Parasitic infections, as unpleasant as they sound, are much more common than you think. Often, they are to blame for the various health issues we suffer from. From digestive issues to post-traumatic stress disorder, a parasitic infection can affect your physical and mental health.
Not restricted to underdeveloped countries, parasitic infections also exist in many developing or developed countries around the world. It can affect anyone belonging to any gender, race or socioeconomic status. Chances are that if you eat exotic meals or have pets, you’re much more likely to be at risk of developing this type of infection.
Many people are unaware that they are suffering from a parasitic infection and it could be a contributing factor to many chronic health problems. If you are suffering from a parasitic infection, it’s best to look out for the main signs and parasite symptoms in humans in order to start being treated.
A parasite is an organism that lives by feeding off another organism, often called a host. Parasites can cause harm to the host by feeding on it or consuming some of the host’s food, resulting in a range of unpleasant parasite symptoms in humans and health conditions.
How do you know you have a parasite?
Parasites release toxins into your bloodstream and this may cause symptoms similar to various gastrointestinal conditions.
If you’ve developed certain symptoms after swimming or coming back home from an international trip to a tropical country, you may have contracted a parasite.
Additionally, some intestinal parasites are large enough to be seen with the naked eye and may appear as white thread-like creatures in stools.
While some parasites don’t cause noticeable symptoms, some grow, reproduce or invade healthy functioning systems, making their hosts sick, resulting in parasitic infection. For instance, some parasites may consume your food and leave you hungry after meals, resulting in an inability to gain weight. Others may feed off your red blood cells causing anaemia or lay eggs resulting in itching, irritability, and even insomnia.
Anyone can contract a parasitic infection and some people are at higher risk because of certain reasons. One of the most common ways of contracting this type of condition is through contaminated food such as undercooked meat or drinking unclean water.
You are also at risk of a parasitic infection through contact with contaminated faeces, which could spread due to unsanitary habits such as not washing your hands after using the bathroom.
You are also more likely to have a parasitic infection if you have microbiome (gut bacteria) imbalances or a compromised immune system. This could lead to a suppressed immune system and severe gut dysfunction.
Travelling in tropical or subtropical regions of the world, swimming in lakes, rivers or ponds, working in the childcare field, and being in regular contact with soil could also present risk factors for parasitic infection.
Parasite symptoms in humans
The signs and symptoms of parasites vary depending on the organism that’s residing in your body. Some of the most common signs of a parasitic infection include:
- Stomach cramps and pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Digestive problems including unexplained constipation, diarrhoea or persistent gas
- Skin issues such as rashes, eczema, hives, and itching
- Continuous muscle and joint pain
- Fatigue, even when you get enough sleep
- Depression or feeling apathetic
- Never feeling full, even after a big meal
- Constant hunger, even when you’re eating enough
- Iron deficiency/anaemia
- Grinding your teeth during sleep
- Unexplained feelings of anxiety
- Recurrent yeast infections
- Itching of the anus or vagina
- Itching, redness, irritation, and an unusual discharge from the genital area
- Trouble falling asleep or waking up multiple times during the night
These symptoms may look similar to the signs and symptoms of other digestive diseases. Therefore, it’s essential that you confirm your condition with a diagnosis.
Parasite symptoms in humans, such as sleeping irregularities, skin irritation, mood changes, and muscle pain, can all be caused by the toxins released by the parasites into your bloodstream. These toxins could even cause anxiety, which tends to manifest itself in irregular sleeping patterns or teeth grinding. You may also experience mood swings or skin irritation when these toxins interact with the neurotransmitters or blood cells in your body.
What to expect at a consultation
If you decide to schedule a consultation with a physician, there are a few questions that your physician will ask you to determine whether you have intestinal parasites, including whether you have travelled to a foreign country recently and whether you’ve experienced any unexplained weight loss.
If your physician suspects that you may have parasites, you will be requested to undergo one or more of the tests below:
- Faecal testing: Stool samples will have to be collected before you take any antibiotics or anti-diarrhoea drugs. In certain cases, several samples may be required in order to make an accurate diagnosis
- ‘Scotch tape’ test: This test identifies pinworms by touching the tape to the anus a few times and then examining the tape under a microscope for eggs
- X-rays with barium: While this test isn’t generally carried out, your doctor may use it to diagnose more severe problems that could be caused by parasites
Potential treatment options
While in certain cases parasites may clear up over time, especially if you have a strong immune system, there are other cases where parasites can cause complications and doctors may prescribe antiparasitic medication.
Some people prefer natural methods such as parasitic cleanses that include foods that may help in clearing parasites.
If you’re wondering how to get rid of parasites, you could consider a parasite cleanse. Parasite cleansing diets or programmes often require you to consume healthier food. This could also include avoiding processed and greasy foods, gluten, pork, or even dairy, and opting for more natural and whole foods. Your diet could even include anti-inflammatory spices and herbs like turmeric, garlic, and ginger.
Making these dietary changes alone may be sufficient to make the necessary changes in your body since you’re moving to a cleaner diet. Research also suggests that probiotics could aid in the reduction of parasitic infections and in certain cases, treat them even.
Request more information regarding the signs and treatment options for parasitic infection
Parasitic infection can result in a range of health issues that can cause many uncomfortable and painful symptoms. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it’s best to talk to your doctor about the possibility of a parasitic infection.
Contact a team of expert gastroenterologists for more information regarding parasite symptoms in humans, diagnostic methods, and treatment for parasitic infection.