The topic of parasites and in particular big-sized parasites, i.e. worms, deserves special, in-depth mentioning due to the importance and seriousness of this particular issue, a disorder generally underrated and underestimated (almost ignored) by modern “official” medicine.
Every generation preceding the modern era has always given great importance to purifying the body from parasites, unlike our generation, who seems to have ignored the matter completely. Yet, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) one fourth of the world population is infested by intestine parasites. In actual fact, recent studies and statistics indicate much higher figures and the Western world is by no means exempt from the phenomenon. What is highlighted is the fact there is a greater dissemination of certain types of parasites in industrialised areas compared to others, which are more present in Third World countries. However, increasingly common social factors such as immigration, travelling and trade bring out and facilitate the interchange of different species, encouraging their expansion, with a resulting, general growth of the phenomenon.
Dr Louis Parrish, a specialist in parasites based in New York, wrote in 1991: “Based on my experience, my estimate is that 25% of the population in New York is infested… and the forecast, accordingly, is that by 2025 8,3 billion people on the planet will be infested by parasites.”
In the book ‘Guess what came to dinner?’, Anne Louise Gittleman writes: “Parasites are a serious public danger because only few people mention it and even fewer people take the issue seriously into account. Their insidiousness lies in the basic mistaken concept, also common among operators in the medical field, that parasites are a problem of the Third World.” Among other things, the fact of underestimating the problem has inhibited the research and development of diagnostic tests, which are therefore outdated and inadequate. There are around 1000 species of parasites, however nowadays it is possible to test only 50 of them.
Moreover, what further complicates the definition of a specific diagnosis, setting aside the only modest percentage of cases in which the problem appears in a clear way, is the variety of possible symptoms.
Symptoms of worm infestation
Parasites can infest any part of the human body, including the abdomen, the blood, chest, diaphragm, intestinal tract, respiratory tract, nervous system, including the brain, feet, hands, genitals, liver, muscles, skin and arms. It is therefore clearly very difficult to make a diagnosis which, without adequate testing systems, relies almost entirely on the doctor’s intuition, since possible symptoms rarely lead to diagnosing parasite infestation right away. Principal symptoms are:
- Constipation: due to their particular shape and size, there are worms that can physically obstruct certain organs. “Heavy” worm infestations can, in fact, block the bile duct and the intestinal tract, making evacuation difficult and irregular.
- Intestinal gas and abdominal bloating: certain parasites live in the upper part of the intestine; the ensuing inflammation leads to the production of gas and bloating, with resulting abdominal tension.
- Irritable bowel syndrome: worms can irritate and inflame intestinal wall cells, leading to a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms and to a malabsorption of nutritional substances – fats in particular, with consequent voluminous evacuation.
- Pain in muscles and joints: certain types of worms have the capacity to establish themselves in the synovial glands or to encyst in muscles, causing joint inflammation and muscle pain.
- Anemia: certain worms adhere to the intestinal mucosa, sucking the host’s nutritional substances. Should there be a high number of parasites present, they may even cause blood loss to the point that, in the worst cases, lack of iron may result in pernicious anaemia.
- Allergies: worms can irritate and sometimes perforate the intestinal wall, increasing the permeability of large, undigested molecules. This can activate an immune response of the body, with an increase in eosinophilic lymphocytes. These in turn may spark off inflammation of the tissues and an allergic reaction.
- Skin affections: intestinal worms can cause skin rashes, urticaria, eczemas and other allergic types of reactions.
- Granuloma: these are are small masses similar to tumours that encapsulate larvae and parasite eggs. They often develop along the walls of colon and rectum but can also appear in the lungs, in the peritoneum, liver and uterus.
- Nervousness: metabolic wastes of parasites and toxic substances can act as irritants for the central nervous system. Restlessness and anxiety are often the result of a pest infestation.
- Sleeping disorders: waking up often during the night, particularly between 2 and 3 in the morning, can be caused by the body’s attempt to eliminate toxic waste through the liver. According to Chinese medicine, these particular hours of the night are dominated by the liver. Sleeping disorders are also caused by the fact that certain parasites tend to exit the intestine through the anus, with consequent itching and intense discomfort.
- Bruxism: anomalous teeth grinding has been observed in cases of infestation from parasites. This can be a nervous response to an internal irritant. Such symptoms are mainly noted in children during sleep.
- Chronic fatigue: symptoms of chronic fatigue include tiredness, fever, apathy, depression, lack of concentration and memory lapses. Worms can be the cause of these symptoms because they are responsible for the malabsorption of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins A and B12.
- Immune dysfunction: worms weaken the immune system because they cause a drop in the secretion of immunoglobulin A. Their continuous presence stimulates the immune system, which can exhaust its response in the long run and thereby give way to the aggression of viruses and bacteria.
Other symptoms of worm infestations can be: weight gain, excessive hunger, sensitivity to certain foods and environmental situations, weight loss, halitosis, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, acne, headache, itching in certain parts of the body (ears, nose, anus, vulva), memory lapses, slow reflexes, jaundice, heartburn, erectile dysfunction, problems related to the menstrual cycle.
