Many people associate parasites with trips overseas to developing countries. But, this simply isn’t the case. It can be estimated that millions of people in the US are infected with a parasite. So, how do you know if you have a parasite?
It’s sometimes very hard to know. Often, parasites go unnoticed. But, they can also cause a myriad serious issues.
It’s also important to note that parasites affect everyone, no matter your economic status.
Now, this article is not meant to scare you.
I truly made this for the purpose of education!
This is because I had a mild parasitic infection that lasted over a year.
It took me this long to ask a doctor about it because my symptoms were mild and I didn’t want to look like a hypochondriac.
In fact, the practitioner I saw was pretty convinced it wasn’t a parasitic infection, but wanted to check “just in case”.
A few days after a super fun stool sample, I got my results back.
I did in fact have a parasite!
Luckily, a 10 day course of antibiotics did the trick, though it was a struggle to get through them (lots of nausea).
I hope that this article can be educational and can help you get your butt to the doctor if you suspect you have an infection.
Of course, your symptoms could be caused by many different issues, but it could be worth it to cross parasites off the list.
Symptoms Of Parasite Infection
Common symptoms of an intestinal parasite include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Stomach pain
If you suffer from a few of these symptoms for long periods of time (more than a few weeks), it’s time to see a doctor.
Usually doctors will only order a parasite test if you have diarrhea or loose stools, so it’s important to be honest. If your stools have been looking a little off lately or you have to go more frequently, bring all of that up.
These symptoms could also be due to irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.
But, you could be suffering from IBS due to a parasitic infection, so it’s always good to rule that out.
I thought I would share my personal experience so that you can get some background in case you have had a similar experience.
It all started one night about a week or two into my senior year.
I had a nice dinner at a restaurant I will not name (because I will still eat there because it is delicious) and then a night out downtown with some of my friends.
After a few Coronas and cheesy tots (also delicious), I felt fine until the wee hours of the morning where I had to rush to the bathroom every few hours.
I noticed that things were a little off after that night.
To be completely blunt, I was a lot more gassy than usual and my bowel movements were not 100% solid.
This wasn’t something that completely alarmed me though. It was not that severe, and really the only way it affected me was occasional embarrassment.
But it still bothered me, so I tried a few different things to fix my issues.
I tried eliminating certain foods, such as gluten, dairy, soy, etc.
But there weren’t any specific foods that triggered my symptoms.
It seemed that my symptoms would randomly spurt up no matter what I ate.
At one point I suspected I had a parasite (after lots of google searches) and tried a herbal treatment.
This helped while I was going through the treatment, but it just came back after I finished.
Plus, the herbal treatment was expensive and inconvenient (I took a pill three times a day and it made my breath smell).
So, I kept trying to eliminate certain foods without any luck.
About halfway through my senior year I even went to the health center at my school.
The doctor said it was probably IBS, but took some blood tests.
My only abnormal blood test with my eosinophils (white blood cells).
The doctor said they were likely high due to seasonal allergies. I would find out later that it was likely high because I had a parasitic infection.
So, I continue trying and failing with certain diets until another six months later at the end of summer.
I went to another doctor who ordered a stool sample.
This is when I discovered I did have a parasite and finally got the proof.
After a round of antibiotics, my gas and poops were finally back to normal!
The Treatment For Parasites
Likely you will get an antibiotic to kill the parasite.
Please take this.
I do believe that antibiotics are not the best, but in this case, it’s really the only thing that’s going to get rid of them for good.
As long as you aren’t abusing antibiotics, a course every few years is going to be ok.
But, nutritionally speaking, there are some precautions you can take.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
Antibiotics can be detrimental to your gut bacteria, which are so important for gut health.
But, antibiotics are also going to kill those probiotics that you are taking to replenish your lost gut bacteria.
So, it’s important to take a probiotic that antibiotics will not kill.
I recommend Saccharomyces boulardii because they have been shown to help prevent antibiotic associated diarrhea.
Try these brands:
After your antibiotic course, be sure to eat lots of foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics.
Vitamins and Minerals
Certain nutrients are not absorbed well when you have a parasitic infection.
Therefore, while you have it and afterwards, you will need to replenish these nutrients.
The following nutrients are going to be important:
- Protein (especially lysine)
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Fluid intake (especially with diarrhea)
First off, you are an expert on your own body.
If you think something is off, go to your doctor and advocate for yourself.
It’s best to test for something you don’t have than not test for something you do have.
Don’t be afraid to speak up.
Go to multiple doctors if you need to.
Do your own research (though be sure to only go to reputable sites).
In the end, just be honest with yourself and seek the help you need. Hopefully, you don’t have a parasitic infection, but it doesn’t hurt to check.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article. If you have any questions please contact me directly. Also, follow me on Instagram @tasteitwithtia for healthy recipes and nutrition information!