Intestinal Parasites Symptoms

Intestinal Parasites and Symptoms: What You Need to Know

Intestinal parasites are organisms that can live in the human digestive system and feed on nutrients in the body. They can be acquired through contaminated food, water, or contact with infected individuals. While not all intestinal parasites cause symptoms, some can lead to serious health problems if left untreated.

The symptoms of intestinal parasites can vary depending on the type of parasite and the severity of the infection. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea, and fatigue. Some parasites may also cause weight loss, Anemia, and skin rashes. It is important to seek professional advice if you suspect you may have an intestinal parasite, as some infections can lead to serious complications.

Key Takeaways

  • Intestinal parasites can cause a range of symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fatigue.
  • Symptoms can vary depending on the parasite type and the infection’s severity.
  • Seeking professional advice is important if you suspect you may have an intestinal parasite, as some infections can lead to serious complications.

Overview of Intestinal Parasites

If you’re experiencing digestive issues, you may have intestinal parasites. Intestinal parasites are organisms that live in your intestines and feed off your body’s nutrients. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including worms and one-celled organisms called Protozoans.

Intestinal parasites are more common in developing countries, where sanitation and hygiene are poor. However, they can also be found in developed countries, particularly in areas where there is poor sanitation or where people have close contact with animals.

Symptoms of intestinal parasites can vary depending on your parasite type. Some common symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and fatigue. In some cases, you may not experience any symptoms at all.

To diagnose an intestinal parasite infection, your doctor may order a stool test to look for the presence of parasites or their eggs. Treatment for intestinal parasites typically involves medication to kill the parasites.

Preventing intestinal parasite infections involves:

  • Practicing good hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly
  • Cooking meat thoroughly
  • Avoiding contact with contaminated water

It’s also essential to avoid eating raw or undercooked meat and unwashed fruits and vegetables. If you suspect that you may have an intestinal parasite infection, it’s important to see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. With proper treatment and prevention measures, you can reduce your risk of developing an intestinal parasite infection.

Common Types of Intestinal Parasites

Intestinal parasites are organisms that live in the digestive system of humans and animals. They can be protozoa, helminths, or ectoparasites. Each type of parasite has its own unique characteristics and symptoms.

Protozoa (Protozoan)

Protozoa are single-celled organisms that can cause infections in humans. They are transmitted through contaminated food and water and can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. The most common human protozoa infections are Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica, Cryptosporidium, and blastocystic. These infections can spread through food, water, soil, and surfaces contaminated with faecal matter from humans and animals.

Helminths

Helminths are parasitic worms that can infect humans and animals. They can be transmitted through contaminated food, water, and soil. The most common types of helminths that infect humans are roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms. These worms can cause various symptoms, including diarrhea, abdominal pain, Anemia, and malnutrition.

Ectoparasites

Ectoparasites, like lice, fleas, and ticks, live on the outside of the body. They can cause skin irritation and itching and, in some cases, can transmit disease. Lice infestations, for example, are common in school-aged children and can cause itching and skin irritation. Fleas and ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

General Symptoms of Intestinal Parasites

If you have intestinal parasites, you may experience a range of symptoms. These symptoms can vary depending on the parasite type and the infection’s severity. Some common symptoms of intestinal parasites include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Gas and bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Exhaustion/tiredness
  • Itching around the anus

In some cases, you may not experience any symptoms at all, especially if you have a mild infection. However, even if you don’t have symptoms, you can still pass the parasite to others through your stool.

It’s important to note that other conditions can also cause these symptoms, so it’s essential to see a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing any of them. Your healthcare provider can perform tests to determine if you have an intestinal parasite and can recommend appropriate treatment.

If you suspect that you have an intestinal parasite, it’s important to practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of the parasite to others. This includes washing your hands regularly, especially after using the bathroom and before handling food. You should also avoid sharing personal items like towels and washcloths and avoid preparing food for others until you have been treated for the infection.

