The Truth about Human Parasites
By Jesse Hanley, MD
Almost everyone has parasites. It’s simply a fact of life. Even Dr. Oz, the now famous Oprah Winfrey guest says…”ninety percent of humans will have a problem with parasites in their lifetime.” Parasites are not just something that other people get – a malady reserved for citizens of developing countries. Everywhere we go, during just about everything we do, North Americans are vulnerable to parasitic infestation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies parasites as among the six most dangerous diseases that infect humans. Parasites outrank cancer as the number one global killer, and account for many of the digestive woes from which people suffer.
A Few Parasitic Stats
The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that over sixty million people in the United States are likely infected with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite associated with raw meat and contact with cat feces.1
In 2003, a report on food borne parasites prepared for the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison cited an estimated two and a half million cases of food and waterborne Giardia lamblia and three million cases of Cryptosporidium parvum in the U.S. alone.2 Both protozoan parasites are transmitted through drinking water contaminated with the fecal material of infected persons.
And while only a minimal number of cases are detected and reported, some estimate that approximately fifty million American children are infected with worm parasites.3
Why Are Parasites So Prevalent?
Your intestines provide the perfect breeding ground for parasites, who enjoy making their homes nestled within impacted waste as well as in the linings of colon walls. Living inside our intestines, these microorganisms gain the upper hand by virtue of their sheer numbers – both in kind and in population. They thrive because of the unique ways in which they have adapted their life cycles in order to ensure the perpetuation of their species within their unsuspecting hosts: us.
The three major groups of parasites include protozoans (single-celled organisms), nematodes (roundworms), and cestodes (tapeworms). There are numerous parasites common to North America ranging from microscopic protozoans and Cyclospora cayetanensis – sometimes called the yuppie disease because of outbreaks in the United States resulting from feceally-contaminated imported raspberries – to macroscopic multi-cellular worms and nematodes such as hookworm, pinworm, and whipworm.
Parasites Often Elude Diagnostic Testing
Parasites range from the stuff of late night horror shows – measuring in at several feet in length – to those that are invisible to the naked eye. And while they are fond of the colon, this is not the only place parasites can be found. Just about any part of your body is vulnerable to infestation: the lungs, liver, esophagus, brain, blood, muscles, joints, skin…and even your eyes!
There are more than a hundred different types of parasites who enjoy living out their lives inside of human beings. In the United States alone, one-third of nearly six thousand fecal specimens tested came back positive for nineteen species of intestinal parasites.4, at the Parasitology Center, Inc. (PCI) in Tempe, Arizona.
Since nearly everyone needs colon cleansing, in terms of efficiency, it may be financially prudent, as well as physically advantageous, to simply start with a colon cleanse in order to combat and prevent parasitic infestation. Learn More
Laboratory methods have progressed considerably in the last decade, and can provide various forms of parasitic testing supported by the CDC. Unfortunately, so far there is not one laboratory style of testing that covers all of the commonly known parasites. And while lab testing has come a long way, PCI is still the only laboratory in the United States specializing in parasitology testing.
It’s important to remember that tests aren’t conclusive unless they are positive, which could require the taking of many different specimens, at least three of each kind: blood, serum stool, and urine. Testing can become a time-consuming venture as much repetition can be required, and with so many different types of parasites, test results can be vague, inconclusive, and expensive.
Symptoms of a Parasitic Infestation
Sometimes you can be infected without having symptoms; however, there are often signs, including:
- Allergies to many different types of foods
- Anemia (low red blood count)
- Bloating/abdominal swelling
- Bloody stools
- Bouts of diarrhea and inconsistent bowel habits
- Flu-like symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and fever
- Foul-smelling stools that get worse in the afternoon and evening
- Gas and cramping
- Itching around the anus, especially at night.
- Weight loss with a ravenous appetite