The longest tapeworm ever found in a human’s intestines was approximately 82 feet, which is the length of a standard swimming pool (1). If that’s not the stuff of nightmares, what is?
But the sad fact of the matter is that parasites such as tapeworms are far more common than we tend to believe. And yes, they affect people in developed nations, too.
Parasites In North America
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, millions of Americans play host to parasites every single year (2). Some can live undetected inside a human host for many years.
There are three types of parasites that affect humans.
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These one-celled organisms can’t be seen with the naked eye. They can function both as parasites and on their own. When they affect humans, they tend to multiply, resulting in serious infections that begins when a single protozoa manages to get in.
They are most often contracted through contaminated food, water, or feces. Other protozoa live in human blood and tissues. Some can even find their way in through mosquito or sand fly bites (3).
The four types of protozoa include sarcodina, matigophora, ciliophora, and sporozoa.
Unlike protozoa, adult helminths are multicellular organisms that can be seen without a microscope. They do not need a host to survive and cannot multiply in a human body.
They include roundworms, flatworms, and thorny-headed worms.
“Ectoparasite” is a general term that refers to any insect that burrows into the skin and lives there for a period of days, weeks, or months. Most people will come into contact with ectoparasites at some point or another.
They include ticks, lice, mites, and fleas.
These parasites are likely to transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, as well as other pathogens.
The Difference Between A Parasite And A Parasitic Infection
Not all parasites cause diseases when they affect a host (4). In fact, some may live relatively undetected.
Others grow, reproduce, or give off toxins and can cause serious diseases. This is called a parasitic infection.
For instance, malaria is a parasitic infection that caused 438 000 deaths in 2015 out of 214 million yearly cases. Parasitic infections such as malaria tend to thrive in warm, humid regions close to the equator. It’s estimated that 3.2 billion people (nearly half of the world’s population) are at risk of malaria (5).
Humans can contract parasites from the following sources:
- Contaminated water
- Close contact with infected humans
- Close contact with animals
- Eating undercooked meat
- Eating unwashed fruits and vegetables
- Travelling to an area known to have parasites
- Poor hygiene or sanitation
Symptoms to Look Out For
It’s important to be able to recognize the symptoms of a parasitic infection, especially if you’ve acquired it in a foreign country.
Visit a clinic or hospital if you notice any of these signs (6):
- Abdominal pain
- Gas and bloating
- Frequent bladder or yeast infections
- Rashes or itching around the anus or genitals
- Dysentery (loose stools that contain blood or mucus)
- Feeling tired
- Weight loss
- Getting sick easily and often
- Mouth or lip sores
Can Parasites Be Treated Naturally?
In short, yes!
Of course, if you think you might have a parasite, you should always talk to a health professional right away. If your symptoms persist or worsen, get to an emergency room or drop-in clinic immediately.
Once you have your diagnosis, start taking this simple tea to help your body clear itself out.
- A thin slice of ginger
- 1 clove of garlic
- ½ tsp of cinnamon (optional)
- Grate ¼ clove of garlic and ½ a slice of ginger into a small saucepan.
- Add powdered cinnamon or grate in a small piece of cinnamon bark.
- Next, Add a cup of water and heat on your stove at the lowest setting.
- As it begins a light boil, remove from heat and let it cool for 5 minutes or so.
- If you want to add a bit of raw honey, wait until the tea has cooled to room temperature.
- Take 2-3 times a day before meals.
Garlic is a natural remedy that kills parasites and enhances immune function. Its main compound, allicin, is responsible for most of the bulb’s health benefits, including blood pressure and cholesterol regulation (7,8).