What are Parasites?A category of living organisms that cause an infection, parasites need the host organism in order to survive, and they thrive off of the host's resources. Though parasites may seem simplistic, they are highly effective and efficient at what they do, and the “host” body is the one that ends up suffering. They find their way into nooks and crannies in the body, reproduce often, and can create a chronic problem that may take years for the body to rid itself of before it's all said and done. Perhaps the most difficult part about parasites is that they are hard to identify once they take up residence in your body. Some cause serious symptoms, while others create low-grade inflammation that doesn't manifest until years later. It is for this reason that many naturopathic doctors recommend supporting the body with periodic detoxes and cleanses, using various detox products.
The Five Most Common Types of Parasitic DiseaseAccording to CDC data, there are five types of parasites that are most common within the human body. (1) These types of parasitic infections are quite commonplace, with hundreds of thousands of Americans affected each year. Some kids are even born with parasites already eating away at their bodies, as is the case with Chagas disease (not to be confused with medicinal mushrooms!).
Here are the most common diseases caused by parasites today:
Chagas DiseaseWith more than 300,000 Americans infected with Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease, it goes without saying that this is a huge, silent problem. Chagas disease is transmitted through a bite from the triatomine bug, which then deposits its feces in skin openings on the human body. This can lead to long-term digestive, cardiac and neurological disorders. (2) Parasites are capable of causing debilitating health issues in many different areas of the body, which is why undergoing a natural parasite cleanse is wise.
ToxocariasisOver five percent of all Americans have antibodies against this type of parasitic infection. But huge swaths of the population are at risk for contracting it from dogs and cats, which carry the Toxocara canis parasite. (3) This infection generally comes from roundworms found in the intestines of our pets. While the infection rate of 5% sounds low, asymptomatic carriers could number higher. And people worldwide are at risk of infection and, in some rare cases, death. (4) Be sure to see your doctor, preferably a naturopath, if you suspect you have these parasites in your body.
CysticercosisCaused by the Taenia solium tapeworm, this parasitic infection lives in human tissues such as the brain and muscles, making it especially dangerous. Complications that may arise from this type of parasitic problem include seizures and other similar issues. There are at least 1,000 people hospitalized each year in the U.S. because of this type of infection alone. (5) Often, infection is the result of eating uncooked or under cooked pork that may contain its larvae. But here's the thing: it is spread through human feces. Pigs get it when they come in contact with infected human feces. Since the larvae live in muscle tissue, undercooked pork may, indeed, lead to infection.
Toxoplasma GondiiKnown as the “cat poop parasite,” this one infects between 20% and 50% of the world population, according to CNN. It is often contracted when coming in close contact with cats, as well as in undercooked meat. (6) This nasty little parasite creates the infection Toxoplasmosis. While Toxoplasma gondii can only reproduce in the main host animal (cats only!), it can replicate in human cells and create problems in the brain and eyes. Loss of vision or encephalitis may result. (7) If you are or may be pregnant, let your partner clean the litter box. An infection with T. gondii can infect the fetus. And immunocompromised people should also avoid the litter box! (8) Swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches and eye problems may arise from coming into contact with these parasites. If you have a cat or have come into contact with any of these forms of food, you may want to look into a natural parasite cleanse.
TrichomoniasisA common and curable sexually transmitted disease (STD), this protozoan parasite infection affects 3.7 million people in the United States, although the vast majority of them will not develop symptoms. (9) Antibiotics are the standard medical course of treatment for this parasite. But those looking for a less toxic alternative may want to try natural parasite detox herbs and cleanses instead.
Major Sources of Parasite InfectionsParasites come from many of the aforementioned sources, along with several others to know. (10) They are especially common in areas where sanitation may be lacking in terms of food, sewer systems, and water, as well as in industrialized areas. In addition, parasites are found more often in:
- Tropical and subtropical areas
- Bodies of fresh water, including creeks, rivers, ponds and lakes. The dirtier they are, the more likely you may get a parasite infection
- The soil (dirt, garden beds, forests and other areas)
- Infected meat (pork and fish, especially of the uncooked variety like sushi, are questionable)
- Pets such as cats or dogs
- Stomach pain
- Weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Aching muscles
- Abdominal pain
- General discomfort