A parasite is any organism that lives and feeds off of another organism. Most common that I deal with are tiny organisms, usually worms, that feed off of your nutrition.
An example of parasites include roundworms, tapeworms, pinworms, whipworms, hookworms, and more. Parasites come in so many different shapes and sizes. They also have their fair share of symptoms. Some feed off your meals, making you unable to gain weight. Others feed off of your red blood cells, causing anemia. Some lay eggs that can cause itching, irritability, and even insomnia. Many times I work with people who have tried a variety of approaches to feel better and nothing works. I like to dig a little deeper and see if there could be an underlying stressor such as a parasite. I also find that many times people end up band-aiding the symptoms instead of discovering the root cause.
How do you get parasites?
There are a many of ways to contract a parasite. The first and most common way is through contaminated food and water. Undercooked meat is a common place for parasites to hide, which is why it is best to buy clean, organic and grass fed meat. Another common way is contaminated water especially from underdeveloped countries, lakes, ponds, or creeks. Always make sure you clean your fruits and vegetables; they can also harbor parasites. Some parasites can even enter the body by traveling through the bottom of your foot, YUM.
Once a person is infected with a parasite, it’s very easy to pass it along. I have a lot of couples where one person has a parasite or h pylori, and you must treat both of them especially if they are sexually active. The area you want to be super careful is bathrooms, even your own. Any place where stool is exposed is high risk for a contracting a parasite. So wash your hands after using the bathroom. Close the toilet lid before you flush so the water can’t splash out. If you have a parasite and don’t wash your hands after using the restroom, you can easily pass microscopic parasite eggs onto anything you touch — the door handle, the salt shaker, your phone, or anyone you touch. I highly recommend taking anti-parasitic supplements when traveling out of the country just to be safe.
10 Signs You May Have a Parasite
- You have an explained constipation, diarrhea, gas, or other symptoms of IBS
- You traveled internationally and remember getting traveler’s diarrhea while abroad
- You have a history of food poisoning and your digestion has not been the same since.
- You have trouble falling asleep, or you wake up multiple times during the night.
- You get skin irritations or unexplained rashes, hives, rosacea or eczema.
- You grind your teeth in your sleep.
- You have pain or aching in your muscles or joints.
- You experience fatigue, exhaustion, depression, or frequent feelings of apathy.
- You never feel satisfied or full after your meals.
- You’ve been diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia.
The signs of a parasite can often appear unrelated and unexplained. As I mentioned previously, there are MANY different types of parasites that we are exposed to in our environments. I typically see parasites causing more constipation in patients than diarrhea, but some parasites are capable of changing the fluid balance in your gut and causing diarrhea. Trouble sleeping, skin irritations, mood changes, and muscle pain can all be caused by the toxins that parasites release into the bloodstream. These toxins often cause anxiety, which can manifest itself in different ways. For instance, waking up in the middle of the night or grinding your teeth in your sleep are signs that your body is experiencing anxiety while you rest. When these toxins interact with your neurotransmitters or blood cells, they can cause mood swings or skin irritation.
Testing for Parasites
The best way to test for a parasite is to get a stool test. Most doctors will run a conventional stool test if they suspect a parasite, however these are not as accurate as the comprehensive stool tests that we use in functional medicine. When doing a test you want to make sure you haven’t taken any probiotics or antibiotics for two weeks prior and have broken down your biofilm to get the most accurate results. I also recommend people get a minimum of 5 days of samples for one test. A lot of the one-day tests will not come up with anything.
Conventional stool tests can identify parasites or parasite eggs in your stool, yet this test comes with many limitations. The problem with this test is that it is only conditionally successful. This test requires three separate stool samples that must be sent to the lab for a pathologist to view under a microscope. Parasites have a very unique life cycle that allows them to rotate between dormant and alive. In order to identify them in this conventional test, the stool sample must contain a live parasite, the parasite must remain alive as the sample ships to the lab, and the pathologist must be able to see the live parasite swimming across the slide. While these can certainly be useful tests for some people, they are unable to identify dormant parasites, and therefore I often see a high number of false negatives with this type of stool test.
Functional Medicine Comprehensive Stool Test
I use a comprehensive stool test on all of my patients. I have worked with several companies but I have found the Parasitology Full GI panel is the most comprehensive, reliable, accurate and the most bang of your buck.
The Full GI Panel consists of our Comprehensive Stool Analysis (CSA) and our Swab Culture. The combination of these two tests provides a full coverage screening of all intestinal pathogens and is recommended for anyone experiencing GI symptoms. The CSA provides a detailed analysis of all intestinal parasites (Protozoa, Trematodes, Tapeworms, Nematodes) from all 7 continents as well as other intestinal organisms including Candida, yeast, and other fungi. Analysis of bio-indicators such as red and white blood cells, mucus, fatty acid crystals, starch granules, undigested tissue, beneficial bacteria, epithelial cells, pollen, and charcot-leyden crystals is also included. Swabs are taken for culturing and analysis of bacterial and fungal infections. Sensitivity and resistance results as well as quantification of positive findings indicating intensity of infection are also included. The Swab Culture can be used for culturing stool, skin, urine, or any other body parts or secretions. This test is highly recommended for patients with GI symptoms who have had negative stool tests for parasites, as the symptoms for pathogenic bacteria are very similar to those of parasitic infections. I also add in a test for Pylori.
The comprehensive stool test is able to identify what specific parasites and/or bacteria so that I know how to treat the infection. I usually use a blend of herbal supplements to kill the parasite, yeast, candida, SIBO and or Pylori. Before starting an anti-parasite herbal supplement, I highly recommend that you consult with your practitioner before starting and make sure you have the right herbs for what specifically you have going on in your gut.
It all starts in your gut and your gut is the gateway to health. Your Gut is your second brain.
- Chronic fatigue for no apparent reason
- Swollen or achy joints
- Increased appetite, hungry after meals
- Eat out at restaurants
- Nervous or irritable
- Restless sleep/teeth grinding while asleep
- Night sweats
- Blurry, unclear vision
- Fevers of unknown origin
- Frequent colds, flu, sore throats
- Recurrent feelings of unwellness
- Diarrhea alternating with constipation
- Thinning or loss of hair
- Allergies, food sensitivities
- Irritable bowel, irregular bowel
- Rectal, anal itching
- Bloating or gas
- Abdominal or liver pain/cramps
- Mucus in nose that is moist or encrusted
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Bowel urgency
- Skin problems, rashes, hives, itchy skin
- Vertical wrinkles around mouth
- Kiss pets, allow pets to lick your face
- Go barefoot outside the home
- Travel in 3rd world countries
- Eat lightly cooked pork/salmon products
- East sushi/sashimi
- Swim in creeks, rivers, lakes
- History of parasitic infection
- Loose stools or diarrhea
- Pale, anemic or yellowish skin
- Foul-smelling stools
- Low back or kidney pain
- Indigestion, malabsorption