By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Many people have symptoms of a parasite infection and don’t even know it!
Research shows that a significant proportion of the population has a parasite infection. Parasite infections can cause many symptoms, and the most difficult part about it is that most of the symptoms they cause are not even gastrointestinally related. This means you may not experience gas, bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, or acid reflux. It is very possible that if you have these symptoms, you more than likely have some type of gut infection. But what if you don’t have any of these symptoms?
Individuals tend to make the connection between gut symptoms and gut infections pretty naturally. It’s symptoms of parasite infections that don’t involve gut symptoms that leave people scratching their head.
Parasites may primarily reside in the gut, but they have the ability to travel through the body. Some parasites can even make their way up to your brain.
The Not-So-Obvious Symptoms of Parasite Infections
- Brain fog
- Sweet cravings
- Mood disturbances (anxiety or depression)
- Skin issues
- Nutrient deficiencies (anemia)
- Crawling sensation under your skin
The More Obvious Symptoms of Parasite Infections
- GERD or acid reflux
- Crohn’s Disease
- Ulcerative colitis
What Is a Parasite Infection?
A parasite infection is an organism that lives off another organism. Parasites will not only rob you of energy and nutrition but also produce other biotoxins that can disrupt digestion. These toxins come from the defecation of the parasites as well as the dead debris of the parasites.
When we deal with parasites, we have ones that are bigger, like worms: hookworms, roundworms, pinworms, tapeworms, nematodes, protozoa, and more. These are infections that are typically big enough to be seen by the human eye.
We have small parasites that are microscopic and can only be seen under a microscope with specific stains: Giardia, Entamoeba histolytica, Blastocystis hominis, Cryptosporidium, Dientamoeba fragilis, Entamoeba coli, Yersinia enterocolitica, Entamoeba hartmanni, and Toxoplasma to name only a few.
Of the patients I see with health concerns, 70–80% have a parasite infection like the ones mentioned above. Most people aren’t aware of this hidden stressor as they go from doctor to doctor looking for answers to what’s causing their health issues. There is almost always an infection connection at play.
Chronic infections deplete your body’s ability to produce regenerative hormones, like DHEA, testosterone, progesterone, thyroid hormone, and growth hormone. When our anabolic/regenerative hormones are depleted, we are put in a very difficult situation to heal. Even if the infection is removed, there is a good chance of a reinfection due to the weakened hormonal environment.
The Stress Caused by Parasites
Our immune, lymphatic, and detoxification systems are put in overdrive when parasite infections are active. Our lymphatic system is busy trying to move toxins out of the tissues and commonly gets backed up and stagnant when inflammation is elevated.
Our detoxification system has to filter out the blood and run our cytochrome P450 oxidase enzymes (phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification pathways) so clean blood can then be recirculated.
Our immune system is revved up and produces antibodies and specific white blood cells known as eosinophils to help attack the various critters. Our immune system also stimulates various cytokines and interleukins to mobilize the attack against these foreign invaders.
Parasite Infections Make Us Stupid!
How does this happen? I will speculate.
Essentially, when inside our bodies, parasites can produce biotoxins that decrease our mental performance. You may be eating good food, but the parasites have the opportunity to eat it before you do. This can affect your absorption of nutrients whether or not your diet is nutrient dense.
Poor performance was associated with parasite status and had no association with educational attainment or memory function.
The study (linked above) showed there is evidence that the more parasites you have the more they have an effect on your attention/cognition. Decreasing your parasite load (i.e., getting rid of your parasites) can make you more intelligent.
One of the first places I look when chronic brain fog and memory issues occur outside of diet and lifestyle is at the potential of chronic infections.
Parasites and Nutritional Deficiencies
Did you know parasites can steal your nutrients in spite of a healthy diet? You aren’t what you eat, but what you eat assimilates, absorbs, and utilizes.
“Recent work has also shown that a malabsorption syndrome leading to poor absorption of essential nutrients may occur in patients heavily infected with hookworms, Strongyloides stercoralis, and Giardia lamblia.”
Anemia, whether it is iron-deficiency or vitamin-B-deficiency, can be devastating on your body’s ability to produce energy! It’s possible for a parasite infection to cause chronic fatigue.
Our bodies utilize B vitamins, especially B12 and folate, to make healthy red blood cells so we can carry oxygen and nutrition to all of our cells. Without healthy B12 levels, it is nearly impossible for our thyroid and adrenals to work optimally.
Without enough iron our bodies won’t be able to carry enough oxygen. Oxygen is needed for the creation of ATP, which is the main currency of energy in our bodies.
Iron is an essential nutrient in the production of thyroid hormone. If your thyroid doesn’t have enough iron, there is a good chance you will suffer from hypothyroidism and all of the symptoms that come with it, like weight gain, fatigue, depression, and digestive problems.
How Do You Test for Parasite Infections?
Comprehensive stool test: There are companies out there, like Genova, BioHealth, Doctor’s Data and Diagnos-Techs, that run more comprehensive parasitology tests than what your conventional doctors or hospitals may run.
I have seen hundreds of patients that have tested negative on the conventional panels but then test positive on the specialty panels that I run.
These specialty tests use better staining techniques and more specialized parasitologists, and they even incorporate PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to search for the bugs via DNA.
Multiple stool samples on subsequent days helps increase the chance of picking up a bug. Most conventional stool tests only test 1-2 samples on 1 day.
How Do I Fix It?
If you think you have a parasite infection or don’t have an answer to why you are sick, you need to get assessed.
There are different protocols or parasite cleanses depending on which type of parasite infection you have. Most infections can be eradicated with an herbal medicine protocol, but some may need antibiotics.