We’re All at Risk for Parasites

We’re All at Risk for Parasites about undefined

Ask nearly anyone on the street, and they’d peg parasites as a problem in the developing world -- but certainly not in America.

And they’d be sorely mistaken.

It’s estimated that half the U.S. population has intestinal parasites – or parasites of other types -- and I’m not talking about flu bugs or common bacteria.

You can have parasites without knowing it, at least for a while. But sooner or later, the unwanted tenants make you sick. Perhaps worst of all, parasite infections are closely tied to numerous types of cancer, and may be implicated in others. They also figure in Lyme disease and HIV.

Read on to discover the shocking extent of this “Third World” problem – even here in America.

Because parasites are usually not visible to you, and you may be symptom-free, they aren’t the first thing you think of when you do get sick. Doctors seldom look for them, either, except in the most obvious cases.

Once you do start having symptoms, they often masquerade as other illnesses, so misdiagnosis is common. Most people are clueless about the strong link between parasites and chronic systemic disease… even if they acknowledge the possibility of these creatures’ existence.

But they’re seldom suspected, since nearly every American doctor and patient assumes that parasites are something that happens in poor, backward countries.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, they seldom think, “I’ve got worms!” And I guarantee you their oncologist would never suggest it, or think it.

Even among doctors who recognize the truth – that parasites can live anywhere and everywhere, even in the U.S. – most are inexperienced at diagnosing and treating them, as only a passing glance is given to the subject during medical school.

Make no mistake…

Parasites don’t care if you’re rich or poor

Parasites are no respecters of wealth or status. You’re at risk, no matter where you live. They can inhabit anyone. And some can do phenomenal damage.

Many bring on symptoms outside of the GI tract, provoking asthma, bronchitis, brain fog, migraines, anemia, cysts, tumors, allergies, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and behavioral and vision problems.

They can alter your DNA, rewire your brain, and turn you – their host – into a living dead person.

Last winter, a news station in Tampa reported on someone who was infected with a parasite that affected their vision and required a very intricate eye surgery for removal.

It’s estimated that worms affect 4.5 billion people worldwide, in addition to the 489 million suffering from malaria.

The popular belief that Americans have no need to worry about parasites is a grand illusion… and one that could leave you vulnerable.

Think of the ways a wealthy person in a developed country might be exposed to parasites. Global migration, imported produce, our growing taste for exotic foods. A major risk is our growing habit of worldwide travel. These days, nearly the whole world is accessible to middle income people, and the travel industry has exploded.

Careful as you may try to be about what you eat and drink when traveling abroad, there’s a significant risk of taking unwanted pests on board.

You could be exposed in a nearly infinite number of ways

The informative book Guess What Came to Dinner?: Parasites and Your Health by Ann Louise Gittelman, PhD suggests that there is a nearly infinite number of routes of transmission.

Basically, if you touch anything an infected person has touched, you risk infection. That includes things like handrails in schools, churches, concert halls, and cruise ships, and even grocery carts.

But I don’t want to encourage germophobia. There are already too many people running around with Purell in their pockets or purses. I think you should take great care about what you touch in public restrooms, and be careful to wash. But I wouldn’t worry too much about the handrails at church.

Focus instead on the most common methods of exposure: food, water, soil, and toilet seats.

If you have pets, or if your kids play in public parks or other places where animals roam, consider those risk factors, too.

I’ll give you some tips for parasite prevention in a moment. But first, let’s look at why you should be concerned about the cancer risk they pose.

Several parasite species cause cancer

In 1890, a Scottish pathologist named William Russell became the first person to identify and record what he dubbed a “cancer microbe.” He discovered what seemed to be spores of parasitic origin.

His ideas were ultimately thrown out, and he was labeled a medical heretic. Ironically, today’s technology is helping bring Russell’s theory back to the life.

The connection he found between parasites and cancer can no longer be ignored. There’s simply too much corroborating evidence. And given the prior discovery that viruses can trigger cancer, this isn’t such a big leap.

Cancer and parasites share defective traits

Cancer cells and parasitic cells display identical maladaptive behaviors. They both:

  1. Inhibit cell apoptosis/cell death
  2. Speed up cell replication

For example, tick-borne borrelia (the Lyme disease microbe) is sometimes considered a parasite.

In the past fifteen years, borrelia has been implicated in cases of nodal lymphoma and mantle cell lymphoma, as well as (intriguingly) in five cases of glioblastoma multiforme, a deadly brain cancer. Tumor biopsies from those five patients tested positive for borrelia infection. And it doesn’t stop there: the patients responded to parasite treatment, and then regressed when that treatment was stopped.1

In 2015, there was a weird case where a tapeworm (Hymenolepis nana) infection turned into malignant lymph and lung cancer.2

Tapeworm is found worldwide, and is endemic in areas where sanitation and hand washing are not up to par. Up to 75 million people are infected at any given time.

