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What’s Crawling Inside You?
I just got home from an overnight camp at a group campsite in Oregon, US. It was a beautiful location along the Owyhee River, close enough to the river to hear the rushing of the water as you fell asleep, and shallow enough for all the kids to play in the water--as long as the avoided the handful of flyfishers that had staked out spots in the middle of the river, waiting for the next trout to find its way to their bait. Interestingly enough in the kitchen of the “mess hall,” there were specific instructions on how to contact local police at this remote camp location, how to properly cleanse and sanitize dishes, and, perhaps most importantly, guidelines on use of water both as recreation and hydration. Those instructions included more than a few words about aquatic parasites.
Just the word “parasite” conjures up scary images in most people. Whether it’s a bug or that creepy cousin who only seems to show up when there’s food involved, parasites feed off of unwitting hosts until they’re sure they’re no longer welcome--or simply forcibly removed. In the case of parasites in the human body, they feed off the nutrients we put into our bodies, depriving us of needed support and in many cases, causing illnesses from minor to life-threatening, and everything in-between. It’s bad enough having to handle the minor illnesses, but it’s those chronic and life-threatening illnesses that make this the serious issue that it is.
Parasites live everywhere you do and most places you don’t--including some of the more fun places we like to go, like lakes, rivers, and streams. So whether you’re a homebody or a world traveler, you’re at risk. These omnipresent parasites can find their way into your life through a variety of avenues. They typically end up in our systems via contaminated food or water. As already noted, the spectrum of parasitic infection varies widely from mild illness to death if left untreated.
There are various ways to prevent and/or treat infections. Spending a little time at your practitioner’s office getting a blood panel done can detect parasites. A stool analysis can be valuable in detection as well. The latest figures from the US CDC indicate that parasitic infections afflict a full one-third of Americans. As previously mentioned, however, parasites know no boundaries, and can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime. Dr. Todd Watts, one of the founders of Microbe Formulas, has a simple test he administers in response to the patient’s question, “Is it parasites, doc?” He grasps the wrist of his patient, locates the pulse, and responds, “If you have a pulse, you have parasites.”
So what’s crawling inside you? This is a question with multiple replies, each of which comes fraught with its own level of peril to human body, and many of which can be avoided and eradicated with the appropriate treatment.
Let’s take a look at the top three water- and food-borne parasites that could already be taking up residence in your intestinal tract:
Back when we were kids going on Boy Scout and Girl Scout hikes near mountain lakes and streams, we were told to “not drink the water.” That cool, refreshing water in that little stream wasn’t just water. It was likely swarming with giardia. Your leaders were right to warn you not to drink it.
Giardia is a microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal illness known as giardiasis. Giardia (also known as Giardia intestinalis, Giardia lamblia, or Giardia duodenalis) is found on surfaces or in soil, food, or water that has been contaminated with feces (poop) from infected humans or animals.
Giardia is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and makes it tolerant to chlorine disinfection. While the parasite can be spread in different ways, water (drinking water and recreational water) is the most common mode of transmission.
You read that right: Giardia is protected with an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body and makes it tolerant to chlorine disinfection--that chlorine that everyone down at the pool trusts to keep the water clean. This M&M won’t melt in your hand or your mouth. It takes up residence elsewhere in the body, and your body is worse off because of it.
Whether you’re trying to beat the heat in summertime, or just relax after a long travel day at the hotel, swimming pools can be very inviting. They’re relaxing, comfortable, and a dip in that hot tub can really bring the relief to tired muscles. But when you’re the only person in the pool, are you really alone?
Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that, like giardia, causes a diarrheal disease. This one is known as cryptosporidiosis. Both the parasite and the disease are commonly known as "Crypto." This parasite, which can infect both animals and humans, is similarly protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and makes it very tolerant to chlorine disinfection. Yes. Just like its relative, Giardia, cryptosporidium thumbs its nose at the pool guy, too. Not good.
