July 3, 2017

427 Parasites – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly [3 July 2017]

Last week [#426] I introduced the idea that, like bacteria, some parasites could actually be beneficial to our health. This idea has been around since at least 1999 but this was the first I had heard of it.

Lest I give the impression that all parasites are beneficial, I hasten to add that most are bad news and the few beneficial ones are likely so only in low numbers. The species used in helminthic therapy mentioned last week are non-colonizing in humans, meaning they can’t take up residence and reproduce in our bodies.

Parasites vary in size from microscopic one-celled animals, called protozoa, to tapeworms which can grow to several meters in length. Malaria is the most deadly protozoan parasitic disease, killing about 1 million people worldwide each year. Other parasitic protozoa include Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Toxoplasma, and Trichomonas. Helminths include many species of tapeworms, roundworms and flukes. Other human parasites include microscopic worms, a tiny flea, and the larvae of certain flies.

The effects of parasites vary from mild discomfort, anemia and nutrient deficiencies, to blindness, organ failure and death. Not a very pretty picture!

I carry a few anti-parasitic products, typically containing extracts from wormwood (a variety of sage), clove buds, garlic, black walnut hulls, and a few others. With more serious parasitic infections see your medical doctor. There are two new anti-parasitic drugs: Avermectin, derived from a soil bacteria, that works on worms, and Artemisinin, derived from a species of sage, that treats malaria.

Like most problems, prevention is better than a cure. One good defense against parasites is to maintain a healthy gut biome as I have discussed over the last few months. Follow hygienic practices when handling raw meat. Thoroughly cook meat, especially pork and fish. Wash your hands after handling animals. Wash fruits and vegetables before eating. Avoid drinking untreated surface water. Be particularly vigilant when visiting tropical countries where parasites are more common.

But if you discover that your children have pinworms, don’t panic. Think, “Oh good, my kids have worms”. Then get rid of them (the worms not the kids).

Back to the title – a few parasites may be somewhat good, most are bad (some very bad), but in almost everyone’s eyes they are all ugly.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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