How to Test for Intestinal Parasites
Having a parasitic infection is a common health issue that is often overlooked and underdiagnosed. If left untreated, a parasitic infection can lead to numerous other health issues and potentially even life-threatening illnesses. Parasites are a worldwide problem that surpasses epidemic proportions. It estimated that over half of the world’s population have a parasitic infection. So, if you’re reading this, there’s a 1 out of 2 chance that you have one as well.
However, there is no need to be alarmed. With the right information and tools, you can safely and effectively get rid of any parasitic infection, and in this article, we’re going to discuss how. We’ll discuss what parasites are, how common they are, how we get infected by them, what symptoms they cause, how to test for them, the problem with standard parasite tests, and most importantly, how we can get rid of parasitic infections and restore our health.
What Is a Parasite?
A parasite is defined as an organism that feeds on the nutrients of a host. There are many different species that are classified as being parasitic, and many that can infect humans. When we have a parasitic infection, the parasite(s) may steal nutrients from our food and rob us of receiving proper nutrition. They also release their toxic waste inside us which can also contribute to poor health.
The combination of stealing our nutrients and releasing toxic waste inside us causes parasites to be a major threat to our body’s immune system, which relies on nutrients from food to function optimally.
How Common Are Parasites?
Parasites are incredibly common—much more than you might think. In fact, it’s estimated that around 40 percent of all animal species are parasites. So, it should be no surprise that humans are also at risk of parasitic infection. Yet, many people hold an inaccurate view on parasites that they only exist in tropical countries or in third-world countries with poor sanitation. While parasites are certainly more prevalent in these places, they exist in every ecosystem, and are abundant in the United States as well.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has even acknowledged what they call “neglected parasitic infections” (NPIs), and say that these parasitic infections in the United States need to be seen as priorities for public health action based on the numbers of people infected, the severity of the illnesses, or our ability to prevent and treat them. The five targeted NPIs identified by the CDC include Chagas disease, cysticercosis, toxocariasis, toxoplasmosis, and trichomoniasis.
CDC Director Tom Frieden stated that “Parasitic infections affect millions around the world causing seizures, blindness, infertility, heart failure, and even death. They’re more common in the US than people realize and yet there is so much we don’t know about them. We need research to learn more about these infections and action to better prevent and treat them.”
- In the United States alone, more than 300,000 people are infected with Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease, and more than 300 infected babies are born every year.
- There are at least 1,000 hospitalizations for symptomatic cysticercosis per year in the United States.
- At least 14 percent of the U.S. population has been exposed to Toxocara, the parasite that causes toxocariasis, and each year at least 70 people—most of them children—are blinded by resulting eye disease.
- More than 60 million people in the United States are chronically infected with Toxoplasma gondii, the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis; new infections in pregnant women can lead to birth defects and infections in those with compromised immune systems can be fatal.
- The Trichomonas parasite is extremely common, affecting 3.7 million people in the United States. Trichomoniasis can cause pregnancy problems and increase the risk of other sexually transmitted infections including HIV.
As you can see, parasites are quite common, despite the popular myth that they only exist in third-world countries. Not only are they common, but they can cause serious health issues, especially if the infection is left untreated.
Oftentimes parasitic infections go unnoticed with few symptoms, but many times the infections cause serious illnesses, including seizures, blindness, pregnancy complications, heart failure, and even death. Anyone—regardless of race or economic status—can become infected with parasites.
How Do We Get Infected with Parasites?
Parasites are everywhere, they can come from a variety of sources, and they are often microscopic, so it is incredibly difficult to see or prevent coming into contact with parasites or parasite eggs. Parasites are also highly contagious, especially when you don’t wash your hands often or practice good personal hygiene.
Animals are often hosts to numerous parasites, and so if you have pets it is inevitable that you will become exposed to them. These types of infections are called “zoonotic diseases” and they are very common. Scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals, and 3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.
Not only owning animals as pets, but eating animals, particularly raw fish, is a common way to get a parasite. You can also get parasites from eating unwashed (and sometimes even washed) fruits and vegetables.
You come into contact with parasites from touching other people, grabbing public handrails or doorknobs, and drinking unsanitary water. Exposure to child and institutional care centers—schools, doctors’ offices, hospitals, and so on is another common source of parasites. You can get them from coming into contact with feces, walking barefoot on contaminated soil, and you can even breathe in parasite eggs.
Basically, there is no way to avoid coming into contact with them unless you live a totally isolated and sanitized life (and even then, there are no promises). While parasites are unavoidable, we can get rid of them. We can cleanse our bodies of them a few times a year and we can boost our immune systems with a healthy diet and lifestyle so that we are better equipped to defend ourselves against parasitic infection. By cleansing our bodies and eating healthy, we not only reduce populations of parasites, but we create an internal environment that does not allow them to thrive.
What Are the Most Common Types of Parasitic Infections?
