HOW COMMON ARE PARASITES IN AMERICANS? (PROBABLY MORE COMMON THAN YOU EVER DREAMED!)
“Worms have been living inside the human body since Homo sapiens have been around. About half the world’s population (over 3 billion people) are in infected with at least one of the three worms forming what Columbia University parasitologist Dickson Despommier calls the “unholy trinity”—large roundworm, hookworm and whipworm.” From the February 2009 issue of Scientific American (Worms “N” Us).
“Parasitic infections cause a tremendous burden of disease in both the tropics and subtropics as well as in more temperate climates. Parasitic infections are typically associated with poor and often marginalized communities in low-income countries. However, these infections are also present in the United States. Anyone, regardless of race or economic status, can become infected…..” From the website of the Center for Disease Control (Neglected Parasitic Infections (NPIs) in the United States).
“In 1991, my colleagues and I published a study of two hundred patients with chronic fatigue and demonstrated active Giardia infection in 46 percent. Most of the patients with giardiasis had only minor gastrointestinal symptoms but were really ill with muscle pain, muscle weakness, flu-like feelings, sweats and enlarged lymph nodes.” Best selling author, leader in the field of integrated medicine, and board-certified specialist in internal medicine, Dr. Leo Galland from an article (Intestinal Parasites May Be Causing Your Energy Slump) in the January 6 issue of the HP.
“How’s your tapeworm?” “It took the blue ribbon at Madison Square Garden last week.” Moe to Curly in a 1934 episode of The Three Stooges.
I’ll never forget the method my high school biology teacher suggested was best for getting rid of Tapeworms. He said that you first needed to starve yourself for about three days, and then hold a piece of raw meat in front of your open your mouth. As the Tapeworm would come up to feed, you’re supposed to move the meat farther and farther away, until the worm comes all the way out of your mouth and falls on the ground. Come to think of it, I don’t recall anyone in the class asking him how he knew this. Gulp!
How many Americans have PARASITES — the organisms that live in and feed off of their human host? No one knows for sure, but suffice it to say that the number is probably far greater than anyone (including your physician) ever dreamed. I have seen peer-reviewed studies suggesting that the majority (over 50%) of all Americans are carrying some sort of parasite at any given moment.
According to a study published in the June 2002 issue of The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (Seasonal Prevalence of Intestinal Parasites in the United States During 2000), “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…. prevalence appears to be increasing in recent years.” Increasing. Good to know, but not exactly what we wanted to hear.
When it comes to giving out advice on dealing with these parasites, you find every end of the spectrum, from the late Hulda Clark (The Cure for All Diseases) who believed that virtually all disease could be tied back to occult (hidden) parasites, to Mark Crislip of Science Based Medicine who wrote, “I get a sinking feeling when I see that diagnosis [parasites] on the schedule, as it rarely means a real parasite. The great Pacific NW is mostly parasite free, so either it is a traveler or someone with delusions of parasitism.”
And if that’s not bad enough, you have just as many online articles telling you that parasites “CURE” a number of different AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES (not to mention brain cancer) as you have articles explaining why these same ‘bugs’ ultimately drive the INFLAMMATION that causes (or at least contributes to) these same Autoimmune Diseases (HERE is a list) as well as CANCER. Who can we trust? As is usually the case, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
SIGNS YOU MIGHT HAVE PARASITES
There are numerous signs and symptoms of parasitosis (the condition of having parasites). However, many of them are fairly vague and seen in wide numbers of other chronic health problems. Just remember that the more symptoms (particularly “unexplained” symptoms — MUPS) that you have, the greater chance that said symptoms have something to to with parasites. Some of the more common signs and symptoms include….
- IBS-LIKE SYMPTOMS: People with IBS tend to bounce back and forth between diarrhea and CONSTIPATION. They also tend to have lots of bloating, foul-smelling gas, abdominal pain, and even blood in the stool. This also happens to describe people who have parasites.
