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Are you suffering from a parasitic infection and don’t know it? Here’s my personal story….

YOU HAVEN’T BEEN FEELING YOUR BEST LATELY.

You’re feeling more tired than usual.

You notice you’ve got persistent upper respiratory issues.

Your digestion has been completely out of whack, and you’re especially struggling with diarrheal episodes that don’t seem to match up with a food sensitivity.

Your thyroid functioning plummets.

You’re constantly waking up in the middle of the night.

You aren’t sure what’s going on, but you’re KNOW something isn’t right.

This exact story was me about 1 year ago.

I had all of the symptoms described above which led me to have all kinds of blood work performed by my physician to try and figure out what was going on with me.

My labs came back showing I had a low functioning thyroid. My TSH levels were the at the highest levels that I’d ever seen in my life (indicating I had hypothyroid)!

We tested my ferritin levels and those were low too. My doctor thought maybe my low iron levels were causing my thyroid to plummet.

I needed more answers as to what was going on, so I decided to run the GI MAP stool test on myself.

The results explained EVERYTHING. In short, I was shocked to learn I had an INTESTINAL PARASITE.

Yes, that sounds like a scary thing, but it’s actually WAY more common than you realize!

WHAT’S AN INTESTINAL PARASITE?

A parasite is any organism that lives and feeds off of another organism.

More specifically, intestinal parasites are microorganisms that live and thrive in the human intestine.

Intestinal parasites are categorized as either protozoan (like girardia, blastocystis, diaentamoeba & cyclospora) or helminths (aka worms like whipworm, round worm, tape worm & hook worm).

Globally, protozoan and helminth infections are considered a major public health issue and affect BILLIONS of people world wide.

HOW DO YOU CONTRACT AN INTESTINAL PARASITE?

These microscopic creatures are typically picked up through:

Some parasites can even enter the body by traveling through the bottom of your foot from contaminated soil! hookworm, can be contracted in this manner.

WHAT ARE INTESTINAL PARASITE SYMPTOMS?

Parasites can contribute to any number of symptoms including:

HOW DO YOU TEST FOR AN INTESTINAL PARASITE?

The best way to test for an intestinal parasite is to get a DNA PCR stool test.

Most doctors will run a conventional stool test which is NOT as in-depth or accurate as a comprehensive stool test that’s offered in the functional medicine realm.

So what’s the difference between a conventional stool test and a comprehensive functional medicine stool test?

Conventional Stool Test

In order to detect any kind of parasite, a conventional stool test requires THREE separate stool samples that must be sent to the lab for a pathologist to view under a microscope.

In order to identify parasites using a conventional stool test, the parasite must remain ALIVE as the sample ships to the lab and the medical technologist must be able to SEE the live parasite at the very moment they look at your specimen under a microscope.

As you can see, there are often a high number of false negative results with this type of stool test.

While this can be a useful test for some people, overall it lacks the sensitivity; people may be misdiagnosed as not having a parasite when they may actually have one.

Functional Stool Test

In my practice I use the GI MAP stool test, which tests for 15 different intestinal parasites.

The comprehensive test is much more sensitive than the conventional stool test because it uses Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology to amplify the DNA of the parasite if there is one present.

This technology has a high sensitivity, high specificity, and a rapid turnaround.

This means that the parasite can actually be dead or in its dormant phase and it will STILL be detected!

This leads to more accurate diagnoses that may have been missed with a conventional stool testing.

MY PERSONAL STORY.

Here are the results of my first GI MAP test performed in June of 2018.

After months of struggling with mysterious symptoms I was able to find out the ROOT cause of my problem, hook worm! Eeek! (aka Ancylostoma duodenale).

Hookworm affects up to a BILLION people world wide. Yes, it’s THAT common. Scary, right?
I likely picked up this little bugger during my annual trip to Costa Rica. Though, I also could’ve contracted it during my trip to Italy a few months before that.

The origin of how I contracted this parasite is still a mystery, BUT I feel fairly confident my international travels had something to do with it.

Just so you know, you don’t have to travel internationally to pick up an intestinal parasite!

These buggers actually can be picked up in our own back yard.

If you’re an avid camper, drink well water, smooch on your pets, or are in close contact with someone else who carries these parasites then you’re at risk too!

HOOKWORM & MY SYMPTOMS

From the public health perspective, hookworm infections are important because as many as a BILLION people throughout the world are infected (mainly in tropical and subtropical regions).

My symptoms started out with a lowered immune function (I was getting sick ALL THE TIME) and experienced extreme fatigue.

Hookworm infection is often a major contributor to iron deficiency anemia (a direct consequence of the parasite’s feeding behavior). Which explained my low ferritin levels and therefore my fatigue.

But also there was my plummeting thyroid. My low ferritin levels likely contributed to my thyroid issues, which further contributed to my fatigue and lowered immune function.
To see this diagramed more clearly:

PARASITIC INFECTION —leads to —> LOW FERRITIN — which leads to—-> HYPOTHYROID —which exacerbated —> EXTREME FATIGUE & LOWERED IMMUNE FUNCTION

This is why it’s SO important to take a functional medicine approach to your health!

