Since the effects of infection reach far beyond the gastrointestinal tract, we need to be on the alert for the wide array of bodily symptoms that signal the presence of parasites. Signs and symptoms may come about during initial exposure, shortly after that exposure, or many months later.
While many of our unexpected visitors may be invisible, their symptoms can be very apparent. For this reason, parasitic infections are often misdiagnosed and ensuing treatment does not result in the alleviation of symptoms or disease. The following are warning signs for parasites: constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, joint and muscle aches and pains, anemia, allergy, skin conditions, granulomas, nervousness, sleep disturbances, teeth grinding, chronic fatigue, and immune dysfunction.
Signs and Symptoms
CONSTIPATION: Some worms, because of their shape and large size can physically obstruct certain organs. Heavy worm infections can block the common bile duct and the intestinal tract, making elimination infrequent and difficult.
DIARRHEA: Certain parasites, primarily protozoa, produce a prostaglandin (hormonelike substances found in various human tissues) which creates a sodium and chloride loss that leads to frequent watery stools. The diarrhea process in parasite infection is, therefore, a function of the parasite, not the body’s attempt to rid itself of an infectious organism.
GAS AND BLOATING: Some parasites live in the upper small intestine where the inflammation they produce causes both gas and bloating. This situation can be magnified when hard-to-digest foods such as beans and raw fruits and vegetables are eaten. Persistent abdominal distention is a frequent sign of hidden invaders. These gastrointestinal symptoms can persist intermittently for many months or years if the parasites are not eliminated from the body.
IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME: Parasites can irritate, inflame, and coat the intestinal cell wall, leading to a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms and malabsorption of vital nutrients, particularly fatty and steatorrhea (excess fat in feces).
JOINT AND MUSCLE ACHES AND PAINS: Parasites are known to migrate and encyst (become enclosed in a sac) in joint fluids, and worms can encyst in muscles. Once this happens, pain becomes evident and is often assumed to be caused by arthritis. Joint and muscle pains and inflammation are also the result of tissue damage caused by some parasites or the body’s ongoing immune response to their presence. This list can go on and on, hopefully you are getting the picture.
Parasites can also infest the skin, as with scabies and lice, or can enter the bloodstream through insect bites, as with malaria and yellow fever parasites. They can also deplete the body of essential nutrients, taxing and overwhelming the immune system, which can lead to serious illness and even death.
ANEMIA: Some varieties of intestinal worms attach themselves to the mucosal lining of the intestines and then leach nutrients from the human host. If they are present in large enough numbers, they can create enough blood loss to cause a type of iron deficiency or pernicious anemia.
ALLERGY: Parasites can irritate and sometimes perforate the intestinal lining, increasing bowel permeability to large undigested molecules. This can activate the body’s immune response to produce increased levels of eosinophils, one type of the body’s fighter cells. The eosinophils can inflame body tissue, resulting in an allergic reaction. Like allergy, parasites also trigger an increase in the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE).
SKIN CONDITIONS: Intestinal worms can cause hives, rashes, weeping eczema, and other allergic-type skin reactions. Cutaneous ulcers, swellings and sores, papular lesions, and itchy dermatitis can all result from protozoan invasion.
GRANULOMAS: Granulomas are tumor-like masses that encase destroyed larva or parasitic eggs. They also develop most often in the colon or rectal walls but can also be found in the lungs, liver, peritoneum, and uterus.
NERVOUSNESS: Parasitic metabolic wastes and toxic substances can serve as irritants to the central nervous system. Restlessness and anxiety are often the result often the result of systemic parasite infestation.
SLEEP DISTURBANCES: Multiple awakenings during the night, particularly between 2 and 3 A.M., are possibly caused by the body’s attempts to eliminate toxic waste via the liver. According to Chinese medicine, these hours are governed by the liver. Sleep disturbances are also caused by nocturnal exits of certain parasites through the anus, creating intense discomfort and itching.
TEETH GRINDING: Bruxism—abnormal grinding, clenching, and gnashing of the teeth—has been observed in cases of parasitic infection. These symptoms are most noticeable among sleeping children. Bruxism may be a nervous response to the internal foreign irritant. It is interesting to note that in the medical literature, the etiology of bruxism remains controversial.
IMMUNE DYSFUNCTION: Parasites depress immune system functioning by decreasing the secretion of immunoglobulin A (IgA). Their presence continuously stimulates the immune system response and over time can exhaust this vital defense system, leaving the body open to bacterial and viral infections.
Because the signs and symptoms of intestinal parasitic infections are often vague and confusing and because many physicians in this country are not familiar with them, a victim can suffer for weeks or months and undergo many needless tests and treatments before the proper diagnosis is made.
Therefore if you are suffering any of the above symptoms take care to consider whether or not you are harboring microscopic single-celled protozans or worms.