What Are Parasites?
A parasite is an organism that lives on or in a host organism and gets its food from or at the expense of its host. In humans, parasites that live inside us use up our vitamins, proteins and other nutrients, depriving us of optimal nutrition. Not only do they steal nutrients from our body, they also eliminate waste inside us, releasing their toxic bacteria and viruses. Parasites are most commonly found in the colon, however, any part of the body is vulnerable to infestation: the lungs, liver, brain, blood, muscles, joints, skin, etc.
Before getting too disgusted or freaked out about this valuable information, it is worth considering the fact that parasites have existed on this planet much longer than humans have, and we have evolved alongside them throughout our history, only we are now becoming increasingly aware of their existence. We don’t know exactly how many species there are, but there are estimates that 40-50% of all living organisms are parasites.
In fact, ecologist and marine biologist Kevin Lafferty stated that, “most animal species are probably parasitic. For humans alone, there are more than 100 host-specific parasites. Among described species on the planet, the ratio of free-living to parasitic is about 60:40, but that’s a gross underestimate. In reality, the numbers are probably much more in favor of the parasites.”
If parasites make up such a significant part of life on Earth, why are most people completely unaware of them? There are a few reasons—one of which is that parasites are often very small, even microscopic creatures, and it is to their advantage to be elusive. Parasites feed on the nutrients of their host, and so they take great care not to be discovered, or else the host may want to get rid of them. Another reason why we know so little about parasites, is that most people are disgusted by the thought of them, and virtually all efforts to understand parasites has been in the context of discovering how to get rid of them, rather than seeking to understand their ecological role.
However much we may not like to hear about the reality of parasites, no amount of avoiding information about them will make them disappear. In fact, it is better for us to educate ourselves about them, so that we can understand how to rid our bodies of harmful parasites, and how we can prevent coming in contact with them in the first place. If we can accept the fact that parasites do indeed exist, and that they are some of the most abundant creatures on Earth, it can help us not approach them from a place of fear and disgust, but rather from one of genuine curiosity to understand. There is a saying that we only fear what we do not understand, and this could not be more true than when considering the realm of parasitic organisms.
The topic of parasites is vast, and there is plenty of information to learn about them, but in the context of health, what is of most concern is the common intestinal parasites that can lead to various health issues. Suffering from intestinal parasites is a common problem that many of us face. A misconception that many people have is that parasites only exist in third-world or tropical countries. While the percentage of exposure to parasites is certainly much higher in tropical climates and places with less sanitation and access to clean water, people in first world countries and temperate climates are not immune.
Almost every single person living has parasites. It’s simply a part of life, similar to how bacteria is on every single thing that we touch. The real issue in terms of health comes from an overgrowth of intestinal parasites that become hazardous to our health. Many modern health issues have parasites as their underlying cause.
How do we get parasites?
Parasites are everywhere, and coming into contact with parasites or parasite eggs can come from a variety of sources. Parasites are also highly contagious, especially when you don’t wash your hands often. Animals are often hosts to numerous parasites, and so if you have pets it is inevitable that you will become exposed to them. Similarly, 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 can get them 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, and you can even breathe in parasite eggs. Basically, parasites are a part of life, and 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 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.
Parasites thrive in a toxic gut that is full of undigested food and waste. If we cleanse our bodies of built up toxins, and focus on properly digesting whole foods and herbs, we can eliminate the internal habitat that allows them to flourish.
Symptoms of Parasites
According to the University of Maryland, “Parasites can live within the intestines for years without causing any symptoms,” making it hard to know whether we have them or not. A lot of the symptoms of intestinal parasites are also similar to many other disorders such as candida overgrowth, infection, etc., however, with the abundance of parasites and the ease of which they can enter our bodies, some, if not most, common health issues may be the result of parasitic infection. If you have any of these symptoms, it is possible that parasites could be the cause:
- gas and bloating
- irritable bowel syndrome
- painful menstruation
- joint and muscle aches
- cravings, especially sugar
- skin conditions – mostly irritation/itching at nose, ears, eyes, anus – but also potentially rashes, hives, eczema
- sleep disorders
- hyperactivity, anxiety
- teeth grinding
- chronic fatigue
- fuzzy thinking
- runny nose
- blisters on lower lip inside mouth
- loss of appetite
- bad taste in the mouth
- vomiting (may return several times a year)
- weight gain OR may have trouble gaining weight
- food allergies
- dark areas under eyes
As you can see, many common ailments can be linked to parasites. So, what do we do to alleviate these symptoms and rid our bodies of these harmful creatures? First, let’s take a look at the common types of parasites to get a better understanding of how we get them and how they exist in relation to us.