If I had continued on without this stool test, I likely would’ve been put on thyroid medication. Which wouldn’t have solved what my REAL issue was!

Getting to the ROOT cause of my health problem meant I treated my parasite and not my thyroid or low iron levels as the source of my health problems.

This saved me from having to rely on costly medication for the rest of my life and from many more trips to my doctor’s office with no answer in sight.

CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT METHODS FOR PARASITES

Conventional medical treatment will vary depending on the type of infection, as well as the symptoms presented. 

For example, if someone has a parasitic infection but has mild symptoms or no symptoms, then many doctors may not prescribe you a medication. 

I know some doctors will not prescribe medication for a blastocystis infection, eventhough the patient is struggling with valid health complaints that indicate this infection is a problem.

On the other hand, medications might be given for other cases. 

For example, someone with a Giardia infection might be prescribed Alinia. Someone with a hook worm infection could be prescribed mebendazole.

These pharmaceutical drugs could cause many uncomfortable side effects such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, weight loss, and insomnia–the very SAME symptoms that many experience with a parasitic infection.

However, for others, there may be NO issue with these medications. I’ve had clients take the conventional route with pharmaceuticals and they had no symptoms whatsoever. In fact, they were able to reach resolution within a matter of days.

For others, I’ve seen these medications cause more problems than what they started out with. Each scenario is going to be very individualized and it may take trial and error to figure out the best treatment route for you.

The Bottom Line: It’s important to consider your individual scenario, your medical history, and which treatment route you prefer to take in conjunction with the advice of a well-versed healthcare professional.

NATURAL TREATMENT FOR PARASITES

Fortunately there are some natural treatment methods available to help eradicate parasites.   

Conventional treatment methods might need to be considered in some cases of parasite, but keep in mind many of these medications severely disrupt the health of the gut flora.

Herbal protocols tend to be much gentler on the gut flora so I often recommend trying a natural treatment approach if at all possible, and to resort to conventional treatment methods if the natural treatments are ineffective. 

Probiotics.

There is evidence that taking probiotics can help to reduce the risks of infestation by specific parasites, or at the very least help to complement other anti-parasite treatments.

For example, high dose S. Boulardii has been shown to be beneficial in crowding out Blastocystis infections.  Lactobacillus reuterii could be beneficial in helping to crowd out Cryptosporidium infections.

Your specific probiotic protocol will depend on what infections or overgrowths you’re dealing with so this can get very specialized.

Anti-parasitic herbs & botanicals.

There are many well-known herbs & botanicals for eliminating parasites.

When one of my patients has a parasitic infection I commonly recommend an herbal complex which includes herbs most specific to their parasitic infection, along with a few other ingredients which can help with ridding of parasites. 

In addition to the herbal protocol, I find it is important to support detox pathways in order to avoid any potential die off symptoms that often occur with a sudden increase in endotoxins being released in the body.

Functional Foods.

Herbs, spices and other foods are excellent ways to help combat any unhealthy overgrowth in your gut in addition to providing tons of antioxidants.

Garlic, pumpkin seed oil, oregano, ginger, thyme, rosemary are just a few of these foods.
I recommend you purchase a few fresh herbs and begin using these in your everyday cooking. Experiment with flavors and add a little spice to your life! Here’s a wonderful guide to help get you started.

I also recommend adding in fermented foods like grass fed kefir (if you tolerate dairy) and/or fermented vegetables to help boost beneficial bacteria in your gut.

To give you perspective as to why fermented veggies are so beneficial: A 4-6oz serving of fermented vegetables has up to 10 TRILLION CFU beneficial bacteria! Most probiotic supplements contain only 5-25 BILLION CFUs. That packs a lot of punch!

If you want to get started on fermenting foods I like to recommend Wild Fermentation by Sandoor Katz to get you started.

RESULTS OF MY RE-TEST

Here are my follow-up test results back in August of 2018 after an extensive herbal anti-parasitic protocol I put myself on for about 8 weeks.

As you can see, no more parasitic infection! Hell yes!

It’s been quite a journey since I discovered I had a parasite.

Since eradicating my parasite my thyroid levels started to improve, my ferritin levels improved, and I’m no longer feeling extremely tired or getting frequent upper respiratory infections.

It’s such a relief to have gotten the answers I needed in order to begin to fully heal and move on with my life.

IN CONCLUSION

I hope this article was insightful and helps anyone out there who may be experiencing mystery symptoms like I did.

If you’re a woman looking to jump start your digestive health journey, then I’ve got you covered! To learn more about my 12 week IBS Rehab Program, get started here!

Sarah Neumann Haske, MS, RDN is a Women’s Health Functional Dietitian and owner of Neumann Nutrition & Wellness, LLC. Her practice helps women heal their gut, regulate their hormones and balance their thyroid using a root-cause approach to their health. As a result of her program her clients are able to come off medications, feel more energized, and be more confident in their bodies again. If you’re interested in being a partner in your own health journey and finding the direction and accountability you need to reach your health goals, then schedule your complimentary call with Sarah now.

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