What is a Parasite?

What is a Parasite?

 

Symptoms:

Sources:

How to Eat with Parasites:

 

Parasites and Your Health

Having a parasite can be a scary thought. However, you are not alone! You might be shocked at how often intestinal parasites are to blame for ongoing health issues. These can range from digestive symptoms to insomnia, skin issues, and more.

The idea that parasites only exist outside the United States in underdeveloped countries is a myth. Truth be told, I saw them in the majority of the patients in my clinic, particularly my thyroid and autoimmune patients.

Often these patients tested negative for parasites using standard testing, yet came up positive on functional medicine tests. In this article, I’ll share ten signs that indicate you might have a parasite. 

 

What is a Parasite?

A parasite is any organism that lives and feeds off of another organism. Intestinal parasites are tiny organisms, usually worms that feed off the material in your body. Some examples of parasites include tapeworms, roundworms, pinworms, whipworms, hookworms, and more. Because parasites come in so many different shapes and sizes, they can cause a wide range of problems.

Some consume your food, leaving you hungry after every meal, and unable to gain weight. Others feed off of your red blood cells, causing anemia. Some lay eggs that can cause itchingirritability, and even insomnia.

If you have tried to repair your gut and relieve your symptoms without any success, a parasite could be the underlying cause.

 

How Do You Get Parasites?

There are several ways to contract a parasite. Contaminated food or water in underdeveloped countries is indeed a common source of parasites. However, they are also frequently found in undercooked meat and raw fish, contaminated fruits and vegetables (especially those you usually eat raw), and in lakes, ponds, or creeks. Some parasites can even enter the body by tunneling through the bottoms of your feet.

Once a person is infected with a parasite, it is very easy to pass it along. If you have a parasite and do not 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 other people. It is also very easy to contract a parasite when handling animals.

 

10 Signs You May Have a Parasite

The signs of a parasite can often appear unrelated and unexplained. Some of the symptoms include:

  1. Unexplained constipation, diarrhea, gas, or other symptoms of IBS
  2. Trouble falling asleep or waking up multiple times during the night
  3. Skin irritation or unexplained rash, hives, rosacea, or eczema
  4. Grinding your teeth in your sleep
  5. Pain or aching in your muscles or joints
  6. Fatigue, exhaustion, depression, or frequent feeling of apathy
  7. Never feeling satisfied or full after your meals, especially combined with weight loss
  8. Diagnosis of iron-deficiency anemia
  9. Traveling internationally and getting traveler’s diarrhea while abroad
  10. History of food poisoning and “your digestion just hasn’t been the same since”

As I mentioned previously, there are MANY different types of parasites. I typically saw parasites causing more constipation in patients than diarrhea. However, some parasites are capable of changing the fluid balance in your gut and causing diarrhea. Either can result in abdominal pain.

Sleeping, skin irritations, mood changes, and muscle pain can all be caused by the toxins that parasites release into the bloodstream. Often, these toxins cause anxiety, which can manifest itself in different ways. For instance, waking up in the middle of the night or grinding your teeth are signs that you are experiencing anxiety. When these toxins interact with your neurotransmitters or blood cells, they can cause mood swings or skin irritation.

 

Parasites as a Root Cause for Hashimoto’s and Graves’

As I mentioned, I often saw parasites in my patients with thyroid dysfunction, particularly Hashimoto’s and Graves’. And this is no coincidence, as infections are one of the five potential root causes of all autoimmune diseases.

A potential trigger for both Hashimoto’s and Graves’ is toxoplasmosis. This is a disease caused by a parasite found in undercooked pork and infected cat feces. If you’ve been infected, you might not have any symptoms, or you may experience mild flu-like symptoms.

Toxoplasmosis poses a risk to fetuses, which is why expectant mothers are advised to stay away from cat litter. In most people, the parasite passes. However, sometimes it can linger in your system, triggering Hashimoto’s or Graves.

Blastocystis hominis is another parasite that has been linked to Hashimoto’s. It is common in developing countries, so if you’ve traveled to the developing world, you may well have picked it up.

The Centers for Disease Control says that this parasite doesn’t cause any harm. However, I’ve seen reports in which people are treated for this parasite, and then their Hashimoto’s resolves. Because of this, it is good to test for (and if necessary, treating) parasites in autoimmune thyroid cases.

 

What Can You Expect While Handling Parasites?

As you kill off parasite worms and eggs, they release ammonia. Ammonia can make you feel like crap. Common symptoms during die-off are sharp cramps (from parasites burrowing into intestines to escape anti-parasitic herbs), headaches, brain fog, loss of appetite, fatigue, and itching. Most people feel bad for at least a few days during the cleanse. This reaction is known as a Herxheimer reaction: people become sicker as a result of the toxins that are released by dying parasites. Make sure to contact us if you feel worse and we can make suggestions to help ease you through this if it occurs.

You should do your best to eat as clean a diet as possible— limit sugar, caffeine, grains, and anything processed. You want your immune system in top shape to help clear out the waste products from the parasites.

Some people experience the added satisfaction of actually seeing parasites come out in their poop. This is potentially a bit traumatizing on the one hand, and very validating on the other. If you’re feeling curious, google “parasite cleanse” images to get an idea of what to look for.

Author
Photo of Hayley Imbriani Hayley Imbriani I am an Advanced Nutrition Response Testing Practitioner, and a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT). I apprenticed for 2 years in nutrition-related fields, and have worked over 5 years as a Nutrition Response Testing Clinician and Licensed Massage Therapist. I am also a recent recipient of the Dr. Of The Future Award through Ulan Nutritional Systems.

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