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HEALTH CONCERN? BioHealth Health Concerns

The Parasite Menace

Contributing Author: Tranchitella, Tracy N.D.

TracyTracy Tranchitella, N.D. is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine who specializes in providing nutritional and homeopathic consultations, lifestyle counseling, botanical medicine and women's health assessments and detoxification programs. She graduated in 1998 from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM) in Tempe, Arizona. Currently, she lives and practices in Temecula, California. Dr. Tranchitella is licensed in the State of California and a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) and the California Association of Naturopathic Physicians (CANP).

» Website: Sunrise Medical

For many, the discussion of parasites usually brings up images/ of malnourished people living in third world countries. However, most people do not realize that parasites are very common within the United States, and their presence in our food and water supply can lead to outbreaks of acute illness that, if not treated properly, can contribute to many chronic conditions such as chronic fatigue, wasting syndromes, digestive problems, asthma, and more. Veterinarians know how prevalent parasitic infections are within our pet population and you will find that the field of veterinary medicine takes the presence of parasites very seriously.

A parasite is defined as "an organism that grows, feeds, and is sheltered in a different organism and contributes nothing to its host." Many are microscopic organisms that invade our gastrointestinal tract, evade our immune system, and eventually create chronic intestinal problems such as bloating, indigestion, pain, constipation, and poor nutrient absorption. Some parasites can live in our bodies for years, robbing us of important vitamins and minerals and leading to chronic ill health. One common misconception people have about parasites is that if they have no intestinal symptoms, namely diarrhea, they think they cannot have an infection.

In my practice, we have found parasites in a number of people without symptoms. Many of these people are quite surprised when they learn that they have a parasite living in their body. However, most individuals we work with who suffer from a chronic health problem such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, colitis, and even cancer, knew that something was impeding their health. One parasite that is notorious for its ability to cause chronic ill-health is Giardia lamblia.

Giardia infects mostly the small intestine by attaching to the lining of the mucous membranes, leading to problems of flatulence, abdominal cramps, nausea, and malabsorption. Infections can be high amongst day care populations, travelers, people with low stomach acid, and immune system problems. In the U.S., giardiasis is one of the most common intestinal infections; about 7% of stools submitted for parasitological examination contain G. lamblia cysts. Giardia is passed by the fecal–oral route through contaminated food or water. Members living in the same household as someone with a known Giardia infection should also be checked. This is also true of people infected with many of the parasites we diagnose, such as Cryptosporidium, Blastocystis hominis, and Entamoeba histolytica.

Get tested for intestinal parasites.