Specific Symptoms by Parasite Type

Giardiasis

Giardiasis is caused by the parasite Giardia lamblia and is commonly found in contaminated food or water. Symptoms of giardiasis include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are flatworms that can live in the intestines of humans and animals. Symptoms of tapeworm infection may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency

Roundworms

Roundworms are a type of parasitic worm that can live in the intestines of humans and animals. Symptoms of roundworm infection may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Worms in stool
  • Allergic reactions

Hookworms

Hookworms are a type of parasitic worm that can live in the intestines of humans and animals. Symptoms of hookworm infection may include:

  • Itching and rash at the site of infection
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Allergic reactions

It is important to note that symptoms of intestinal parasite infections can vary depending on the type of parasite and the severity of the disease. If you suspect that you may have an intestinal parasite infection, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly. Your doctor can perform tests to determine the type of parasite and recommend appropriate treatment.

Diagnosis of Intestinal Parasites

If you suspect you have intestinal parasites, your doctor may recommend one or more diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis. These tests may include:

Stool Tests

Stool tests are the most common diagnostic tests for intestinal parasites. Your doctor may ask you to provide a stool sample to be sent to a laboratory for analysis. The laboratory will check the sample for the presence of parasites, eggs, or larvae. You may need to provide multiple stool samples over several days to increase the chances of detecting parasites.

Endoscopy

Endoscopy is a procedure that involves inserting a long, thin, flexible tube with a camera and light at the end (endoscope) through your mouth or anus to examine your digestive tract. Your doctor may recommend endoscopy if stool tests are inconclusive or if they suspect you have a parasitic infection in your upper digestive tract. During endoscopy, your doctor may take a tissue sample (biopsy) for further analysis.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds, may be used to detect the presence of large parasites, such as tapeworms, in your digestive tract. These tests can also help your doctor identify any damage or inflammation caused by the parasites.

Blood Tests

Blood tests are not a reliable diagnostic tool for intestinal parasites, but they may be used to check for signs of infection, such as an increase in white blood cell count or the presence of antibodies to specific parasites.

It is important to note that not all diagnostic tests are 100% accurate, and some parasites may be difficult to detect. If you continue to experience symptoms despite negative test results, your doctor may recommend repeating the tests or trying alternative diagnostic methods.

Treatment Options

If you have been diagnosed with intestinal parasites, several treatment options are available. The most common treatment options include medication, hygiene practices, and dietary changes.

Medication

Medication is the most common treatment for protozoan parasites. Your doctor may prescribe medication to kill the parasites and help your body expel them. The medication prescribed will depend on the type of parasite you have and may include antiparasitic drugs such as albendazole, mebendazole, or praziquantel. (These drugs are for worms,)
These treat Protozoan. mefloquine, chloroquine, proguanil with atovaquone and doxycycline.

Herbs

Herbs serve as a natural method to enhance and strengthen the body’s systems. However, it’s crucial to consult with a medical professional for a proper diagnosis before initiating any herbal treatment regimen. Herbal remedies come in various forms, including dried extracts (available as capsules, powders, or teas), glycerites (glycerine-based extracts), and tinctures (alcohol-based extracts).

It’s important to note that individuals with a history of alcohol dependence should avoid tinctures due to their alcohol content. Many herbs used in treating intestinal parasites can have potent side effects or may interact with other medications. Therefore, it’s essential to use these remedies only under the guidance of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

Your healthcare provider should recommend the mildest effective herb based on the specific type of parasite identified. This approach ensures both safety and efficacy in treatment. Remember, while herbal remedies can be beneficial, they should be used responsibly and with professional oversight to minimize risks and maximize therapeutic benefits.

A few of the herbs that your provider might consider include:

  • Garlic (Allium sativum)
  • Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
  • Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium)
  • Anise (Pimpinella anisum)
  • Wormwood (Artemisia annua)
  • Curled mint (Mentha crispa)
  • Black walnuts (Juglans nigra)

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Hygiene Practices

Good hygiene practices can help prevent the spread of intestinal parasites. You should always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the toilet, changing a diaper, or before preparing food. It is also important to keep your living space clean and disinfected, especially if you have pets.

Dietary Changes

Making dietary changes can help support your body’s natural defences against intestinal parasites. You should avoid eating undercooked meat or fish and should always wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them. Probiotics, such as yogurt and kefir, may also help support a healthy gut microbiome and prevent the growth of harmful parasites.

