Is Something Having YOU for Dinner?

Chances are YES!   What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You!

A 46-year-old woman was admitted to the hospital because of swelling of her left breast. A x-ray examination revealed that 2 x 2 cm nodule was noticed in subcutaneous tissue. Breast cancer was suspected and the resection was performed. When her breast skin was cut open, a white string like parasite ran out.

This is an entire body that was taken from the patient. Neither head nor mouth was observed. We call this parasite a plerocercoid of Spirometra erinaceieuropaei. Spirometra erinaceieuropaei is a parasite of dogs and cats. Humans become infected with the larval stage (plerocercoid) of this parasite.

Gross isn't it?

Although we don't think of ourselves as parasite hosts, million of North Americans are infected with some kind of parasite.

Parasites! Here? In modern North American? Lands of sanitary regulations, running water, and flush toilets? Countries of hygiene - and health-conscious populations? Don't be ridiculous!

Parasites, although far from mind for most of us, are closer physically than we think. Chances are that a lot of people reading this article are playing host to a few of them. The odds are at least one in 10 and possible five in 10 that you are infected with some sort of parasite. Nice to know, huh?

We may not know about parasites, or even want to know, but we should know, because they can hurt us. Parasites can produce symptoms from the milding uncomfortable to the severe: try constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, joint and muscle aches, anemia, allergies, skin conditions, nervousness, sleep disturbances, teeth grinding, chronic fatigue, and abdominal pain.

Symptoms are not but the half of it, however. Many health practitioners believe that not only do parasites result in symptoms such as those listed above, but that they also may be responsible for a number of other health problems. These include environmental illness, hypoglycemia, Crohn's disease, long-standing obesity, depression, upper respiratory tract ailments, and endometriosis.

Parasites cause these effects because of what they do in the body. They can:

What are Parasites?

The word "parasite" comes from the Greek para, meaning "beside," and sitos meaning "food." This means "an animal orplant that lives on or in another organism from which it obtains nutrients." Four major groups of parasites are Protozoa, Nematodes, Cestodes, and Trematodes.

Parasites enter your body in one of four ways:

  1. Through food and water intake.
  2. Through a transmitting agent, such as a mosquito.
  3. Through sexual conduct.
  4. Via the nose and skin.

The parasite is often harmful. any number of them can infect your gastrointestinal tract. Most parasites produce similar symptoms, as noted above. Parasites survive and reproduce in the body, often for long periods of time - years!

Once in your body, different parasites behave differently. Some parasites eat the food you are eating (sugar is a favorite parasite food), while others eat YOU! Parasites can attach themselves to the body and suck out its nutrition. different types of parasites can cause a deficiency of vitamin A, vitamin B12, and iron.

While some parasites stay in the intestinal tract, others explore the body, passing through any number of body parts, and often causing havoc as they go. They can, for example, get into joints and eat the calcium linings of your bones, resulting in arthritic tendencies. They can also eat the protein coating on your nerves, causing a disruption in the nerve signals from the brain.

Yes, parasites are with us and can do damage. It is worth your while to know a little bit of parasitology.


Protozoa cannot be seen, and they are perhaps the type of parasite that most of us are likely to contract. According to Hermann Bueno, M.D. writing in Univited Guests, the protozoa Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium parvum are the two parasites most likely to be chowing down on Americans.

Giardia is transmitted in cyst form through food and wter that has been contaminated by human or animal feces. The cysts also can be carried by household pets. In North American, giardia is often called a "hiker's" disease, as hikers who drink from contaminated water sources come down with it. However, this parasite has moved from the country and now is turning up in metropolitan areas. Symptoms include diarrhea, bloating, foul-smelling gas, nausea, weight loss, and abdominal cramping. In the small intestine, Giardia can significantly reduce the production of immunoglobulin A, an important source of antibodies. Giardia also interferes with the absorption of vitamin A and B12.