Understanding Intestinal Parasites
There are several different types of parasite that could be infecting your intestines. These parasites are all different in the ways that they are made up. One thing that most of them have in common is that they are all types of worms, and they are all bad for our guts. The types of worms in our gut are called Helminths, meaning worms with many cells.
There are three major types of parasite that commonly infect people’s intestines. These parasites are also called soil transmitted helminths. This is because they are worms that live inside soil or fertilizer made from feces. There are billions of people on the planet suffering from soil transmitted helminths. All these people are infected by four specific types of helminth: roundworms, pinworms, whipworms, and hookworms.
In addition to those three common types of parasite, some people may also suffer from tapeworms, which are different from other types of helminths. After talking about the basics of parasites, including the common symptoms associated with them, we will discuss ways to prevent each one, as well as how to eliminate them from your body. While the best way to figure out how to get rid of parasites might be to do a parasite cleanse, we still want to prevent future parasites from coming back.
The first type of parasite we will discuss is Ascariasis lumbricoides, also known as roundworm. This is the most common type of parasitic infection, and it is estimated that nearly one billion people on earth are infected with roundworm. The microscopic eggs of Ascariasis lumbricoides can't become infective without coming into contact with soil. People can accidentally ingest contaminated soil through hand-to-mouth contact or by eating unwashed and uncooked fruits or vegetables that have been grown in contaminated soil.
Once consumed, larvae hatch from the eggs in your small intestine and then penetrate the intestinal wall to travel to your lungs via your bloodstream or lymphatic system. After maturing for about a week in your lungs, the larvae break into your airway and travel up your throat, where they're coughed up and swallowed.
Once back in the intestines, the parasites grow into male or female worms. Female worms can be more than 15 inches (40 centimeters) long and a little less than a quarter inch (6 millimeters) in diameter. Male worms are generally smaller. Male and female worms mate in the small intestine. Female worms can produce 200,000 eggs a day, which leave your body in your feces. The fertilized eggs must be in soil for at least 18 days before they become infective. The whole process — from egg ingestion to egg deposits — takes about two or three months.
These worms are parasites that use your body as a host to mature from larvae or eggs to adult worms. Adult worms, which reproduce, can be more than a foot (30 centimeters) long. Most people infected with ascariasis have no symptoms, though moderate to heavy infestations cause various symptoms, depending on which part of your body is affected.
After you ingest the microscopic ascariasis eggs, they hatch in your small intestine and the larvae migrate through your bloodstream or lymphatic system into your lungs. At this stage, you may experience signs and symptoms similar to asthma or pneumonia, including persistent cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing
After spending six to 10 days in the lungs, the larvae travel to your throat, where you cough them up and then swallow them. The larvae mature into adult worms in your small intestine, and the adult worms typically live in the intestines until they die. In mild or moderate ascariasis, the intestinal infestation can cause vague abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or bloody stools, and if you have a large number of worms in your intestine, you might have severe abdominal pain, fatigue, vomiting, weight loss or malnutrition, or the appearance of a worm(s) in your vomit or stool.
Pinworms (Enterobius vermicularis) are actually another type of roundworm, and pinworm infection is the most common type of intestinal worm infection in the United States and one of the most common worldwide. Pinworms are thin and white, measuring about 1/4 to 1/2 inch (about 6 to 13 millimeters) in length.
While the infected person sleeps, female pinworms lay thousands of eggs in the folds of skin surrounding the anus. Most people infected with pinworms have no symptoms, but some people experience anal itching and restless sleep.
Pinworm infection occurs most often in school-age children, and the microscopic eggs are easily spread from child to child. Treatment involves anti-parasitic formulas that kill the pinworms and thorough washing of pajamas, bed linens and underwear. For best results, the entire family should be treated.
Symptoms of pinworm infection may include itching of the anal or vaginal area, insomnia, irritability and restlessness, intermittent abdominal pain and nausea.
