Digestive Health Series Part #2: Intestinal Parasites

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I love the topic of parasites! Seriously, I do – because they are sooo interesting and the process of getting rid of them is super cool (even though it’s not all that cool while you’re going through it…but hey).

Back in 2014 I discovered that I had intestinal parasites through an analysis conducted by my holistic nutritionist (yes, I have one too!) – and let me tell you, these lil’ guys can really hinder your chances of achieving optimal health if they are nesting in your GI tract. Had I known these guys were in there, I would have done something a long time ago… because a lot of the crappy symptoms I had been experiencing for years were a direct result of these lil’ intruders playing survivor in my gut.

Since parasites are incredibly common and often go unnoticed – they could be part of the reason you’re also having issues achieving optimal health. So here’s what you need to know about intestinal parasites and what you can do to get rid of them – naturally.

What are intestinal parasites and why are they a problem?

symptoms-of-parasitesA parasite is an organism that thrives off another organism, usually humans and other animals. Some examples of parasites include pinworms, hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms. These unwanted intruders come in all shapes and sizes and if left undetected in your gut for a length of time – they can cause a variety of health issues such as obesity, unexplained anemia, and IBS. If left untreated they can also become systemic, so you may find these lil’ guys roaming the blood stream, lymphatic system and cozied up in various tissues throughout the body.

How the heck do we get intestinal parasites?!

Parasites are easy to come in contact with, but are often written-off as food poisoning or traveler’s diarrhea. If you’ve had food poisoning or have caught traveller’s diarrhea at some point in your life, then it’s quite possible that you’ve come in contact with a parasite or two.

If you’ve never had food poisoning or traveller’s diarrhea, then lucky you – but that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. If you’re a pet lover – it’s almost a guarantee that you have intestinal parasites. That furry friend you have at home is a perfect host for parasites and if they’re sharing a bed and kisses with you – then you’re sharing parasites too. (Sorry to break it to ya!)

Aside from travel and pets, other common ways to catch intestinal parasites includes eating raw fish (i.e. sushi), fresh produce, and contaminated water (this last one is less common in 1st world countries though).

What are typical symptoms of intestinal parasites?

They are our best friends and so cute! But they can give you parasites if they’re sharing a bed and kisses with you.

They are our best friends and so cute! But they can give you parasites if they’re sharing a bed and kisses with you.

Common signs and symptoms of intestinal parasites often resemble those of leaky gut (see article here), and other digestive impairments. The most common signs and symptoms of parasites include:

  • constipation, diarrhea, gas, or other IBS related symptoms
  • poor sleep, difficulties staying asleep, or grinding of the teeth while sleeping (grinding your teeth is a very common sign of parasites!)
  • never feeling full or satisfied after a good meal or persistent hunger
  • unexplained anemia
  • skin issues such as rosacea, eczema, rashes or hives
  • aches and pains in joints and muscles
  • fatigue and/or lethargy
  • depression
  • decreased cognitive function (aka. brain fog)
  • and leaky gut syndrome (yes, parasites can contribute to leaky gut! It’s not uncommon to have more than one digestive dysfunction going on…)

What YOU can do about it…

Stool analysis and blood tests may be used to help determine parasitic activity within the body, however, if the parasites are deep rooted – any stool or blood test may come out negative. So further analysis with your health care provider, naturopath or holistic nutritionist may be required.

If you think you might be suffering from intestinal parasites, it’s recommended that you:

  • increase your intake of anti-parasitic foods
    • These include raw garlic (lots of it!), onions, olives, apple cider vinegar, pumpkin seeds, fermented foods (i.e. sauerkraut, miso, etc.), olive oil and coconut oil.
  • drink hot teas with anti-parasitic properties
    • Some good hot teas for killing-off parasites include, organic fennel seed tea, organic dandelion root tea, organic peppermint tea and cerasee (bitter melon) tea.
  • eliminate foods that feed intestinal parasites
    • Parasites thrive on sugars (including fructose from fruits), processed foods/chemically enhanced foods, and non-organic meats. Try to avoid these foods as much as possible – if not entirely!
  • complete a parasite cleanse
    • A parasite cleanse can be very awful if the necessary ground work hasn’t been done (such as a colon and kidney cleanse) or if the cleanse is not properly conducted. For this reason, it is HIGHLY recommended that you work with your naturopathic doctor or holistic nutritionist to complete a parasite cleanse.

Ariane Labelle

Corporate escapee turned wellpreneur, Ariane is a certified holistic nutritionist and accountability coach from Toronto, Ontario. She founded her own wellness practice shortly after graduating from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition (IHN). Her online platform, A Healthy Pursuit, is dedicated to helping women worldwide realize their full potential in all aspects of life – starting with their health. Having married her passion for holistic health and love of travel, Ariane caters to clients world-wide as a professional digital nomad. She delivers transformational nutrition and lifestyle coaching to online clients and hosts various wellness retreats in beautiful sunny destinations around the globe.

Ariane is the author behind ‘Healthy Happy Hormones’, a thorough guide devoted to empowering women to optimize their reproductive health and is the official nutrition professional for PCOSWorldwide.com.

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