Parasites: The Uninvited Guests in Your Digestive Tract
Written By Amanda Williams, MPH
Everyone has heard of the horror stories about the giant tapeworm that takes over someone’s body in a far reaching third world country. And it is true; tapeworm infections are extremely damaging to the host it infects. But these are not the only types of parasites out there. Most importantly, I should mention that parasites are not waiting for a proper invitation to come to the United States - they are already here and in enormous numbers. As Americans, we often think of ourselves as free from the burdens of these types of health challenges. In a 2014 press release from Center for Disease Control stated the following, “Most people think parasitic diseases occur in poor and developing countries, or are infections they might pick up on a trip to a foreign country. However, parasitic infections also occur in the United States, and in some cases affect millions of people. Often, they can go unnoticed with few symptoms. But many times the infections cause serious illnesses, including seizures, blindness, pregnancy complications, heart failure, and even death. Anyone—regardless of race or economic status—can become infected.”1 To really put parasites into real life perspective, let’s think of puppies and kittens. What is the first thing every veterinarian gives a new pet on its first visit? That's right! De-worming medication. Now, think of the cows, chickens, and pork that we as Americans consume every year. These animals get dewormed a couple of times per year. So what makes us believe that we are somehow immune to such parasitic infections ourselves?
Clinical studies from the top leading research institutions that observe digestive activity consistently point to the benefits of targeted nutrition for gastrointestinal health.
Prevalence of Parasites in the U.S.
I recently came across a great study in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, which highlighted the occurrence of active parasite invaders in the US population. This study was done in the year 2000, but I find it has significant relevance even today because no action has been taken for any type of Public Health Awareness Campaign since the study concluded. The study reported, “One-third of 5,792 fecal specimens from 2,896 patients in 48 states and the District of Columbia tested positive for intestinal parasites during the year 2000. Multiple infections with 2-4 parasitic species constituted 10% of 916 infected cases. Blastocystis hominis infected 662 patients (23% or 72% of the 916 cases). Its prevalence appears to be increasing in recent years. Eighteen other species of intestinal parasites were identified. Cryptosporidium parvum and Entamoeba histolytica/E. dispar ranked second and third in prevalence, respectively. Prevalence of infection was lowest (22-27%) in winter, gradually increased during the spring, reached peaks of 36-43% between July and October, and gradually decreased to 32% in December. In single infections, pathogenic protozoa caused asymptomatic subclinical infections in 0-31 % of the cases and non-pathogenic protozoa unexpectedly caused symptoms in 73-100% of the cases.”2
Now if we are deworming our domestic pets and farm animals, why is that we are not being advised by those in the medical community to deworm our bodies regularly? Here is how to be proactive and not reactive to potential parasites in your system. There are many wonderful herbal extracts that have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to target these problematic parasites.
Health Concerns of Parasites
Parasites can cause many symptoms, including bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, stomach pain, and vomiting. Many common bacteria and parasites can be destroyed with antibiotics. But many antibiotics can also cause nutrient depletions in the body. (Check out InVite®’s Nutrient Depletion Chart by clicking here!) When your body loses large amounts of water through vomiting or diarrhea, dehydration will set in causing an entirely new set of concerns for the parasite victim.
Herbal Extracts for Natural Deworming
Wormwood Extract, with the active constituent Artemisinin, has been extensively studied as a potential therapy for other diseases, including cancer, pathogenic microbes, helminths, fungi, and viruses.3 Artemisinin have been the first line of herbal extract used in malaria infections throughout the world, as highlighted in the Journal Clinical Investigation. They stated the following, “Malaria, the most prevalent and most pernicious parasitic disease of humans, is estimated to kill between one and two million people, mainly children, each year. Resistance has emerged to all classes of antimalarial drugs except the artemisinins and is responsible for a recent increase in malaria-related mortality.”4
For thousands of years, many different cultures recognized the power of herbs and their great use in promoting good health and healing.
Fortunately, there are many excellent nutrients for you to consider when targeting pesky parasites - Black Walnut Hull extract, Golden Seal Root extract, Grapefruit Seed extract, Caprylic Acid, Peppermint Extract, and Oregano Oil. When you look at the methods that plants have naturally acquired to survive in their environments, you can see why using these natural, botanical, herbal remedies makes sense. Plants are subjected to all sorts of insects and worms that could bring them harm. Plants have natural defense mechanisms to protect themselves for these invasions. The nutrients that these great plants have can be carried over to us, so we can reap the benefits as well.
Tips to Preventing the Spread of Bacteria
While all foods contains some amount of natural bacteria, certain storage and handle conditions can cause bacteria to multiply, introducing bacteria like parasites into your food supply and eventually into your body. According to the CDC, foodborne illnesses kill 3,000 people each year and cause fever, stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea in about 48 millions of American’s. Here is what you can do to stay ahead of bacteria as much as possible, according to the CDC –
- Keep your perishable food items (meat, eggs, milk) cold as long as possible while shopping. You may want to grab those items on the way to check out.
- Be sure your food is properly stored. Food items like eggs, meat and seafood naturally contain bacteria. Their natural juices will spread bacteria rapidly if dropped onto other foods.
- Regularly clean and disinfect your kitchen surfaces, as not to cause contamination.
- Cook food immediately after defrosting.
3. Krishna S., Bustamante L., Haynes R.K., Staines H.M. Artemisinins: their growing importance in medicine. Trends Pharmacol. Sci. 2008;29(10):520–527
4. White NJ. Antimalarial drug resistance. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2004;113(8):1084-1092. doi:10.1172/JCI200421682.
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