The word parasite means an organism that lives on and feeds off of another organism. Intestinal parasites are very common. You don’t need to have travelled to a third world country to have one. These infections are pretty easy to acquire, particularly if you don’t have enough good gut bugs to protect you against infections.
Intestinal parasites can cause a great deal of inflammation to your gut lining. They can give you a very leaky gut, and the toxins these organisms produce can travel to your liver and make you feel really terrible.
Which parasites cause gut infections?
The following organisms are the most common culprits:
- Yersinia enterocolitica
- Entamoeba histolytica
- Clostridium difficile
- Worms, including roundworms, tapeworms, pinworms, whipworms and hookworms
What are the symptoms of a parasitic gut infection?
There are numerous. The following are the most common:
- Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome such as bloating, diarrhoea, constipation or gas
- History of food poisoning or gastroenteritis and never feeling normal afterwards.
- Feeling hungry soon after meals and like you are never really satisfied after eating
- Poor quality sleep. Trouble getting to sleep, or frequent waking throughout the night; grinding your teeth at night or waking in the middle of the night with intense anxiety.
- Aching muscles or joints
- Depression, anxiety, low motivation or foggy head.
- Iron deficiency
- An itchy anus, particularly at night
Well, after reading that list you probably want to rush out and get tested. That’s a good idea because parasites are common, they are a common cause of continued poor health despite a good diet, and they can be treated.
Parasites are spread very easily and that’s why it’s important to wash your hands regularly, especially after using the bathroom, before eating and after touching animals. The best test for parasites is a stool test called “faecal MCS and PCR” test. MSC stands for Microscopy, Culture and Sensitivity, while PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction (it tests for DNA fragments of microbes, therefore is highly sensitive). Your doctor can give you a referral for this test and it is covered by Medicare.
How to treat parasitic gut infections
These infections can be stubborn, and commonly used antibiotics are not always effective. There are some brilliant herbal remedies and essential oils but they are most effective when combined with the right diet and with a protocol to heal leaky gut. An unhealthy gut is a good home for parasites; therefore we must change the terrain; ie. improve the health of your gut so it’s no longer an appropriate home for parasites.
Conventional medicine uses a number of different antibiotics and anthelmintics (worming tablets) in the treatment of parasitic gut infections. The most commonly used drugs include Metronizadole (Flagyl), cotrimoxazole (Bactrim), nitazoxanide and paromomycin. These drugs are not always effective because the microbes are increasingly developing resistance to them.
Natural treatments for parasitic gut infections are usually far more effective. The following strategies may help:
- Follow an eating plan that excludes sugar, dairy products and grains.
- Don’t snack. Just eat three meals a day in order to give your digestive system a rest and to promote intestinal cleansing waves, which propel bacteria and other microbes downwards; enabling easier eradication.
- There are several very effective herbal antimicrobials that are available from naturopaths.
- Take a good quality probiotic to strengthen the immune system and heal the tissue of the intestines.
- It is vital to heal the lining of the intestines with bone broth, fermented vegetables and glutamine.
Overcoming a parasitic gut infection can be challenging; that’s why it’s best to consult with your healthcare practitioner. We have a range of services that can help you.