Parasites are microorganisms that live off other organisms and infestations with them are just as common as catching a cold. Nevertheless, having infected with parasites is a scary experience, but many people are still in oblivion even after being affected. Some parasites can cause disease directly while others cause disease with the toxins that they produce. The different types of parasites that live in your body can either survive on the food the host consume or some directly feed on red blood cells of the host while some even use the host body as a reproduction site. The common parasites that can infest the body are pinworms, lambia, hookworms, tapeworms, trichinella and dientamoeba fragilis. The normal route of infestation is though skin or mouth. People contract parasites due to various reasons which include exposure to areas having parasites, traveling to places that have parasite, intake of contaminated water or food, poor sanitation, poor hygiene and a weak immune system. Coming close into contact with pets may also get you to a parasite infestation. Parasite emerge in different forms, shapes and sizes and they can cause a wide range of signs and symptoms.
Intestinal parasite infestation can cause inflammation and destroy the intestinal lining of the gut, resulting in chronic diarrhoea. Based on a study published in the Journal of Biology in 2015, agriculture and healthcare emphasize routine intestinal parasite screening to increase the diagnostic rate of parasitic diarrhoea in children with severe acute malnutrition so that the treatment and prevention strategies can be well-targeted. Even the toxic waste produced by the parasites can cause chronic constipation, gas, bloating, nausea and burning sensations in the stomach. In situations where you are consuming large amount of high-fibre and alkaline foods on a daily basis but still experience diarrhoea and other digestive issues, it may be due to parasitic infestations.
Parasites cause other stomach problem, which is abdominal pain. The parasites residing in the upper small intestinal region will cause inflammation and irritation in this area, thereby generating a bloated feeling and pain in the abdomen. Furthermore, parasites can even block the passage of waste products exiting the body, and toxic wastes accumulation leads to pain in the upper abdominal region. Abdominal pain is mainly associated with round worm, fluke, hookworm or tapeworm intestinal infestations. A 1986 study published in a Singapore Medical Journal found that hook worm infestation is a key cause of abdominal discomfort especially among adults who recently travelled abroad. If you have set an onset of severe abdominal pain from time to time, make an appointment with the medical doctor to get a thorough check.
Itching around the anus is another sign of a parasite infection, which is commonly seen in those suffering from pinworm. People with such infestations often experience anal itching and discomfort which usually take place at night when the female pin worms lay their eggs around the anus. The migrating female pin worms and clumps of eggs are the source of irritation and cause itching, crawling sensations as well as acute pain when the area is scratched. Other complications that follow include breakage of skin that can promote a secondary bacterial infection. Night itching also leads to sleep disturbances and restlessness. If you experience itching around the anus during the night for more than two weeks and without any sign of rashes, consult your doctor quickly.
Fatigue may also be a symptom of a parasite infestation. This is mainly associated with intestinal worms that deplete the body of vital nutrients by feeding on the food you eat, leading to malabsorption of vitamins minerals sets and carbohydrates. The body will get weak, leaving you exhausted, depressed and with a feeling of general apathy. Exhaustion can be mentally, physically and emotionally. In addition, the toxic metabolic wastes overload produced by the parasites will burden the organs to work even harder to eliminate these waste products. In turn, all leads to fatigue and low energy. Go to your doctor if you are suffering from lethargy and excessive weaknesses if the feeling does not improve even with proper eating and rest.
If there is a sudden change in your appetite, particularly an increase in appetite, it may be due to the presence of parasites in your body. An increased appetite combined with weight loss is often noticed in cases of tapeworm or pinworm infestation. This happens as the parasites ‘steal’ a good amount of the food eaten by the infected person. An infected-individual may notice a strong early-morning hunger and the feeling is never satisfied after eating a meal.
A parasite infestation can even cause mood swings, depression, anxiety and also visual hallucinations. Often these symptoms are paired with digestive issues. The intestine contains both neurons and neurotransmitters especially serotonin which are important for a healthy enteric nervous system. As parasites reside in the intestines, the numerous toxic metabolic wastes produced can attack neurons and neurotransmitters, causing nervousness, restlessness, mood swings and even depression. Scientists believe that inflammation in the intestine can lead to inflammation in the brain and vice versa.
Grinding teeth in your sleep may indicate a possible parasite infestation. Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism may occur while sleeping due to anxiety and restlessness. This is caused by waste and toxins released by the parasites in the body. A 2010 study published in dental research journal confirmed the correlation between intestinal parasitic infections and bruxism among small children as pathogenic parasites serve as a cause of bruxism.