- SKIN CONDITIONS: SKIN CONDITIONS can be in the form of unexplained rashes, eczema, hives, rosacea, etc, etc. Itching is another common sign of parasites — particularly around the nether regions such as the rectum / anus (now you know why your dog periodically drags his hind end along the ground in a semi-sitting position). Be aware that you get some of these same symptoms with CANDIDA INFECTIONS.
- ALLERGIES: People with parasites often have all sorts of ALLERGIES and sensitivities — particularly to foods. This is thought to be brought on by the toxins they release, as much as it is the parasites themselves.
- UNEXPLAINED JOINT PAIN: Although there are a million and one reasons people can get joint pain, they always come back to to having either some sort of mechanical dysfunction (not likely in cases of “ALL-OVER” pain) or SYSTEMIC INFLAMMATION. The key to solving the vast majority of CHRONIC INFLAMMATORY DEGENERATIVE DISEASES (click the link for a list) is to find out what is driving said Inflammation. Parasites are unarguably and unequivocally such a driver. (Side Note: Even when parasites are given to people for their medicinal effects — particularly people with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases — the Inflammation can create problems that were not there previously. The thought is that they help by increasing the amount of mucous in the intestines.)
- YOU ARE WORN OUT AND DEPRESSED: If you are exhausted, fatigued, chronically tired, or mentally washed out (“brain fog”), you may have parasites. For instance, according to the CDC, “more than 60 million persons are chronically infected with Toxoplasma gondii.” That’s sixty with six zeros after it — one in five — for you keeping score at home. In 2012, the July 4th issue of the Scientific American carried an article called Toxoplasma’s Dark Side: The Link Between Parasite and Suicide. Besides increased risk of suicide, it showed how this common parasite found in cats is related to DEPRESSION (Depression is on the list of ‘Inflammatory’ health problems), schizophrenia, as well as a wide array of other mental health and brain-related issues.
- YOU HAVE ANEMIA: This is what happens when worms suck your blood, and particularly true with Iron-Deficiency Anemia — the most common form of ANEMIA in America. And while the two are not necessarily related, folks with parasites often tend to the HYPOGLYCEMIC side of BLOOD SUGAR DYSREGULATION.
- SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION / FEMALE PROBLEMS: This covers a lot of territory, but HERE and HERE are a couple of starting points. When reading, I frequently see parasitosis in combination with a form of DYSBIOTIC fungal overgrowth called Candida Albicans (systemic Yeast Infection). This is a common reason for an unreasonable or “pathological” SUGAR OR CARB CRAVING / ADDICTION.
- CONSTANTLY HUNGRY: Remember the old Three Stooges jokes about ‘feeding’ their tapeworms? When parasites are chowing (robbing you of) all your nutrients, you will constantly feel hungry. Although the stereotypical person with parasites (particularly the ‘proverbial’ tapeworm) is rail thin, the truth is that many, if not most Americans who have parasites are OBESE.
- OTHERS: There are a bunch. Some of the more common include insomnia, teeth grinding at night, bad breath, body odor, chronic low-grade fever, a weak immune system, a history of international travel, ANTIBIOTIC use, or heath problems that seemed to start after a serious bout of ‘food poisoning’.
HOW DO I DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT I HAVE PARASITES, AND WHAT CAN I DO TO GET RID OF THEM?
Determining whether or not you have parasites is probably the easiest part of the whole process. Although it is not so common to see parasites in your stool, there are any number of labs that provide comprehensive evaluation of stool samples. Blood work can also be of benefit as there are certain markers seen in people with parasitosis (IgA / eosinophils).
You need to be aware that the two sorts of parasites we are mostly discussing here today are the worms (tapeworms, roundworms, etc) and protazoa (single celled organisms). The worms attach themselves to the intestinal lining, both draining nutrients and releasing toxins that affect your whole body. The protazoa (Girardia is probably the most common in America) are different, but can cause equally distressing symptoms (see the quote from the top of the page). It’s now time to get to that place where the rubber meets the road. Once you determine that you or your family has parasites, how do you get rid of them?
