Are Parasites Destroying Your Health?
The gut is foundation of life and contains our microbiome – the unique conglomeration of bugs that we acquire at birth and continue to modify and build through life. This microbiome is influenced by virtually every decision we make – the types of food we eat, the hands we shake, the environments we most engage with, the places we travel, and the medications we are exposed to.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest contributors to poor health I have witnessed in clinical practice is the presence of parasite infections in our microbiome.
By definition, a parasite is something that survives at the expense of a host. When you study living organisms, you come to realize that survival is one of the common goals amongst all species. It is no different for parasites. These selfish little bugs want to survive and once they find a home within a human host, they can steal nutrition, cause toxicity, and ultimately change the way the body operates.
Here is a good analogy of how this change in your ecosystem is reflected in a real life example:
As humans, one of the things we love to do is influence control over our environments. If a certain island or closed ecosystem has a species that is over-growing, a predator may be introduced to “naturally” influence the environment and decrease the over-growing population. Parasites work similarly – they occupy space like squatters and can even indirectly suppress the good bacteria in your gut.
The trickiest part about dealing with parasites is that for the most part, there are no very obvious signs that you may have one. We call these types of infections “Stealth Infections” – we don’t always feel these infections and they can destroy health behind-the-scenes.
Sorry (kind of but not really :)) for the picture above – these are actual parasitic worms that patients have passed and photographed. My inbox is full of these weekly. We live in a world where we regularly travel, interact with pets, change diapers, and eat raw foods. These bugs can be picked up from many sources and are so increasingly common, as clinicians, we are almost surprised when patients do not pass them.
We are vulnerable to two groups of parasites:
- Worms (the ones we are usually able to see) and,
- Protozoa (invisible to the naked eye and found under a microscope)
For this reason, we encourage all of our patients to have periodic testing. Unfortunately, this testing is rarely conventionally performed and even it is, the testing used is rarely ever sensitive enough to pick up these infections. Enter DNA Stool Testing – the image you see below is an extremely sensitive way to pick up stealth infections using DNA technology through a single stool sample. In this case, the patient presented with both protozoa parasites and a worm. This test has helped identify blind spots in even the most challenging cases and helped transform the health of many patients globally.
From our clinical experience, parasites can be one of the most overlooked and debilitating contributors to poor health. If you have mystery symptoms, noticed you got worse after travelling, or notice your symptoms flare up periodically without a traceable trigger, a deeper evaluation into the possibility of a parasite can be a game-changer for your health.
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