There are about 3,000 kinds of tapeworm that can infect animals. But H. nana is the only one we know of that can complete its entire life cycle, from egg to adult, within a human’s small intestine.

Millions who suffer from immune diseases (such as HIV), as well as those who take steroids, are most at risk.

Urinary cancer and parasites

Schistosomiasis is one of the most devastating parasites, infecting some 240 million people in 76 countries. It causes nearly 300,000 deaths each year in Africa alone.

The infection has no symptoms – at first.

The worms that cause schistosomiasis produce eggs that bore into the bladder wall, cause inflammation and fibrosis, and lead to cancer in the bladder.3 The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization, classifies S. haematobium as a Group 1 carcinogen.

Two hallmarks of the infection are gene mutations and inflammation, the latter of which creates a hostile environment that stimulates tumor progression.4

Hundreds of Vietnam vets at risk

As if being drafted to fight in Vietnam wasn’t bad enough, a 2017 study conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs found Vietnam vets seemed to be at greater risk of bile duct cancer.5

Of 50 blood samples taken from Vietnam vets, more than 20 were positive or nearly positive for worm antibodies.

The Chinese liver fluke, C. sinensis, is endemic in many parts of Asia, including China, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Korea. Eating raw or undercooked fish can trigger the infection. Other types of flukes can attack other parts of the body.

Liver flukes enter the bile ducts and gallbladder, and can hide there for 20 to 30 years, causing chronic inflammation and scarring, and eventually triggering cancer of the bile ducts, called cholangiocarcinoma (CCC).

It’s a slow-growing cancer, but by the time it’s detected, the chance of survival is poor.

Other types of cancer may also be linked to hidden parasite issues. If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, do yourself a favor and get checked for parasites. Here’s how. . .

Diagnosing and treating parasites

Most doctors have no clue that parasites could be the cause of your health issues – let alone know how to diagnose or treat them.

Stool tests are inaccurate (as I know from experience. Been there, done that.) The reason is that worms don’t show up in every sample. Smaller parasites, such as amoebae, are even harder to detect. Nonetheless, a stool test is the place to start. Other types of tests can sometimes confirm clinical suspicions based on patient symptoms. Sometimes, but not always…

Think about your vexing symptoms… most often GI issues. But health issues could also include memory loss (some worms deplete B12 levels, leaving your brain crying for fuel), serious dementia, IBS, headache, joint pain, mucus, fatigue, skin rash, dry cough, teeth grinding, or insomnia.

Identifying these symptoms will help with the detective process. You and your doctor will need to don your Sherlock Holmes hats for this one.

Diagnostic tests can be useful, but no single blood, urine, or stool test will ever reveal every parasite that could be lurking inside. For example, worms can cause high liver enzyme and eosinophil numbers, so elevated readings give a clue.

Parasites are also notoriously difficult to treat. And even the best herbal concoctions are often inadequate.

At the same time, pharmaceutical drugs can be hard on the body, especially the liver. However, they may be the only logical solution for stubborn parasites.

Some experts believe that herbs just send parasites deeper inside, suggesting you have to hit these terrorists with the biggest guns available. For the same reason, other experts warn against too short a treatment period.

Incidentally, studies about interchanging cancer and anti-parasite drugs are ongoing, which highlights the probable link between the two.

But if your doctor has a one-size-fits-all parasite protocol, look for a different practitioner. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment.

And I would not rely on your regular doctor, even if he or she is devoted to integrative medicine. This is something of a specialty. You need to find a practitioner with expertise in diagnosing and treating these pathogens. There probably aren’t more than a couple dozen in the United States – and I can’t name them for you.

Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt and Dr. Simon Yu have well-known protocols for parasite treatment, and have also trained other doctors, so they may be good resources. Dr. Klinghardt warns not to try to tackle this on your own, but to work with a trained practitioner.

An ounce of prevention… better than all the
parasite meds in the world?

Dr. Gittelman has numerous suggestions for parasite prevention. Considering the tenacity of these critters and the harshness of the treatments, your best bet is the proverbial ounce of prevention.

Here are the most common sources of exposure, and how to take precautions to address them:

1. Drinking water. Some of the most common parasites are transmitted from infected persons via your water – whether it’s tap water or stream water. I would say the greatest risk is when you’re abroad, but I drink filtered and purified water almost everywhere.

