In other parts of the world, it is common to regularly treat for worms, it’s an expected part of life. Somehow here in the US, we’ve gotten away from that practice and knowledge. However, they absolutely do exist here and can wreak havoc on your whole system (even the CDC recently released a statement about parasites and the millions of people affected by them). Today I’m happy to bring you part 2 of our Worm Out series. (If you’re just joining us check out week 1 here) We’ll be spending the next several weeks learning about parasites and I’ll be sharing my own family’s experience using Worm Out for the first time.
What is a parasite?
A parasite is a living organism that survives off another organism. Many different animals can have parasites and at least 75% of Americans. Without the “host” organism a parasite cannot survive. Parasites live inside the digestive tract, eyes, brain, blood or other body parts of the host and consume resources from the host.
There are at least 1,000 different parasites that can be found in a human. The most common are- pinworms, hookworms, tapeworms, pinworms (especially in children), and roundworms. Most parasites are worms residing in the digestive tract. As we’ll learn later, they can cause cravings, and significant digestive issues as a result of living in the digestive system. Parasites, or worms, can reside in other parts of the body and parasites often have parasites themselves- eek!! It gets a little complicated!
Parasites can vary in size from smaller than a grain of rice to several feet long and can survive for years in the body. Pinworms are likely the parasite you’ve most heard of. These are extremely common in young children and people who have been on farms. Many parasites, including pinworms, lay eggs which can lay dormant for months and be passed along.
Where do they come from?
A parasite can come from many sources. Unless there is a specific outbreak it is difficult to identify exactly where the pinworm may have come from. Many people assume that you have to live in a 3rd world country to get a parasite. This is not true, they’re highly contagious and found many places.
They could come from any of the following sources:
- Animal Waste
- Contaminated food and water
- Raw or undercooked meat
- Lakes, ponds, creeks and ocean water
- Feces (human and animal)
- Infected people (they can transmit as easily as shaking hands with someone who has a parasite)
- Food poisoning (generally this is a result of a parasite)
- Our parents (parasites can pass on to infants from their mother during pregnancy)
As you can see, developing a parasite infection is pretty easy. Next week I’ll share some of the common symptoms of a parasite. These often imitate other illnesses and a proper diagnosis can be difficult to come by.
How Do I know if I have an Infection?
A physician can run a stool test for parasites. These are, unfortunately, not always accurate as some parasites will reside in your system and not come out in your stool until they have died. A functional medicine doctor, herbalist, nutritional therapist or any other holistic practitioner can help you identify if you have parasites as well. Evaluating your travel habits and lifestyle should be involved in the diagnosis of parasites.
Sometimes, however, you luck out and “catch” them. Pinworms are especially easy to catch as they crawl out of the anus in the night and can be caught with a piece of scotch tape on the anus or many parents actually see them crawling out of their child’s anus in the middle of the night or early morning.
Can I Avoid Them?
To a certain extent, no. Since the eggs are not visible to the human eye it’s extremely easy to catch them. Using basic hygiene, keeping fingernails short, and treating the whole family if one member is diagnosed can help prevent a re-infestation.
During treatment, it is also important to regularly do laundry (especially sheets, towels, underwear, and pajamas). Laundry should be washed daily in hot water and hung out to dry in the sun as much as possible when someone has been diagnosed with parasites.
In a future post, we’ll talk about foods and lifestyles that feed and encourage parasites as well.
Please don’t feel discouraged by this, they are common but they’re also fairly easy to treat. Worm Out combined with some dietary changes works extremely well and we’ve heard some amazing success stories.
Come back next week to learn about common symptoms and long-term health implications.