Dr. Lori Horan Soule, ND, LAc

Soule Health Care

3526 SW Corbett

Portland OR, 97239


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Newsletter Archive

Could Your Symptoms Be Parasites?

September 29, 2011

Recently I had a patient who had been treated for abdominal discomfort and alternating constipation and diarrhea for the past three years. She had been diagnosed with everything from heartburn to anorexia and was being treated with popular antacids. Her symptoms had not responded. When she arrived at my office, I suggested we run a GI Health Panel to get to the bottom of things. We found she had a parasite called Helicobacter Pylori, hookworms, and an abundance of pathogenic bacteria known as Gamma Hemolytic Streptococcus. She has a common history of many patients with parasites.

We who have grown up with indoor plumbing and other modern sanitary conveniences, generally view worms and parasites as problems affecting people in far away, underdeveloped countries. However, ease and frequency of world travel, plus increased immigration into the United States has resulted in significant spread and incidence of parasitic infections.

In 1987 state diagnostic laboratories evaluated over 200,000 stool specimens. This national survey showed a variety of pathogenic intestinal parasites that occur throughout the United States. Parasites were found in 20% of the stools. The percentage for protozoa, including Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba coli and Endolimax nana, Blastocystis hominis, Entamoeba histolytica and Cryptosporidium species, was highest. The most frequently identified nematodes were hookworms, Trichuirs trihiura, and ascaris lumbricodies. In a recent study of outpatients at a gastroenterology clinic, a 74% incidence of parasites was found. One leading diagnostic laboratory reports almost 30% of all specimens examined are positive for some type of parasite.

Outbreaks of illness from drinking water are reported to the Center for Disease Control regularly. Giardia lamblia is the most common pathogen in these outbreaks and many of the outbreaks occurred in community water supplies that are adequately chlorinated but not filtered.

Parasites Leach Nutrients
Parasites may be small, but they are hungry. They rob the body of nutrients and cause diarrhea, which leads to poor absorption of nutrients. The host is then left malnourished and vulnerable to other diseases. Some parasites can perforate the intestinal wall allowing the gut to leak and trigger autoimmune reactions along with internal bleeding which can lead to iron loss and anemia. In addition they poison the body with toxic waste products. Each parasite gives off metabolic wastes which the already weakened body has trouble disposing.

Parasites Can Be Difficult to Find
Several types of parasitic worms can live in the human intestines, the most common being pinworms, tapeworms, hookworms and roundworms. The chief symptom of the small threadlike pinworm is rectal itching, especially at night. Roundworms can leave the intestines and settle in different areas of the body, causing diseases such as pneumonia, jaundice or peritonitis.

While parasitic worms are relatively easy to detect, many parasitic protozoa that live in the intestinal lumen are not readily detected by stool examination. Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and others may go undetected and symptoms caused by these parasites are often misdiagnosed. These may be spread directly from person to person or indirectly through food or water.

The most commonly reported symptom of parasite infection is diarrhea. Abdominal pain is frequently regarded as the second most common symptom. However, symptoms can also include gas, foul-smelling stools, cramps, distention, anorexia, nausea, weight loss, belching, heartburn, headache, constipation, vomiting, fever, chills, bloody stools, mucous in stools, and fatigue. Although specific symptoms are frequently associated with certain organisms, most of these symptoms can be present with almost any parasite.

Testing for parasites is typically a disappointing process as parasites can be difficult to detect, often leading to false negative results. The GI Health Panel is by far the best way to test the body for any anomalies occurring in the digestive tract. It often finds answers that other tests miss because it is a very comprehensive screen that looks not only at stool samples, but also salivary antibodies to parasites, as well as testing for fungus, pathogenic bacterial overgrowth, occult blood, intestinal inflammation and immunity status, and enzyme production. If parasites are present, it is best to know what kind of parasites they are in order to get the appropriate treatment.

If you are experiencing intestinal symptoms or abdominal discomfort and would like to get to some comprehensive answers, call Dr. Horan for your gastrointestinal health screening today.

Signs and Symptoms of Parasitic Infection

  • Abdominal Pain and Cramps
  • Anorexia
  • Autoimmmune Disease
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Distention
  • Fever
  • Food Allergies
  • Gastritis
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disesase
  • Irregular Bowel Movements
  • Irritable Bowel Disease
  • Low Back Pain
  • Pruities Ani
  • Rash and Itching of the Skin
  • Weight Loss
  • Arthritis
  • Bloody Stools
  • Headaches
  • Leukopenia
  • Malabsorption
  • Rectal Bleeding
  • Vomiting

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