Parasites, by definition from the CDC, are “organisms that live on or in a host organism and get food from, or at the expense of, its host. These infections are very frequent in tropic and subtropic climates and cause a high rate of disease and death globally. Malaria alone kills 660,000 people each year, and the five parasitic Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) that have been mostly ignored by the public health community affect more than “one billion people– one sixth of the world’s population– largely in rural areas and low-income countries.” Despite the fact that parasitic diseases manifest mostly in low-income countries and rural areas with tropical climates, these nasty bugs are also present in the United States and other developed countries.
Natural News estimates that up to 90% of people within the United States will have an encounter with parasites at some point in their lives. Oftentimes, we are not aware what causes the illness or symptoms that we suffer from, and if left untreated parasites can have various long-term side effects and cause chronic illness. Contracting a parasite can happen in a variety of ways, and to make matters worse, they are practically impossible to notice. By recognizing risk factors and four of the main avenues for parasites to enter our system, this becomes the first step in maintaining a healthy, parasite-free lifestyle.
Food Borne Parasites
In the United States, most common food borne parasites are protozoa. These organisms can be transmitted by water, soil, or person-to-person contact. However, the most common transmission is through undercooked products and raw vegetables that have been contaminated by human or animal feces. This contamination may happen from a soiled food service worker’s hand, unsanitary facilities, or consumer error with food preparation.
Symptoms of food borne parasitic infections include:
It is hard to ensure that food has been prepared correctly when eating out at a restaurant; however, ensuring that your food cooked at home is prepared correctly can go a long way to prevent parasitic contamination. I’ve found that washing hands thoroughly, washing raw vegetables, and always cooking meat to the proper temperature before serving are the best practices for food preparation.
Parasites Can Contaminate Water
We all know that every human being on Earth needs water for life, but what you may not realize, according to National Geographic statistics is, “The water it takes to produce the average American diet alone—approximately 1,000 gallons per person per day—is more than the global average water footprint of 900 gallons per person per day for diet, household use, transportation, energy, and the consumption of material goods.” With this amount of water usage in the United States, it’s imperative that the source is clean to reduce the risk of pathogens and parasites.
Parasites can contaminate water sources by animals, human contamination, or other infected sources coming into contact with the clean source. Most common in the United States are Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs), which happen when water used for swimming, or other recreational activities, is swallowed. Water-borne pathogens can be extremely deadly because of their widespread effect if they contaminate a large water source. The CDC works to provide clean water to many underdeveloped countries needing assistance with this resource, and stresses the importance of proper hygiene and sanitation to prevent waterborne illness. Protecting recreational water sites, as well as private well water, helps to reduce the risk of contamination and keep parasites from infecting people.
Whenever travel occurs to places with various other organisms, water quality, and food preparation habits, the risk of infection increases. International travelers can be at risk from ingestion of contaminated food or water, person-to-person contact, or vector borne transmission. According to studies 50% to 75% of travelers in subtropical and tropical countries develop a health problem, often due to parasites. Only about 5% of these require medical attention, but they can derail travel plans and be very unpleasant. The risk of infection varies greatly depending on what countries and region of the world that a traveler would be going, but if not taking proper precautions, it could lead to some serious health issues The table below, from the CDC, states various other parasitic illness that one could acquire through travel.
The list below shows some of the parasitic illnesses that can be acquired during travel*
Contaminated Food and Water
*This list is not comprehensive.
It is important to take proper steps to ensure safe travel when planning a trip internationally. Talk to your doctor about any required vaccinations you will need and also check current health information about the country you are traveling to. The recommended time to schedule important travel vaccinations is normally 4-6 weeks prior to departure. I also recommend that you address any special needs in terms of food, water resources, and other hygienic considerations to stay as safe as possible throughout the trip.
As lovable and cuddly as our four legged friends and companions are, pets can transmit parasitic infections to their owners. Zoonotic diseases can be passed from animal to human through water that is contaminated by an animal or by meat that is undercooked and improperly prepared. Pets can also transfer parasitic illness to their owner. Farm animals can contaminate water or food sources. Dogs or cats are frequently infected with hookworms or roundworms and they can pass these onto their owners through contact with their feces or contact with the pet itself. It is important to make sure that your pet is properly taken care of with regular veterinary checkups. Always make sure you wash your hands properly after contact with animals, and properly dispose of their feces.
So besides washing hands, having proper vaccinations when traveling, and properly cooking food, what else can be done to avoid these bugs? One method I recommend is our Diamond Nutritionals’ supplement, Para-Calm. This supplement helps support the GI tract to counteract parasitic infections. The herbal agents in Para-Calm all have antiparasitic and antimicrobial properties and have been used historically to combat a number of parasites.
Diamond Nutritionals’ Para-Calm Contains Natural Ingredients
Para-Calm formula contains the following natural ingredients: WORMWOOD, Artemisia annua, is a fern like plant commonly found throughout Asia. ARTEMISININ is an active constituent of Wormwood that has many medicinal properties. Artemisinin is frequently used as first line therapy for the treatment of malaria in countries throughout the world. In vitro and in vivo studies show artemisinin has anti-parasitic activity against a number of parasites including: Babesia species, Schistosoma species, Leishmania species, Toxoplasma gondii, and Plasmodium species.
Both OLIVE LEAF and BLACK WALNUT HULLS have historically been used to support the removal of parasites. Besides having anti-parasitic properties, olive leaf and black walnut hulls also have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, providing a full spectrum of support.
BERBERINE is an alkaloid extracted from plant roots. It is commonly found in barberry, turmeric, and Oregon grape. In vitro studies show berberine has anti-parasitic actions against strains of malaria, Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia, Leishmania donovani, and Trichomonas vaginalis. Studies using berberine sulfate in children with a giardia infection show berberine sulfate can eliminate the presence of giardia cysts. Berberine also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
An advanced method to determine what is causing your illness and gastrointestinal pain is Doctor’s Comprehensive Stool Analysis with Parasitology x 3. Often hard to pinpoint, gastrointestinal issues are highly common and can cause not only digestive issues, but chronic illness as well. This Comprehensive Stool Analysis helps to pinpoint the issues by using growth-based culture, the standard of practice in clinical microbiology, as well as sensitive biochemical assays and microscopy. This thorough profile evaluates the status of beneficial and pathogenic microorganisms, including aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, yeast, and parasites. This noninvasive test helps doctors to properly assess and identify the causes for the gastrointestinal issues, which can be hard to identify since many of them have the same side effects.
As always, check with your primary care physician before taking any medication or supplements. For more information go to www.AskDrMaxwell.com.