Many migraineurs are clenching their teeth at night which then leads to tensions in the jaw muscles and can affect the trigeminal nerve. Folks with trigeminal nerve disorder probably know very well what I’m talking about… this can even affect your heart rate and tension (Source).
But what does that have to do with parasites? Some of you may have seen my post on teeth (or jaw) clenching on IG, where I mentioned briefly that the source of this can actually be linked to intestinal parasites. Stress is of course a big factor too. The thing is that intestinal parasites are most active at night and you know by now that your intestines are in constant communication with your brain via the vagus nerve. So when these critters get active at night, they stress out your brain which leads to jaw or teeth clenching and can of course also impact your sleep quality.
That’s one reason to get rid of parasites for sure! But are they really harmful?
I’ve always thought that a bit of dirt in your veggies surely can’t hurt your health and I surely see it as a positive sign, if there are living creatures in the veggies I buy (as in no pesticides).
Many of my clients have parasites and I myself have been dealing with them on and off for a while. Parasites are part of our environment, they live in our water, soil, you find them in meats and fish, crustaces, pets… but do we need to be worried about them?
As always: if our first line of defense (our stomach acid) works well (aka is sufficient), any ingested parasites should be killed off in that acid. But most people are lacking stomach acid and it’s also naturally declining with age, so the older you get, the more vulnerable you are in that sense. You see that that first line of defense is probably not as performant in most people as it could or should be…
The second aspect is the balance of the good bacteria in your gut who make up your immune defense: you need presence of all bacteria and also sufficient levels of all in order to possibly fight off invaders that are trying to settle in your gut.
Poor sleep, poor diet, antibiotic use, chronic stress, and poor lifestyle habits can compromise your immune health and body’s resistance and may increase your risk of parasite infections and make your symptoms worse.
The top symptoms of parasite infections can include: (and that depends on what type of parasite you have)
Chronic digestive issues (diarrhea, constipation, nausea or even vomiting, abdominal pain, etc)
Fatigue & weakness
Iron deficiency anemia and/or other nutrient deficiencies
Aches and pains
Poor memory, brain fog
Unintentional weight loss
Rashes or skin problems
Everyone is exposed to parasites via food, water, mosquitoes, pets, being outdoors, daycare centers, sexual transmission… Contrary to what you might think, they are actually very common in the Western world, so you don’t have to travel to countries with poor water quality and hygiene to get a parasite… The risk of infection is, of course, higher over there.
There’s certain types of meat and seafood you may want to avoid for parasites - bad news for sushi lovers: raw fish is often contaminated with parasites, so you may want to opt for cooked or make sure you pop extra stomach acid when eating it ;-).
Pork, shellfish, and scavenger fish are particularly high in heat-tolerant parasites. The latter also have a higher toxic load: they feed off dead and decaying matter in the ocean, lakes and rivers. Mollusks are water filters, they pump water over their gills, trapping pieces of salt, bacteria, plant debris, viruses and parasites to consume.
Not so appetizing ey?
There’s different types of parasites and most parasites are not visible to human eyes, including microscopic amoeba and malarial parasites, others can grow very big, like 10-foot-long tapeworms.
The problem with parasites is that they can cause and spread disease. They can enter your circulation and get into your organs. They can infect your liver, lungs, brain, joints, muscles, skin.
Liver flukes (a type of helminth, see below) for instance will settle in your liver: A liver fluke is a parasitic worm that lives on raw or undercooked fish or watercress. After liver flukes have been ingested, they travel from your intestines to your bile ducts in your liver where they then live and grow.
But let’s get back to the intestinal parasites… There’s 2 main types:
Protozoa are single-celled organisms. They live in 2 stages: the trophozoite stage when they are metabolically active and invasive, and the cyst stage where they are inactive. Some of the most common intestinal protozoans include Giardia, Entamoeba histolytica (amoebiasis), Cyclospora Cayetanensis (cyclosporiasis), Cryptosporidium spp (cryptosporidiosis), and Blastocystis hominis (blastocysts).
Image Source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Typical-protozoan-fecal-oral-life-cycle-Cysts-are-highly-infectious-forms-that-convert_fig1_347539956
Protozoa parasite infections are difficult to remove because when you start to attack them, they move back into a cyst stage and other adapted survival techniques. Some of the main symptoms associated with these parasite infections include diarrhea, constipation, nausea, abdominal pain, bloating, dehydration, weakness, low energy, and joint pain.
Helminths are essentially multicellular worms. They are generally large enough to see with the human eye in their adult stage. Some of the main types of helminths include nematodes (roundworms), cestodes (tapeworms), and trematodes (flatworms and schistosomes).
Image source: https://www.verywellhealth.com/helminths-5207511 Helminths are typically unable to reproduce in the human gut. However, they have long life spans and they consume a lot of the nutrients we need to support our bodies. These parasite infections can impact us quickly and severely.
Other than symptoms, how can you tell if you have parasites?
A sensitive and detailed stool panel will tell you if you have parasites or eggs of parasites in your stool. I am working with the GI Map and GI Ecologix stool panel which are both state-of-the-art tests using PCR technique to analyze stool
Blood markers like elevated Eosinophils, Monocytes and Basophils, chronically low white blood cell count, elevated liver enzymes can indicate an intestinal parasite infection. Also low ferritin and overall low iron can be an indication of parasite infections. Certain parasitic infections, including hookworm, whipworm, and schistosomiasis infections, can result in blood loss and consequent iron-deficiency anemia.
If you have a helminths infection, you might see them in your stool
You see, these guys will not only deprive you of nutrients, damage your gut lining and affect your immune system, they can also impact other organs and cause chronic health conditions.
The good news is that you can kill and remove parasites from your body with the help of some powerful herbs and other natural support strategies.
So let’s resume what to do to avoid getting parasites or minimize exposure:
Avoiding foods high in parasites, especially heat-resistant parasites, such as shellfish, mollusks, raw or undercooked fish, pork
Make sure you’re drinking clean water
Washing your produce well
Make sure you have enough stomach acid
Make sure you have a good immune defense aka good bacteria to fight off invaders
Avoid antibiotics or other synthetic drugs that will impact your microbiome (synthetic hormones also count in that category)
If you have a doubt about possibly having a parasite infection, contact me to discuss running the right tests to know what's going on.