After talking to a friend who experiences gut issues on an infrequent but regular basis, the thought of a possible parasitic infection came into the conversation. So I decided to take a deeper look at this and discovered that a parasitic infection could cause a host of random symptoms that mimic other diseases.
What is a Parasite?
Let’s first classify what a parasite is. A parasite is an organism that lives by feeding off another organism, usually called the host. Parasites can cause harm to the host by feeding on it or consuming some of the host’s food, resulting in a range of unpleasant symptoms and health conditions.
We usually would attribute parasitic infections to under-developed parts of the world due to low or lack of sanitation standards and clean water. But although developed areas have low rates of parasitic infection, that doesn’t mean they are completely eradicated.
So even if you have clean water and modern sanitation you could still run into these pesky critters. Parasites can be transmitted through water, dirt, blood (insect bites), undercooked food, even from your pet.
What Do Parasites Do?
Parasites make you feel ill because they release toxins into your bloodstream and can cause symptoms similar to various gut conditions. From sydneygutclinic.com “While some parasites don’t cause noticeable symptoms, some grow, reproduce or invade healthy functioning systems, making their hosts sick, resulting in parasitic infection. For instance, some parasites may consume your food and leave you hungry after meals, resulting in an inability to gain weight. Others may feed off your red blood cells causing anaemia or lay eggs resulting in itching, irritability, and even insomnia.”
Symptoms of Parasitic Infection
Sydneyguthealth.com lists a variety of symptoms from parasitic infections that could easily be misdiagnosed. So I thought it would be important to list these symptoms to educate readers who are struggling with their health and have not yet looked into parasitic infections.
“The signs and symptoms of infections caused by a parasite vary depending on the organism that’s residing in your body. Some of the most common signs of a parasitic infection include:”
- Stomach cramps and pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Digestive problems including unexplained constipation, diarrhoea or persistent gas
- Skin issues such as rashes, eczema, hives, and itching
- Continuous muscle and joint pain
- Fatigue, even when you get enough sleep
- Depression or feeling of apathetic
- Never feeling full, even after a big meal
- Constant hunger, even when you’re eating enough
- Iron deficiency/anaemia
- Grinding your teeth during sleep
- Unexplained feelings of anxiety
- Recurrent yeast infections
- Itching of the anus or vagina
- Itching, redness, irritation, and an unusual discharge from the genital area
- Trouble falling asleep or waking up multiple times during the night
Symptoms such as sleeping irregularities, skin irritation, mood changes, and muscle pain can all be caused by the toxins released by the parasites into your bloodstream. These toxins could even cause anxiety, which tends to manifest itself in irregular sleeping patterns or teeth grinding. You may also experience mood swings or skin irritation when these toxins interact with the neurotransmitters or blood cells in your body.
Paleoleap.com says “There’s some evidence that apparently unrelated diseases like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome might have a link to parasitic infections. This study found that people with inflammatory bowel diseases (especially ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease) were more likely to be infected with a certain type of parasite (blastocystis, a protozoan infection) than healthy controls.”
They also note that “gastrointestinal parasites are very tricky to deal with because they can be completely asymptomatic for years before flaring up. Sometimes, they can also cause intermittent symptoms that disappear and come back again and again. This paper, for example, describes how infection with the common parasite giardia often causes long-term symptoms that never seem to go away for good.”
As with anything to do with your health, it is always important to consult a healthcare practitioner. When it comes your gut, having tests done by a gastroenterologist will determine whether or not you have a parasitic infection. A proper diet that is rich in probiotics or probiotic supplements and digestive enzymes is a good idea. Reducing or eliminating sugar is always a good choice regardless of the illness you may be experiencing.
As a retired registered massage therapist, I’ve always been interested in health. I grew up loving sports so that carried into my adult life in my chosen career paths and in my personal life. I now stay active with weight training, hiking and biking. My professional life has always been in health care. This has inspired me to seek out and adopt a life of natural health and wellness.