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It's A Worm's World. Are Parasites making you or your child sick?

They wine and dine with the rich and poor without invitation and their intimate relationship with us may last for years. They command the respect of scientists, researchers and large organisations such as the World Health Organisation and The Gates Foundation. Billions of dollars and many hours of hard work are dedicated to them. They come in different shapes and sizes, pay no tax, get free food and accommodation and travel to all corners of the world without a visa. This can be accomplished without you being aware they exist inside you or your child! 

Human intestinal parasites such as worms, flukes, and protozoa collectively infect billions of people worldwide. Whilst most of the focus has been applied to developing countries, parasitic infection is not confined to borders. An increase in global travel and immigration has resulted in an increase of parasitic infections in developed countries and concern has been expressed at the ability of western health clinicians to provide accurate diagnosis and treatment. Accurate testing and diagnosis for parasites is difficult and unreliable an infected people remain free of symptoms or present with intermittent symptoms. Sophisticated testing is not available in every laboratory, therefore many cases of infection go undiagnosed. 

Some of the reasons developed countries such as New Zealand and Australia are experiencing an increase in such infections are;

  • increase in travel and immigration to endemic countries

  • increase in eco & adventure tourism

  • change in parasite epidemiology and ecological environment

  • increase in day care centres

  • increase in pet ownership

  • increase in foreign foods

Collectively intestinal parasites such as worms, flukes and protozoa (e.g. giardia, cryptosporidium) cause a myriad of mild and serious ill health symptoms such as;

allergies, fatigue, headaches
constipation/diarrhoea, abdominal pain, distension and gas
intermittent nausea
low grade fever
skin rashes
immune dysfunction

Chronic infections (more common in endemic countries) may cause;

chronic fatigue
irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's & inflammatory bowel disease
symptoms suggestive of endometriosis
intestinal and organ obstruction
seizures, epilepsy, psychiatric illnesses-depression/psychosis, behavioural & neurological disorders

The adverse health effects caused by intestinal parasites are detrimental to children. Worms and protozoa (such as Giardia, Cryptosporidium) slow a child's physical and mental development, cause malnutrition and anemia and affect their developing immune system, which reduces a child's ability to fight disease. Even after treatment a child who has had giardiasis may continue to have mild symptoms of ill health for many months after initial infection. Sore stomachs, headaches, allergy like symptoms and a development of food intolerances, often dairy, can be common. 

A study that was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology reviews cases of two women who had symptoms that presented as endometriosis. Further investigation revealed these women did not have endometriosis but abscesses containing a large number of eosinophils and parasites such as pinworms, threadworms. One of the women was a primary school teacher and had regular contact with young children; the other had a travel history to tropical countries. Whilst pinworms are normally found in the gastrointestinal tract, some worms migrate into the female genital tract and can go as far as the kidneys. 

A study in the Journal of Travel medicine Australia reveals an Australian woman who saw her gynaecologist for infertility. She later had surgery for an ectopic pregnancy but when they operated on her they discovered a large mass between her uterine tube and ovary on the opposite side. Histology of the mass showed it contained parasitic eggs from a fluke (schistosoma haematobium). Her history revealed extensive travel throughout Africa. These cases highlight the importance of considering parasites in the assessment and treatment of ill health particularly in migrants from endemic countries but also people who have a history of travelling to such countries. 

Over the years I have seen many people in my clinic who have been infected with an intestinal parasite, in some cases many years ago. For many of them their health symptoms began after travel to an exotic country such as Africa, Asia, South America or the Middle East. It is interesting that results for their blood & stool tests are often negative yet their symptoms reflect parasitic infection and these patients respond well when antiparasitic herbs and homeopathic remedies are included in their treatment. 

Many scientists, authors and researchers have noted the lack of interest and research that has gone into studying parasites, as attention has been focused on viruses and bacteria. However the interest in human intestinal parasites is being rekindled, due in part to the increase of reported infections in developed countries and the rapid rise of giardiasis in countries such as New Zealand which now has one of the highest rates of infection in the developed world.

Does your child go to day care?
Have you travelled to any of the fore mentioned continents?
Do you work with children?
Have you ever de-wormed yourself or your family?
Do you often eat exotic foods, or regularly eat out at foreign restaurants?
Do you have a health issue that has not been diagnosed or resolved?

Then consider using gentle and effective herbal and homeopathic remedies to give your intestines and organs a clean out from what may be residing within. It is best to do so under the guidance of a health practitioner.