In 1993, a major outbreak of Cryptosporidium parvum in Milwaukee sickened over 400,000 people and resulted in $96 million in health care costs and productivity losses.6

Estimates are that up to half of all water supplies have been contaminated. That estimate sounds high to me, but this is a risk to be aware of.

2. Skin contact with contaminated water. This is how schistosomes invade. They’re some of the deadliest fluke parasites on earth. After leaving their snail host, they enter your skin while you swim, work (especially in agricultural environments), or play.

You’re especially at risk in endemic areas (Africa, China, Mexico, Puerto Rico…), and even in remote areas of North America where people from endemic areas have settled. For example, there was an outbreak in a remote area of California where Vietnamese immigrants had settled.

Don’t swim in rivers or lakes unless they’re absolutely pristine. And this isn’t going to sit well with a lot of people, but I think walking barefoot is a bad idea, especially on warm, moist soil.

3. Food is one of the most common methods of infiltration for both microscopic and macroscopic parasites. I mean all food… home-cooked food, restaurant and hotel meals, food carts, school and work cafeterias… well, you get the idea.

You’re particularly at risk from fruits and vegetables, especially those fertilized with human waste, which is the case even for much organic produce. Raw fish and meat are also risky. I don’t eat sushi. I think it’s a crazy idea.

Protect yourself:

(a) Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables. Soak for 15 minutes in a solution of one part vinegar to two parts water. Add lemon juice to the vinegar for an even better clean.

(b) Wash all produce before cutting to avoid cross contamination.

(c) Thoroughly wash your hands with hot water and plenty of natural soap before, during, and after your food preparation process.

(d) Clean countertops and sinks by spraying with 3% hydrogen peroxide, then following it with a pure vinegar spray. Tests at Virginia Tech showed that doing both is better than either one alone. Especially important for surfaces used for meat, fish and poultry preparation.

(e) Salad bars can be parasite havens. I generally like my meals made to order and brought to my table. I’m not a fan of buffet-style places.

4. Insects. They carry many kinds of disease – from Lyme disease to malaria to Chagas disease. If you’ve had any recent bug bites in tropical or temperate climates, get checked for parasites.

Protect yourself: When outside at times or in locations where bugs bite, wear long sleeves and long pants. Use a bug spray made with essential oils like lemon and eucalyptus. Some argue for using DEET, but that seems unwise due to the chemicals.

If traveling in a country where malaria is common, you do NOT want to get a mosquito bite. Period. Go the extra mile to avoid it.

5. Pets. Although they may be man’s best friend, their parasites are not your friend. Dogs carry intestinal tapeworms, whose eggs spread through their fur and anus during grooming. The eggs can enter your liver and even your brain, which can be life-threatening. Other tapeworms can also be transmitted from pets to people, and dogs are not the only risk.

Protect yourself:

(a) This is going to offend half or more of the population, but sleeping with your pets really isn’t sanitary. And don’t let your pets lick your face, or open sores.

(b) Wear rubber gloves when cleaning your cat’s litter box. A pair of gloves for this purpose only – not the ones you use for dish washing and cleaning!

(c) Don’t walk barefoot near your pet’s elimination area, and don’t let your kids do so either.

(d) Rinse off your hands after feeding, petting, or playing with your pets – and have your kids do so as well.

6. Bathrooms are a favorite breeding ground for these terrorists, especially public restrooms.

Protect yourself:

(a) Toilet seats in public restrooms are a risk, but one that’s hard to avoid completely. Avoid skin contact to the greatest degree possible. Squat rather than sit, if you’re up to it. Use those paper coverings when they’re available. Do NOT sit on a toilet seat that is obviously soiled. It’s usually pretty obvious when a slob has used the stall before you.

(b) Avoid setting purses, phones, or other personal items on the floor (or anywhere else) in public restrooms. If possible, have someone watch your things outside of the restroom area.

(c) Always wash your hands, including under your nails, after using the bathroom and before eating.

(d) Benches in saunas and steam rooms are not sanitary. At the very least sit on a towel – several layers if possible.

By identifying and treating parasites, you can remove a major burden from your immune system and help your body heal. We can’t avoid them entirely, and I know too many people who develop compulsive behavior by trying. But you should reduce your exposure in a prudent, measured way without becoming a nut about it.

If you have cancer, Lyme disease, HIV, or other serious conditions, you should certainly get tested for parasites. Even if they don’t directly cause your disease, they weaken your body and put a huge strain on your immune system. Resolving the problem could be the secret to your healing.

Best regards,

Lee Euler,



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