In addition to these treatment options, following your doctor’s or healthcare professional instructions and attending all follow-up appointments to ensure that the parasites have been fully eradicated from your body. By taking these steps, you can help prevent the spread of intestinal parasites and help protect your health.

Prevention Strategies

Intestinal parasites can be prevented by following proper sanitation and cleanliness practices, safe food and water practices, and personal protective measures.

Sanitation and Cleanliness

Maintaining personal hygiene is crucial to prevent the spread of intestinal parasites. You should always wash your hands with soap and water before eating, using the toilet, and handling pets or animals. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, clothing, and bedding, as this can increase the risk of transmission. Keep your living spaces clean and well-ventilated to prevent the accumulation of parasites.

Safe Food and Water Practices

Contaminated food and water are common sources of intestinal parasites. To prevent infection, you should always drink clean, purified water and avoid food from unhygienic sources. It is essential to cook food thoroughly, especially meat, and to avoid eating raw or undercooked food. You should also avoid eating food that has been left out in the open for a long time.

Personal Protective Measures

If you are travelling to an area where intestinal parasites are common, it is important to take personal protective measures. These may include wearing protective clothing, using insect repellent, and avoiding contact with contaminated soil or water. You should also avoid swimming in stagnant water, which can be a breeding ground for parasites.

By following these prevention strategies, you can significantly reduce your risk of contracting intestinal parasites. Remember to always maintain good hygiene practices, consume safe food and water, and take personal protective measures when necessary.

Complications of Intestinal Parasites

Intestinal parasites can cause a range of complications, especially if left untreated. Here are some of the most common complications associated with intestinal parasites:

Dehydration

Intestinal parasites can cause dehydration, which can be especially dangerous for infants and children. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in. Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, thirst, dark urine, and fatigue.

Malnutrition

Intestinal parasites can interfere with nutrient absorption in the body, leading to malnutrition. Malnutrition can cause a range of symptoms, including fatigue, weakness, and weight loss.

Anemia

Intestinal parasites can cause Anemia, a condition in which the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells. Anemia can cause fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.

Intestinal Blockage

In some cases, intestinal parasites can cause an intestinal blockage. This occurs when the parasite blocks the intestine, preventing food and waste from passing through. Symptoms of an intestinal blockage include abdominal pain, bloating, and constipation.

Other Complications

In rare cases, intestinal parasites can cause more serious complications, such as liver or lung damage. It’s important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have an intestinal parasite to prevent these complications.

When to See a Doctor

If you suspect that you have an intestinal parasite, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Some common symptoms of intestinal parasites include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, gas, bloating, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. A variety of conditions can cause these symptoms, so it is important to get a proper diagnosis.

Your doctor may recommend a stool test to check for the presence of parasites or other infections. This involves providing a stool sample, which is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. If parasites are found, your doctor will recommend a course of treatment to get rid of the infection.

In some cases, intestinal parasites can cause serious complications. If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Blood in your stool
  • High fever
  • Severe dehydration
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fainting

Prevention is key when it comes to avoiding intestinal parasites. Make sure to wash your hands regularly, especially before eating or preparing food. Avoid drinking untreated water, and make sure to cook all meat and fish thoroughly. If you are traveling to an area where intestinal parasites are common, talk to your GP about preventive measures you can take.

By taking these steps, you can help reduce your risk of developing an intestinal parasite infection. If you do experience symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most cases of intestinal parasites can be successfully treated.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the typical signs of a parasitic worm infection in adults?

Parasitic infections can cause various symptoms in adults, including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and fatigue. Some people may also experience nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and Anemia. Itching around the anus, especially at night, can be a sign of pinworms. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a professional Healthcare practitioner or your GP for an accurate diagnosis.

Which foods are known to help eliminate parasites in the human body?

While there is no specific diet that can cure parasitic infections, some foods may help eliminate parasites from the body. These include garlic, pumpkin seeds, papaya seeds, and pineapple. These foods contain compounds that are believed to have antiparasitic properties. However, it is important to note that these foods should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment. Adding them to your diet will help.

What treatments are available for intestinal parasitic infections?

The treatment for parasitic infections depends on the type of parasite and the severity of the infection. