Parasites. For many, this word conjures up frightening images of 10-foot-long worms, like tapeworms, the eggs of which have been reported to be found in ill-prepared sushi. Parasites are actually any organism that derives nourishment and shelter from its host, but in doing so, is detrimental to the health of its host. They can damage the intestinal lining, the blood cells, the liver, the heart and so on. Most of them cannot be seen with the naked eye, so neither can their eggs.
Here are the 5 most common ways you can get parasites:
1.Eating ill-prepared raw foods. One recent article suggested that over fifty percent of Atlantic salmon is infected with a parasitic louse. There are dozens of fish parasites, which is why fish farms rely on pharmaceuticals to protect their stock. It’s also why fish being prepared for use in sashimi and sushi must be prepared carefully before use and are served with very pungent condiments! Not a sushi fan? Even organically grown fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly before eating them raw. Prefer cooked vegetables? Your risk may be reduced. The heat of thorough cooking will destroy parasites and their eggs.
2. Drinking water directly from a freshwater lake, river or stream. Ever heard of ‘beaver fever’? Giardia lamblia is a parasite that North Americans hikers and campers can acquire in one gulp, resulting in chronic irritable bowel-type symptoms that can go unsolved for years. That’s right; it is uncommon for medical doctors to test for giardia before assigning a diagnosis for IBS.
3. Your pets. Yes, your cat or dog may contract a parasite that could be transmitted to you via a slobbery kiss. One such parasite is cryptosporidium, which veterinarians and medical doctors believe to be highly infectious. Children are most vulnerable to this parasite because they are close to the ground and they tend to put fingers in their mouths. Unlike canine heartworm, there is no vaccination against it.
4. Unprotected sexual activities. It should come as no surprise that if a virus as small as HIV can pass through blood, semen and vaginal secretions then parasitic micro-organisms can also pass through. For example, trichomonas is the most common parasitic STI (sexually transmitted infection) worldwide.
5. Foreign travel. Visiting a region where sanitation and hygiene are not on par with western, industrialized regions can increase your risk of acquiring a parasite. Walking barefoot on infected soil is a risk factor for old-world hookworm, for instance.
I could keep this list going, but you get the point. These tiny organisms are everywhere, and even if you sit at home with a cat on your lap and make your own food you are at risk . Even a healthy immune system may not offer protection against most parasites.
Our grandparents and great-grandparents were wise to ‘de-worm’ the family a couple times per year with homemade concoctions. When’s the last time you de-wormed the kids? Why we stopped this practice may have a lot to do with the false sense of security created by the success of antibiotics; however, antibiotics only kill bacteria–not nematodes (worms), nor fungi, nor protozoans (like giardia).
You don’t need to wait until a doctor diagnoses you with a parasite to enjoy the benefits of a parasite cleanse. If you have an inflammatory skin condition, chronic digestive difficulties, or any other health challenge, parasites could be part of the problem. Cleansing the body of parasitic organisms is a form of detoxification that can result in better sense of well-being. But it requires nutritional modifications and lifestyle modifications to prevent re-infection. Read more about cleansing and detoxifying.