While some parasites are easily identified, such as tapeworms, roundworms and hookworms, most parasites that people suffer from are actually microscopic bugs such as amoebas or flukes. Though the list of parasites that effect humans is extensive, there are three main types of parasites. These are:
Protozoa: Examples include the single-celled organism known as Plasmodium. A protozoa can only multiply, or divide, within the host.
Helminths: These are worm parasites, such as roundworm, pinworm, trichina spiralis, tapeworm, and fluke.
Ectoparasites: These live on, rather than in their hosts. They include lice and fleas.
Symptoms of Parasites
Parasites can pass on a wide variety of conditions, so symptoms are hard to predict. Oftentimes there are also no symptoms, or symptoms that appear long after infection, but the parasite can still be transmitted to another person, who may also develop symptoms.
There are many types of parasite, and symptoms can vary widely. Sometimes these may resemble the symptoms of other conditions, such as a hormone deficiency, pneumonia, or food poisoning.
Common symptoms that might occur include:
- Skin bumps or rashes
- Weight loss, increased appetite, or both
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sleeping problems
- Aches and pains
- Weakness and general feeling unwell
- Gas or bloating
- Dysentery (loose stools containing blood and mucus)
- Rash or itching around the rectum or vulva
- Stomach pain or tenderness
- Feeling tired/fatigued
- Passing a worm in your stool
How to Test for Parasites
There are many different lab tests and different ways to test for parasites, and the kind of test(s) your health care provider might order for you will be based on your signs and symptoms, any other medical conditions you may have, and your travel history, etc. Due to their small size, and to their elusive nature, diagnosis of parasites can be difficult, so often times multiple tests are performed to get the most accurate reading.
Different Types of Parasite Tests
The most common types of parasite tests include:
A fecal (stool) exam, also called an ova and parasite test (O&P)
This test is used to find parasites that cause diarrhea, loose or watery stools, cramping, flatulence (gas) and other abdominal illnesses. The CDC recommends that three or more stool samples, collected on separate days, be examined. The O&P test looks for parasite ova (eggs) or the adult stage of the parasite.
Typically, someone doing an O&P test will put small amounts of their stool into special containers with preservative fluid. Specimens not collected in a preservative fluid should be refrigerated, but not frozen, until delivered to the lab, or they may become unable to be used for diagnosis.
An endoscopy is another method of parasite testing that is used to find parasites that cause diarrhea, loose or watery stools, cramping, flatulence (gas) and other abdominal illnesses. This test is often used when stool exams do not reveal the cause of your abdominal symptoms. This test is a procedure in which a tube is inserted into the mouth (endoscopy) or rectum (colonoscopy) so that the doctor, usually a gastroenterologist, can examine the intestine. This test looks for the parasite or other abnormalities that may be causing your signs and symptoms.
Some, but not all, parasitic infections can be detected by testing your blood. Blood tests only look for specific types of parasite infection, as there is no blood test that will look for all parasitic infections. There are two general kinds of blood tests that a doctor may order:
- Serology—This test is used to look for antibodies or for parasite antigens produced when the body is infected with a parasite and the immune system is trying to fight off the invader. This test is done by getting a blood sample and sending it to a lab.
- Blood Smear—This test is used to look for parasites that are found in the blood. By looking at a blood smear under a microscope, parasitic diseases such as filariasis, malaria, or babesiosis, can be diagnosed. This test is done by placing a drop of blood on a microscope slide. The slide is then stained and examined under a microscope.
X-ray, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan, Computerized Axial Tomography scan (CAT)
These tests are less commonly used for parasite diagnosis, but are sometimes used to look for some parasitic diseases that may cause lesions in the organs.
The Problem with Parasite Tests
The problem with parasite tests is that they are not always capable of diagnosing a parasitic infection, and in fact, they are often quite ineffective. Certain tests do an excellent job at testing for certain types of parasites, but there are so many types of parasites that simply cannot be diagnosed with standard testing, and the tests that we do have available also have their issues. So, even when a test does not identify any parasites or parasite eggs, it is not necessarily proof that there is no parasitic infection.
The O&P exam is by far the most common form of parasite test, but many intestinal parasites are not reliably detectable by the O&P exam. The O&P exam also involves looking for parasites or for parasite eggs in stool. Not only does this require that one out of the three stool samples submitted contains some evidence of parasites, which it very well may not, it also requires that those observing the stool under the microscope be able to find this evidence if it is there.
The biggest issue, however, is that typically they are not even looking for the right thing. If you analyze the test results of a common O&P test, you’ll find that what they are actually screening for are bacteria.
The report of the O&P exam is divided into two sections: Microbiology and Parasitology. All the tests for specific organisms of any kind fall under the Microbiology section. Here, they most commonly test for:
All of which are actually forms of bacteria—not parasites.