While cryptosporidium can be spread in several different ways, water (drinking water and recreational water) is the most common way to spread the parasite. So that fun dip in the pool where your kids put a little pool water in their mouth and spray it out at their sibling? Yep. The results could be “cryptic.” Cryptosporidium is a leading cause of waterborne disease among humans in the United States.
Cryptosporidium infection (cryptosporidiosis) is an illness caused by tiny, one-celled cryptosporidium parasites. When cryptosporidia enter your body, they travel to your small intestine and then burrow into the walls of your intestines. Later, cryptosporidia are shed in your feces.
Some people who become infected with cryptosporidium end up symptom-free. Those infected can still pass on the infection to others. Usually, infection with cryptosporidium causes a gastroenteritis-type illness. Gastroenteritis is an infection of the bowels. It can take between 3 to 12 days after contact with cryptosporidium before you develop symptoms.
For most people, stepping into the ring with a cryptosporidium infection means about a week or two of watery diarrhea that eventually goes away. That’s a best-case scenario. If your immune system is already compromised, or if you have any sort of autoimmune deficiency, cryptosporidiosis means a potentially life-threatening situation if left unaddressed. As with many other types of infections, those whose immune systems that are specifically compromised by HIV/AIDS are at critical risk of this type of infection. Being careful about access to water in public places, especially swimming pools, water parks, and natural water sources significantly decreases the risk of a cryptosporidium infection.
So why the care around public pools and water parks? As noted, Cryptosporidium doesn’t seem to have much trouble with common chlorine-based disinfectants. Additionally, the parasite is hearty and can survive for months at regular temperatures. You read that correctly: Can survive for months. It can be destroyed by boiling or freezing, however.
Some studies indicate that the secondary results of a cryptosporidium infection may exacerbate the effects of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease. These studies are ongoing but are a further indication of the ability of Crypto to further weaken those who are already weakened by disease immunodeficiencies.
Eating healthy while on the go is always a complicated proposition. Hitting up a quick-service restaurant is sometimes the fastest option, and now that so many are carrying salads, it can be a bit healthier, too. So what happens when produce is served but not properly handled? In a case from July 2018 in the United States, we see how quickly dozens of individuals can be affected by cyclospora infection, how supply chains can be affected, and companies scramble with the FDA to contain the outbreak. This particular case resulted in salads being pulled off shelves in restaurants across fourteen states in the U.S.
Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by the microscopic parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis. People can become infected with Cyclospora by consuming food or water contaminated with the parasite. People living or traveling in countries where cyclosporiasis is endemic are likely at increased risk for infection.
While it occurs in many countries, cyclosporiasis but it seems to be most common in tropical and subtropical regions. In areas where cyclosporiasis has been studied, the risk for infection is seasonal. However, no consistent pattern has been identified regarding the time of year or environmental conditions, such as temperature or rainfall.
In the United States, foodborne outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce, such as raspberries, basil, snow peas, mesclun lettuce, and cilantro; no commercially frozen or canned produce has been implicated to date.
So What Do I Do?
U.S. cases of infection also have occurred in persons who traveled to Cyclospora-endemic areas. To reduce the risk for an infection, travelers should take typical precautions such as taking care to consume only treated/purified water, ensuring food has been properly cleaned prior to consumption, and other similar precautions. Travelers should be aware that treatment of water or food by routine chemical disinfection or sanitizing methods is unlikely to kill Cyclospora oocysts.
And if you haven’t been able to avoid travel to such areas? If you haven’t been able to resist your children’s (or your) desire to spend a little time at the pool or relax in the hotel hot tub? You may need to get some tests run. As mentioned earlier, get a little blood work done. Look for a comprehensive panel. Seek additional medical opinions. If your work comes back showing you have parasites, look for the right kind of protocol that can help you get your drainage going, and then stir up (and root out) parasites that have taken up residence in your microbiome. Parasites don’t go easily, but they can be taken out. This process may take time, specifically when the timeline that has brought you to this point has been a long one.
Find a solid plan. Stick to that plan. Be patient. Consult your healthcare practitioner.
For information on how Microbe Formulas’ parasite removal protocol works--and can work for you, click here.