Parasites are living organisms that live off the host (a living organism) and utilize the host's nutrients completely, harming it in due process. Parasites enter the human body through many channels: air, water, and the food we eat. They can thrive anywhere in the body but are mostly found in the gastro-intestinal tract. There are over a thousand types of parasites that may live in the human body. Some are extremely microscopic while others are big enough for the human eye to see. In humans, intestinal parasites may cause serious health conditions by making the body weak and undernourished. This increases its vulnerability to viral, fungal, bacteria, chemical, and metal poisoning, as well as various diseases.
The different types of intestinal parasites release toxins in the body, and reduce the body's resistance. These not only cause illnesses, but may exaggerate the existing ones. There are two types of parasites that are found in humans, and they are:
Protozoans: Protozoans are single-cell parasites, which are capable of multiplying inside the human body. They are microscopic in nature, and are transmitted orally (contaminated food or water) or through the fecal route. The common protozoic parasites are amoebae, giardia, neospora, toxoplasmosis, cryptosporidium, sarcocystis, etc.
Helminths: Helminths are parasites that have many cells and are mostly big enough to be seen through the naked eye, when in adult stage. Once the helminths parasitic worms enter the adult stage, they cannot multiply in the human body. But, they cause enough damage. The common helminthic worms are tapeworms, pinworms, hookworms, threadworms, roundworms, etc.
As the parasites are present in the environment, it not very difficult for them to enter the body. Besides children and the aged, normal healthy people may also get infected by these parasites. Poor sanitation and poor hygiene (mainly relating to food and water) are the most common causes of this condition. Living in areas that are not deemed for habitation and child care centers are common places from where one can contract the parasites. People with infections, like HIV/AIDS or other diseases, where the body has no resistance, may also get infected by these parasites.
Once the parasite enters the body, our body's immune defense system tries to tackle it, however, in most cases the parasites prove to be stronger and multiply with a strange ferocity. The earliest and most noticeable symptoms of the presence of intestinal parasites in the body are diarrhea, nausea, and constant itching. Some may also experience joint pain, chronic fatigue, a runny nose, restlessness, blisters upon the mouth, and autoimmune deficiencies. In severe cases, bad smelling stools with mucous and blood may also occur. Flu-like symptoms, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, and gas may also occur. One rare symptom is the passing of worms in the stool.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The fecal, sputum, urine, blood, or skin testing is recommended to detect the presence of these parasites. These tests not only confirm the presence of worms, but also the type: protozoa or helminths. Other diagnostic tests include scotch tape test, string test, etc. The most commonly prescribed medications for are mebendazole, thiabendazole, metronidazole, praziquantel, and diphenoxylate. Colon cleansing is also a form of treatment used to remove the parasites. Besides these medications, natural herbs, like, garlic, vasaka, wormwood, calamus, pomegranate, black walnut, curl mint, barberry, etc. may also be used.
Intestinal parasites may be treated easily, but early detection and timely intervention is needed to avoid any major health complication. Also, good hygiene is the key to ensure that these worms are kept at bay, however, in case one does get infected, consult a doctor immediately.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.