a Giardia infection reduces the body’s ability to absorb B12, vitamin A, fat, and lactose. It has also been known to impede the physical and mental development of infected children, but it is also important to keep in mind that not everyone displays symptoms after being infected. It also takes typically 1-3 weeks before symptoms will begin to show, which can make it difficult to trace the source as well. 

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Another common parasite in the US is Blastocystis hominis. Though the infection is common, there are many elements of this organism that are not yet fully understood. Just the fact that its biology has been reclassified so many times, from being called a yeast to a fungi to an amoeboid to a protozoan. The current classification is that it is somehow related to a particular class of single-celled and multi-celled microorganisms called Stramenopiles.

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The reason that there is so little consistency and agreement about Blastocystis h. is that it appears in so many different forms and sizes that it takes on the characteristics of many different types of micro-organisms.

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It is precisely this dynamic variability that makes this parasite so difficult to treat, as well as dangerous. Since it originates in the intestines, some of the common acute symptoms are typical of most intestinal parasites, i.e. gas, diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, etc.

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One of the hot topics in parasitological research regarding Blastocystis h. is whether or not it can cause diseases outside of the intestinal tract. Some say yes, others say no. One interesting case study suggests that it may be possible.

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In 1989, a group of medical researchers at the Department of Medicine and Microbiology at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica found a 29-year-old woman who complained of arthritis symptoms in many of her joints in all of her arms and legs. She also had abdominal pain and intermittent bouts of diarrhea.

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After a number of failed treatments, they took a sample of her synovial fluid from her most troublesome joint (left knee) they found Blastocysits h. in the joint fluid. They also found significant quantities of the microorganism in her stool, and there were no other parasites present. They switched her treatment protocol and targeted only the Blastocysits h. and within 5-7 days the intestinal symptoms went away, the inflammation came down in her joints. In a follow up visit four months later, the symptoms were still negative.

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Though some would argue that an isolated case is no proof, it can also be argued that just because the evidence is limited does not mean it is not possible. In fact, it is not inconceivable that an intestinal parasite can cause symptoms and disease outside of the intestines.

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An excellent example of this fact is Amebiasis a disease caused by Entamoeba histolytica. This intestinal parasitic amoeba typically causes anywhere from mild to dysentery-esque diarrhea. It can also cause abscesses to form in the liver which can rupture and spread into the lungs, abdominal organs, and even the heart.

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At the Wellness Center, we have a tremendously effective program for intestinal parasitic infections. Not only do we have some of the best natural remedies, we utilize some of the best testing and diagnostic methods available to detect parasites, which can often be one of the more difficult aspects of diagnosing a parasitic infection. Some parasites are notoriously difficult to draw out of the intestine and at items require a “purge” type stool test where diarrhea is artificially induced in order to unseat the parasites from the wall of the intestine. It can also occur that some parasites are so deeply embedded in the intestinal wall that the only way to determine their species is through direct contact sample collection using an endoscopic procedure.

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Once the parasite has been properly identified, the most effective remedies can be utilized. Some of the most common anti-parasitic natural remedies include tinctures made from:

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Wormwood

 

Black walnut

 

Cloves

 

Garlic

 

Grapefruit Seed Extract

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Because there are so many different types of parasites and each person is unique, the types of symptoms and extra-intestinal conditions that can develop are nearly limitless. Addressing the health of the digestive tract is one of the most critical parts of combating disease and improving general health and well-being.

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Because stool testing and parasitology require more effort, these areas are often overlooked by traditional medicine and the real culprits behind many conditions can go undiagnosed. If you have a chronic condition of any kind, it may be a good idea to check for intestinal parasites that may be exacerbating the condition.  

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