How Common Parasites Affect Our Health: Our Toronto Naturopath Explains (Part I)

Any Naturopath in Toronto will tell you that parasite infections can play a significant role in your health. 

In fact, parasites can affect anyone’s everyday life; they do not only affect children and people in underprivileged regions with low uptake of hygiene and sanitation.

Parasites are organisms that live on or inside other organisms (the host) and rely on their host for food. This often negatively affects the host, as the formal definition of “parasites” involves no positive contribution to the relationship.

Our clinic’s naturopathic doctor is Dr. Amauri Caversan, ND, who uses a naturopathic integrative and functional medicine approach to treating patients with health issues. He highlights the various parasites and how they can distress the human body in this blog post. Read below:

Unravelling the different parasites

Do you think you’ve been in contact with a parasite? It’s important to know that there are three main types of parasites that disrupt a person’s healthy lifestyle: protozoa, helminths, and ectoparasites.

Protozoa are single-celled microbes that live freely or as parasites. While hiding out and reproducing inside humans allows the protozoa to survive, this is a health concern because it causes illness. The notoriously difficult gastrointestinal infections Cryptosporidium and Giardia are protozoa.

Helminths are worms that we most commonly think of as parasites. The main groups that cause disease in humans are flatworms, such as tapeworm and flukes, thorny-headed worms, and roundworms.

Ectoparasites live on the body’s surface (ecto = outside), such as ticks, lice and fleas. These burrow into the skin and stay there for up to weeks or months on end. However, they’re typically clinically thought of as vectors for infection, such as Lyme disease carried by ticks.

A Toronto naturopath’s view on parasites and our health

A predominant fraction of people affected by parasites goes undiagnosed; these people are surprisingly unaware that they have been exposed to parasites. Parasites can be contracted from eating uncooked meat or fish, walking barefoot or sleeping in a bed with a pet carrying something. A naturopathic doctor would generally tell their patients that parasite infections could present symptoms, such as:

  •       Skin rashes
  •       Weight loss and or increased appetite
  •       Abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting
  •       Anemia
  •       Aches and pains
  •       Allergies
  •       Weakness and a general unwell feeling 

If you are experiencing the persistent symptoms as described above, especially after trying conventional diagnostic tests, and other possible causes have been ruled out, you may have parasites in your body. Actually, naturopathic medicine may be able to help alleviate parasite-related illnesses. Here are a variety of health concerns that parasite infections can cause: 

Grand theft nutrient

Keep in mind that a parasite is a specific organism that takes from its host without giving back. So one consequence of a chronic parasite infection may be nutrient depletion. Research on women in Nepal has demonstrated that hookworm infection can cause anaemia, with more severe infection related to greater iron depletion.

Hookworms are transmitted through feces (mainly humans), and the larvae can burrow under the skin if you step on them. This is why it’s recommended to wear boots around farms. Tapeworms take a broader range of nutrients from their hosts, making them a cause of unwanted weight loss as well as anemia.

Gastrointestinal infection

Many harmful parasites are associated with gastrointestinal infection. Cryptosporidum infection, cyclosporiasis, cystoisosporiasis and microsporidiosis generally cause self-limiting watery diarrhea, which can become chronic in cases of poor immune function. 

The Giardia parasites’ symptoms are similar, though a small percentage develops issues such as chronic fatigue, allergies, or arthritis. Amebiasis, caused by Entamoeba histolytica, is mostly symptomatic, but can lead to colitis or a liver abscess.

Tick-borne illness

Ticks transmit infectious diseases including Lyme, Rickettsia, Babesia and Colorado Tick Fever (CTF). Symptoms include fatigue, fever and headache, so even though you may think you have the flu, seek a clear diagnosis if you’ve recently been exposed to ticks. 

For example, Babesia infections can resemble a self-limiting flu, but may worsen to hemolytic anemia if your immune system is low. Ticks can also cause alpha-gal syndrome (a food allergy in which you react to red meat and other consumable products from mammals) and paralysis, which are not infectious and are generally diagnosed by exclusion of microbial illness.

Other notable facts on parasite infections and naturopathic care

Testing and treating for chronic parasite infections is a must for reaching optimal health. Luckily, a naturopathic doctor can create a comprehensive treatment plan to assist you with the healing process. So watch out for our next blog post, Part II, on treating parasite infections with the naturopathic form of medicine!

In the meantime, you’re invited to meet Dr. Amauri Caversan, ND, and our nurse practitioner Arv Buttar, NP. Their integrative functional medicine programs may help relieve chronic parasite infections. Take note: Our Toronto clinic also treats and supports other health issues! Our approach to health may assist with an array of concerns: anti-aging/age-related diseases, autoimmune disease, chronic conditions, pain management, digestive issues, blood pressure and blood sugar issues, joint pain, adrenal fatigue, skin health, and other underlying health conditions.

Our wide variety of natural therapy options include: IV therapy, natural pain relief, nutritional counseling, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, Chinese Medicine, herbal medicine, cold laser therapy, among others. Our naturopathic clinic also makes diagnostic testing available to patients.

Save your appointment with a naturopath in Toronto to see if you’ve been affected by parasites. Call (416) 968-6961 or send us a note by clicking here. We’re ready to support your health journey!

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). About Parasites. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/about.html

Dreyfuss, M. L., Stoltzfus, R. J., Shrestha, J. B., Pradhan, E. K., LeClerq, S. C., Khatry, S. K., Shrestha, S. R., Katz, J., Albonico, M., & West, K. P., Jr (2000). Hookworms, malaria and vitamin A deficiency contribute to anemia and iron deficiency among pregnant women in the plains of Nepal. The Journal of Nutrition, 130(10), 2527–2536. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/130.10.2527

Parasites . (n.d.). Diagnostic Microbiology of the Immunocompromised Host, Second Edition, 411–466. https://doi.org/10.1128/microbiolspec.dmih2-0013-2015  

Rodino, K. G., Theel, E. S., & Pritt, B. S. (2020). Tick-Borne Diseases in the United States. Clinical Chemistry, 66(4), 537–548. https://doi.org/10.1093/clinchem/hvaa040  

Webb, C., & Cabada, M. M. (2017). Intestinal cestodes. Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases, 30(5), 504–510. https://doi.org/10.1097/QCO.0000000000000400