Though the concept may sound straight out of a sci-fi movie, don’t panic—they’re extremely common. In fact, every person has an average of 15-25 parasites living in them at any given time. That said, not all parasites are created equal, and some can wreak serious havoc on the body, especially when they’re misdiagnosed and left untreated.
A parasite is an organism that lives in or on an organism of another species (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients, usually at the other’s expense. The two primary classes of parasites are protozoas and worms.
Protozoas are microorganisms that aren’t visible to the naked eye. Types of protozoa include amoebae, giardia lamblia, toxoplasma gondi and entamoeba histolytica. These organisms can multiply in their human hosts, meaning just a single protozoa can develop into a serious problem. When protozoa make their home inside a human intestine, they’re typically transferred through a fecal-oral route or, in simpler terms, accidental exposure to contaminated poop particles (stay tuned for upcoming tips on hand washing). Protozoa that live in blood tissue are most commonly spread via bug bite.
Worms, formally known as helminths, are large, multicellular organisms that you’ll most likely be able to see with the naked eye in their adult stages. Common types of worms include tape worms, round worms, hook worms, pin worms, and threat worms. Unlike protozoa, once they’ve reached maturity, they can’t multiply inside their human hosts. How you contract a worm varies by type, and ranges from ingesting eggs and larvae via contaminated food and water to direct contact with the organism.
These pathogenic organisms thrive in mostly damp areas. They love cold, rushing mountain streams and placid lakes. They reside in sushi restaurants and salad bars. You can get them while traveling, and you can get them from your pets.
For my clients, the number one source of parasites is tap water. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: tap water is a MAJOR no-no. Luckily, there are affordable and effective water filter options that significantly minimize your risk. I like Berkey and Pur.
Parasites aren’t always easy to spot. They love to hide in intestinal pockets and other hard-to-view places in the body, making them impossible to see with your eyes or x-ray machines. Because they are so hard to view, many medical doctors don’t consider them a problem. Among colon hydrotherapists, therapists, and other natural healers, however, they repeatedly come up as the primary cause of just about everything.
Often, because there’s no “characteristic” parasitic expression, they get misidentified. This can lead to repeated misdiagnoses at the expense of the patient, who never quite gets better. In my experience, some of the more tell-tale symptoms for an infection are vertigo, Bell’s palsy (when it’s lodged in the ear), and gut issues like IBS, diarrhea, bloating, and stomach cramping. I’ve also seen parasites show up as skin rashes that present as eczema.
Parasites can even cause mood disorders like anxiety and depression, and they can disrupt your thyroid and trigger hormone imbalances. Once again, the key here is to realize that what you think you have may not necessarily be what you have—a parasite could be the true root cause. To be safe, I recommend getting checked for parasites before you move forward with treatment, ideally through a highly qualified parasitologist as opposed to a larger lab company that may not pick up on some of these subtleties.
Parasites can move beyond the gut and take up residence in other areas and organs of the body, resulting in an array of complications. The easiest way to handle a potential parasite problem is to take a broad based anti-parasitic, antifungal, and antibacterial herbal supplement for a short period of time to wipe out any bad bugs.
There’s no way to stay 100% protected all of the time, but there are certainly ways to limit your risk of exposure.