Iron deficiency anaemia
Intestinal roundworms or pinworm can lead to iron deficiency in the body and ultimately cause anaemia. These parasites steal the good vitamins including iron from the food the person eats leading to an iron deficiency. A study published in Indian paediatrics in 2003 found that the prevalence of intestinal parasitism is up to30 to 50 percent and anaemia from 40 to 73 percent among school-going girls (2 to 4 years of age) at Gulbarga, Karnataka. The study also pointed out the root cause is likely due to bad hygiene, poor awareness, illiteracy, poverty and a variety of allied factors. A second study published in a Nigerian journal of clinical practice in 2008 reported about worm infestation and anaemia among preschool children of peasant farmers in Calabar, Nigeria. It was discovered that severe anaemia ultimately affects a child’s growth and development, resulting in slower growth and weight loss.
Parasites that invade the intestinal tract not only cause inflammation in the body but also leads to several skin problems including rashes, hives, eczema and other forms of skin allergies. The toxins and waste products released by the parasites also increase in the eosinophils in the blood, stimulating swellings, lesions and ulcers. Other bad impacts including brittle hair and hair loss. When unexplained skin irritations or rashes, hives, rosacea and eczema is present, consult a doctor for proper diagnosis.
Certain parasites can invade the soft tissue in the joints and muscles where they become enclosed in a cysts-like manner. This results in irritation and pain which is often mistaken for arthritis. The toxins released by the parasites can cause an inflammatory response within the body, along with pain. If you find it difficult to pinpoint the cause of sudden pain in the muscles and the pain in the joints deteriorates, consult a doctor.
How does parasite infect us? It is easy to be infected with parasite from the microscopic parasite eggs that can be virtually anywhere if we do not practise the correct lifestyle. Here are some examples of the ways parasite make their ways into your body.
Water is the primary route parasites infect humans because in instance, over 50% of our lakes, rivers, streams and creeks are infected with the protozoa parasite Giardia lamblia. This parasite is not killed by chlorine and is steadily finding its way into urban areas with treated drinking water. Symptoms of an infestation include diarrhea and cramping that lasts for over a week and is most often misdiagnosed as the stomach flu. Swimmers are most at risk as they swim in places with others and when the water is contaminated with eggs from their bodies, they will get contracted as well. It only takes a very small amount of swallowed water to become infected
It is easy to obtain parasite eggs from other humans. Since most infections come from the anal-oral route, you can get contracted with their parasites by touching things which had come into contact with them after they use the washroom and do not wash their hands. Parasite eggs can live under human fingernails for up to two months. Even more common infections come from kissing, holding hands, sharing eating utensils and of course sexual contact. Usually if one family member is a host to parasites, it is very likely that the entire family is infected. There are many parasite eggs that can live without a host for weeks for example microscopic pinworms eggs become airborne and can travel anywhere, and they can live for two days outside of a host. When it is inhaled, they can then hatch inside your body.
Animals including pets can spread 240 diseases to humans via parasites. By petting or grooming animals, you are picking up eggs that pass from them to us via hands, nose and mouth. Parasite infected fleas and ticks and parasite infected animal feces are also major concerns. Therefore, walking on barefoot is not recommended as you may not know when did an animal defecated on the area and end up picking up the parasite. Americans now have the highest rate of toxoplasmosis parasites in the world and this parasite is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, as it can cause death. Mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, lice, and all other biting insects are also responsible to transmit protozoa (one-cell) parasites to humans.
Undercooked meats are very high source of parasite infections. Commercial pork products are also notorious for infections such as bacon, ham, pork chops, cold cuts and hot dogs. Any cut meats such as beef, lamb, chicken and fish also can contain parasite eggs. Raw fish and sushi alone could harbour egg and larvae of several species of parasites. Even though cattle, pork and chicken producers dewormed their livestock regularly, there are still over 50% of animals that go to slaughter are parasite-infected.
Unwashed fruit and vegetables are also a big source of parasite carriers. According to the Center for Disease Control and Diseases, many vegetables are consumed raw and thus, the occurrence of parasite infestation is on the rise. Americans import 30 billion tons of food per year and some of this food comes from countries where animal manure and human faeces are used as fertilizer. Such practice greatly increases the spread of parasites. Salad bars infected food handlers and improperly washed fruits and vegetables are also the gateway for parasites to enter our system.
As travel is a way of life for many in this modern age world, you could be one of the travellers to bring home the parasites that were once almost unknown in America. Airplanes are a great source for parasite transmission. It’s very common for a family to go on vacation and bring back uninvited guests with them. Furthermore, we must not neglect the influx of refugee and immigrants, which may also transport parasites from their respective home countries to us.