Whipworm (Trichiuris trichiuria) is another type of parasite that people are commonly infected by. There are approximately 600 to 800 million people in the world infected with whipworm. Whipworm is transmitted in the same way as roundworm, however, the symptoms of a heavy whipworm infection are more obvious and serious than roundworm. You may experience frequent and painful bowel movements which contain mucus or blood. You can even experience rectal prolapse or become anemic due to whipworm.
A whipworm infection can develop after ingesting water or dirt contaminated with feces containing whipworm parasites. Anyone who has come into contact with contaminated feces can also contract a whipworm infection. The infection most often occurs in children. It is also more common in people who live in regions with hot, humid climates and in areas with poor hygiene and sanitation. This type of infection can also occur in animals, including cats and dogs.
Finally, we have Necator americanus also known as hookworm. Zoonotic hookworms are hookworms that live in animals but can be transmitted to humans. Dogs and cats can become infected with several hookworm species, including Ancylostoma brazilense, A. caninum, A. ceylanicum, and Uncinaria stenocephala. The eggs of these parasites are shed in the feces of infected animals and can end up in the environment, contaminating the ground where the animal defecated. People become infected when the hookworm larvae penetrate unprotected skin, especially when walking barefoot or sitting on contaminated soil or sand. This can result in a disease called cutaneous larva migrans (CLM), when the larvae migrate through the skin and cause inflammation.
There are between 576 and 740 million people in the world with hookworms. Hookworms live in the intestines just like whipworms and roundworms. However, unlike other helminths, hookworms can actually penetrate your skin. People infected with hookworms might show signs of anemia or protein loss.
Cestodes, otherwise known as tapeworms are in a classification all of their own. This is because tapeworms aren’t contracted by humans through dirt. Instead, tapeworms are transferred by eating pork or beef that is infected with a disease called cysticercosis. Animals get this disease when tapeworm eggs hatch inside the animal’s body. The biggest sign that you may have a tapeworm is finding pieces of tapeworm in your feces. Other signs include abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Why don’t we regularly cleanse ourselves of parasites?
Parasites are seen as a taboo subject in our culture, and are assumed by most people to exist only in third-world countries with poor sanitation. They are also so small and elusive that they often go unnoticed. The lack of proper education about parasites, and the fear that is often associated with them, causes us to ignore, and sometimes even reject, their reality. However, native people from around the world have known for a long time that humans, like animals, have parasites. They frequently used anti-parasitic herbs and foods, and even purged themselves by inducing diarrhea or vomiting to rid themselves of parasitic invaders.
How do we get rid of parasites?
As complex as the subject of parasites is, all you need to cleanse your body of them is three simple herbs: Green Black Walnut Hull, Wormwood, and Fresh Cloves. These herbs have strong anthelmintic properties, meaning they are wonderful at expelling parasitic worms from the body. Together, these three herbs make up what is traditionally known as “wormwood complex,” and are the ingredients that make up our Zuma Nutrition Parasite Detox Formula 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. Traditional parasite detoxes involve 10-30 capsules a day of these anti parasitic herbs. After decades of working with patients, our Zuma Nutrition team created a special tincture formula that has the potency of 30 capsules in one dropperful. We accomplish this through a proprietary alcohol extraction process that provides therapeutic dosage in each drop of the finished solution.
To get rid of parasites, one can undergo a parasite cleanse by diligently consuming this formula, following the recommended dosage of ½ a dropper full each night. The 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.
Cleansing with this formula a couple times each year, 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. Really prevention, sanitation, nutrition, and detoxification is the name of the game.
Because parasites are, well, parasites, and feed off of the nutrients of a host organism, they are some of natures most hated and misunderstood creatures. However, as mentioned earlier, they are also some of the most abundant creatures on Earth, and simply an undeniable and unavoidable fact of life. Not only have they existed long before us, but they have evolved alongside us, and have played a role in shaping our evolution, as our bodies have developed numerous mechanisms to detect and fight off parasites.
The real issue with parasites is 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 they may be an uncomfortable reality to accept, they are nothing to fear, but simply something to understand. Once we are educated on what parasites are and how to eliminate them from our bodies, we can truly thrive as healthy and energetic individuals.