Under Parasitology, the section where we could reasonably assume that they test for all the most common parasites (roundworm, whipworm, hookworm, 6 different kinds of tapeworms, liver flukes, intestinal flukes, toxocara, trichini, filarial worms like strongyloides, protozoal organisms like giardia, and several types of intestinal amoeba) they actually only look to see if there is any evidence of parasites (such as eggs or tissue from parasite bodies) in the small stool sample provided. If they didn’t see anything, they simply write on the test “NO OVA OR PARASITES SEEN.” This only means that they didn’t see any parasite eggs or parasites, it does not actually mean that you do not have any parasites.
So, the O&P test, which is the most common form of parasite test, as well as the endoscopy/colonoscopy, rely on someone looking for parasites in your body, and basing whether or not you have an infection on whether or not they were able to see any evidence of parasites.
The issue with this is:
- A parasite may not have shed any eggs in the stool sample you submitted, so there may be nothing to see. Many organisms go through latent cycles, which means there may be times, perhaps even for months, where they are not reproducing (e.g. not excreting eggs).
- If a parasite did shed eggs in your stool, did you scoop up those particular eggs in the tiny portion you extracted as a sample? Most organisms secrete eggs in line with their reproductive cycles and the mass of eggs tends more to be condensed together than diffused apart. If they were condensed on the bottom, and the sample was scooped from the top, you could easily have missed all of the eggs.
- Even if you managed to get some eggs into the sample, the lab tech would then need to take a portion of that sample out with a dropper and dilute it in a stabilizing gel to make it visible on the microscope slide. Were there any eggs in their sample of your sample? Were there enough eggs after the dilution to still see any in a visual examination?
As you can see, there are a lot of issues with parasite testing, and unfortunately, parasite tests are often not very effective. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t get a test if you are experiencing symptoms or are concerned that you may have a parasite. It just means that testing for parasites with traditional methods is not always effective, and if a test comes back negative it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a parasite.
Given that parasites are virtually everywhere in nature, and that they infect more than half the world’s population, it is safe to say that we have, or will have, a parasitic infection at some point. One of the best things we can do is simply to undergo a parasite detox cleanse to eliminate what parasites may be affecting our health. Thankfully, when done properly, a parasite cleanse is safe and effective, and uses only natural foods and herbs to remedy the infection.
How to Safely Get Rid of Parasites
The subject of parasites is complex, and there is a lot that we still do not know about parasites. However, humans have struggled with parasites for thousands of years, and many natural forms of parasite cleanses have developed over this time. While there are anti-parasitic drugs and pharmaceuticals available, these contain very strong chemicals that often do more harm than good—though they may be beneficial in the case of severe infections that require immediate treatment.
The best way to get rid of parasites naturally is to use anthelmintic herbs and herbal extracts. Anthelmintic herbs are herbs that contain compounds known to kill parasites. The strongest and most widely used anthelmintic herbs are Green Black Walnut Hull, Wormwood, and Fresh Cloves. Together, these three herbs make up what is traditionally known as “wormwood complex,” and are the ingredients that also make up our parasite detox supplement.
Our formula is a high-grade concentration of these herbs extracted in 85% organic alcohol making for a very therapeutic and effective formula. The combination of these three herbs helps support the body's effective detoxification of both the egg and the adult stages of 100 different internal parasites, including amoebas, giardia, many worms, and liver flukes.
To get rid of parasites, give our blog a read "How to do a Parasite Cleanse Safely and Effectively", and also make sure to read about how to avoid parasite die off effects. A parasite cleanse is also greatly supported by drinking a lot of purified water, and consuming anti-parasitic foods such as pumpkin seeds, papaya, raw garlic, chilies, raw honey, bitter greens, probiotics, and others.
Parasites are an incredibly common health issue that many people suffer from. While some parasitic infections show little or no symptoms, others can be life-threatening. Given how prevalent parasites are, it is inevitable that nearly everyone will have a parasite at some point in their life.
There are many lab tests and methods available for testing parasites, and while these are sometimes effective, especially for testing specific types of parasites, they are more often than not ineffective at accurately diagnosing if someone has a parasitic infection.
The best method is to simply undergo regular periods of parasite detoxification. Cleansing a few times a year with a Parasite Detox formula, eating a balanced whole foods diet, and following proper eating protocols that support digestion, while also doing your best to avoid some of the major sources of parasitic infection is the best way to maintain a healthy body free of harmful parasites.
The real issue with parasites occurs when we become a host to large populations of them, particularly worms, or helminths, that begin to severely impact our health by depriving us of essential nutrients and depositing toxic waste inside our bodies.
To rid ourselves of parasites involves cleansing them a few times a year, and following certain protocols that help us to prevent contact with them in the first place. While it can be uncomfortable to consider that you may have a parasite, it is much worse to ignore a parasitic infection and leave it untreated. Like anything in life, the more we understand it the less we fear it. When we understand parasites, how common they are, how they impact our health, and how we can get rid of them safely and effectively, then our health is truly in our own hands. We can then act with confidence, knowing that we can lead a life free of the damaging effects caused by unwanted parasites.