Cryptosporidium is a water-borne parasite but is also transmitted via day-care centers (due in part to unsanitary diaper-changing). Once ingested, Cryptosporidium lodges in the intestine and can result in profuse diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, and possible low-grade fever. In 1993, almost one-half million people in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, received this parasite via the city water supply, and 100 died. It has caused a total of 28,000 citizens in Carrollton, Georgia, and Jackson County, Oregon, to suffer, and has also made appearances in 15 other U.S. states.

Nematodes (includes the larger parasites, such as Round, Hook, and Pinworms)

Roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides) is the most common intestinal parasite in the world. It resembles an earthworm and is transmitted directly to humans from soil or food contaminated with human feces. Roundworms can pass through the liver and the lungs and, in doing so, creates severe tissue irration and allergic reactions. Symptoms in children include nervousness, colic, poor appetite, allergic reactions, and at times malnutrition, as roundworm inhibits absorption of nutrients. Adult symptoms include abdominal pain, edema of the lips, allergic reactions, insomnia, anorexia, and weight loss.

Hookworms (Necator americanus, Ancylostoma duodenal) are found in warm, moist soil and enter the body by penetrating the skin. People who go barefoot are often infected. Hookworms travel through the bloodstream to the lungs (where bronchitis may develop) and to the trachea. They are then swallowed and end up in the small intestine. Symptoms include itchy patches of skin, pimples, and blisters. Hookworms grab onto the intestinal mucosa, resulting in hemorrhage of the mucosa and loss of blood.

Pinworm (Enterobius vermicularis) is the most common worm in the United States, and is found largely in children. The main symptom of pinworms is perianal (outside the anus) itching, especially at night. The itchiness can cause insomnia and, as a result, listlessness, restlessness, and irritability.

The pinworm leaves the body to lay eggs right outside the anus (thus the itching). The eggs can then contaminate underwear, pajamas, sheets, hands, and anything that contaminated hands may touch. The eggs can also float about the house. Thus, while most parasitic infections may be avoided through careful hygiene, you may get pinworm by simply breathing.

Cestodes (Tapeworms)

Tapeworms are the largest of the worms; a beef tapeworm can grow up to 12 meters (39.3 feet) long! There are beef (Taenia saginata), pork (T. solium), fish (Diaphyllobothrium latum), and dog (Dipylidium caninum) tapeworms. A beef tapeworm does not produce marked symptoms, but can result in diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nervousness, nausea, and loss of appetite. Pork tapeworms can be dangerous. When the larvae migrate, they can invade the muscles, heart, eye, and brain. In the brain, they can produce seizures and brain deterioration. It is often misdiagnosed as epilepsy. Fish tapeworms are common in the Great Lakes area and Canada. They can be contracted by eating raw or lightly cooked freshwater fish. Fish tapeworms can consume 80% to 100% of a host's vitamin B12. Symptoms include nausea, anorexia, and pain or fullness in the upper abdomen.

Trematodes (Flukes)

Flukes reside in different areas of the body. There are blood flukes (Schistosoma spp), liver flukes (Clonorchis sinensis), oriental lung flukes (Paragoniumus westermani), sheep liver flukes (Fasciola hepatica), and intestinal flukes (Fasciolopsis buski).

Liver, oriental lung, sheep liver, and intestinal flukes are all transmitted via food, while blood flukes are transmitted via swimming or bathing water. Most fluke infections have occurred outside of North American. Still, it is very possible to contract a fluke. One health practioner, Hulda Clark, Ph.D, claims that parasites (along with pollution) cause all illness, and that intestinal flukes are the worst parasite.

Fluke symptoms include urinary problems, liver problems, hepatitis, abdominal papin, liver abscesses, fibrosis, diarrhea, and vomiting.

What to Do

Although natural and herbal remedies abounded in earlier times, drugs are now generally prescribed for parasites. Unfortunately, many drugs are not as effective as they once were. According to Louis Parrish, M.D., Flagyl, a first-line killer of protozoa, is only 5% effective. Most drugs also come with a long list of side effects.

Many health practitioners now recommend herbal remedies. These remedies use a number of herbs with antiparasitic properites.


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The article "Parasites: Is Something Having you for Dinner" is reproduced with the permission of AIM International.
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