The most common species in the Western world
Parasitic worms are divided into Cestodes and Nematodes. Cestodes are similar to leeches and are capable of adhering to the intestinal walls using at times their head (scolex), at times a sucker. Their eggs can be accidentally ingested by humans through dirt, but transmission is generally more likely through ingestion of a cyst generated by a larva contained in meat or fresh vegetables; at this point the worm has almost reached the adult stage: it can adhere to the intestine walls where to settle down safely, continue it maturing process and and start depositing eggs.
Among Cestodes, Tapeworms are the most widespread. According to Dr Thomas J. Brooks, author of The Essentials of Medical Parasitology, “tapeworms are the “oldest” parasites to attack man so much that they have adapted to living in the human intestine without even being noticed by the individual through any kind of symptom.” Tapeworms can reach 10 metres in length and lay up to 1.000.000 eggs a day.
This type of infestation can cause anaemia, as it interferes with vitamin B12, with folic acid and weight variations. Tapeworms take control over all food passing through, leaving the individual constantly hungry, with water retention, intestinal gas, thyroid and intestine dysfunctions, hyper and hypoglycemia, jaundice, abdominal tension. Other worms of the Cestodes family, relatively widespread in the Western world, are trematodes and, among these: Fasciola, Paragonimus, Heterophyes, Metagonemus, Schistosoma (a trematode living in the bloodstream), Dicrocoelium, Alaria, Opistorchis. These harmful small parasites adhere to a wide variety of organs, including lungs, heart, intestine, brain, bladder, liver and bloodstream, causing inflammation. Trematode eggs have small, marked quill and cause harm while they migrate through the body. Infestation comes from eating raw fish, crab or vegetables.
Nematodes are round, similar to terrestrial worms, even if they can be hair thin or microscopic. They are the most elementary kind of worms: their eggs are ingested with dirt and then develop into small larvae, mutate several times before reaching the intestine, where they become adults. Among Nematodes, the most widespread ones are Ascarids, among which: Ascaris Lumbrocoides, Strongyloides Stercoralis, Ancylostoma caninum, Anchilostomatidae, Trituri, Toxocara Canis, Dirofilaria immitis, Trichinosis and Pinworms.
The latter are by far the most widespread worms in the Western world. According to recent estimates, 30% of adults and 50% of children are infested, so Pinworms deserve special attention.
Pinworms are small, transparent white worms measuring about 1cm, also called “Enterobius vermicularis” and they live exclusively in the human intestine. Children as well as adults get infested by ingesting the worm’s microscopic eggs. These eggs, once hatched in the intestine, develop into adults within around a month; the female lays her eggs in the anal orifice. Inizially, the infestation mainly spreads among pre-school and school-age children (1 child out of 2!).
After having touched objects contaminated by faeces, by touching their mouth they inadvertently ingest the egg worms, that can survive in environments outside the intestine for a few days. What happens is that the worm lays its eggs at anal level the child can experience intense itching and will tend to stratch him/herself. Small residues of faeces left on the child’s hand can then pass to objects touched, such as toys, pencils, pens, etc. This way, the circle “closes ends”: another child or adult, touching the same objects and with hand-mouth or mouthing behavior, becomes infested.
The most typical symptom is itching at anal level. In women, complications are greater than in men because pinworms can reach the vulva, uterus and Fallopian tube if they “go the wrong way” in the attempt to get back into the intestine after having laid their eggs. Pinworms can also be visible: in the anal orifice or, more rarely, in faeces. In some cases is it necessary to recur to the so-called “scotch tape test”: in the morning, before evacuating and washing the anal area, the patient applies adhesive tape to the anal orifice for a few minutes. In case of pinworm infestation, the eggs will stick to the adhesive tape and will be visible under the microscope. The laboratory test is a fairly simple one, but the problem is that eggs are not always detectable the first time, so to have higher chances of obtaining reliable results it is necessary to effect at least 3 tests if the attempts give negative results. However, if symptoms are undeniably clear, the doctor can proceed with treatment directly.
Treatment of worm infestations using conventional medicine.
Notwithstanding the fact that according to conventional medicine the problem of intestinal worms almost does not exist – so much that diagnosis is reached following several attempts that often lead to the prescription of countless, unnecessary exams, treatment is based on the use of synthetic antiparasitic medicines such as pyrantel pamoate, mebendazole and albendazole. Generally, therapy consists in taking a single dose drug, repeating after 10 – 20 days (in the attempt to eliminate worms hatching after taking the first dose).
Family members are considered to be at risk of infestation, so doctors often recommend the medicine is taken by all of them, yet with considerable limitations, considering that it is contraindicated in case of pregnancy, meaning that women in reproductive age need to wait for the next menstrual cycle before taking it; moreover, it cannot be administered to children below one year of age. In addition, because of the peculiar habit of female pinworms to lay their eggs in the perianal area, the risk of self re-infestation is very high and, due to the fact that treatment using these medicines cannot be repeated at short intervals (they are, in fact, poisonous!), it’s more often than not the case that a definitive solution is difficult to reach.
Nature can help you definitely eradicate the problem of intestinal worm infestation.