Although there are any number of anti-parasitic drugs on the market (each class of parasite has many different drugs associated with it), these can be exceedingly harsh, as they all work on the principal of being toxic enough to kill the bugs, but not toxic enough to kill you. For most people, parasites can be effectively dealt with via nutrition and natural methods. I am going to list off the things that I am most familiar with. I have many patients who regularly worm their family using a wide variety of different methods. I will mention that I have used the VRM 1,2, and 3 products from Systemic Formulas with good success.
- BLACK WALNUT HULLS / WORMWOOD: Almost every anti-parasitic remedy I have ever seen, involves these two as its foundation.
- GARLIC: What isn’t Garlic good for? Other than the fact that other people might not be able to tolerate being around you, Garlic is one of the true “miracle” plants when it comes to health. Yes, it helps kill parasites.
- BERBERE / CIRCUMIN / TUMERIC: All of these are extremely anti-inflammatory (HERE). I was introduced to Berbere while in Ethiopia. All are delicious.
- CINNAMON / CLOVES: Excellent against parasites — particularly their eggs. Many people use alternating courses of Wormwood / Walnut Hull, and Cinnamon / Cloves to alternatively kill off the adult parasites and the worms.
- CAYENNE PEPPER / HOT PEPPERS: Fabulous stuff as long as you are not one of those people with a Nightshade Sensitivity.
- PUMPKIN SEEDS: We have eaten roasted pumpkin seeds in the Fall of the year forever. Not only are they delicious, but the oil has anti-parasitic properties.
- PINEAPPLE AND PAPAYA: These contain bromelain and papain respectively — proteolytic enzymes. Make sure to crush the papaya seeds and eat them as well.
- LEMON & SPEARMINT: Great stuff. Make sure to crush or chew the lemon seeds.
- CARROTS / RAW COCONUT: I also see people substituting (or using simultaneously) sweet potatoes and BEETS (not pickled).
- INTESTINAL CLEANSING: There are about a million ways to go about this, but most seem to involve copious amounts of fiber. Although there are all sorts of forms, I like ground flax seed.
- OIL OF OREGENO / OLIVE LEAF EXTRACT: Although there are many that swear by these for their anti-parasitic properties, I tend to think of both in terms of anti-fungal (anti-yeast).
- DIATOMACEOUS EARTH: Rather than me telling you about Diatomaceous Earth, I will let PAUL WHEATON give you the rundown. Although I have never used this stuff internally, I have used in on my garden as a natural pesticide. It absolutely works. The drawback is that I find that it also kills your earthworms. There are many who claim that Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth is the single best thing you can do to get rid of parasites.
- ZYPAN: Zypan, by STANDARD PROCESS, is a foundational product. Once you understand that the root of all sorts of digestive / Gut issues is low stomach acid (as opposed to too much — HERE), you’ll begin to understand why this product is so valuable.
- RAW APPLE CIDER VINEGAR: Not sure what Raw (unpasteurized / unfiltered) Apple Cider Vinegar is not good for, but that list would be rather short. This sort of vinegar tastes good, and provides a number of health benefits.
- WORK ON YOUR GUT: As is the case with virtually every form of sickness there is, you will never go wrong dealing with your GUT HEALTH.
One quick warning about a parasite cleanse; the more intensely you go about it, the more possibility you will end up having a HERXHEIMER REACTION. As you kill parasites, they release a lot of toxicity into your system. You may wind up with a headache, malaise, or even feeling sick. This won’t last long.
Not only do I feel that getting rid of parasites naturally to be the best method of doing so, there are many health benefits to using the methods seen above — most having to do with the fact that they could be easily and effectively incorporated into virtually any sort of ANTI-INFLAMMATORY PALEO-LIKE DIET. The bottom line is that as long as you are not pregnant or nursing (got my disclaimer in), there is really no downside to these sorts of protocols, but the upside is tremendous.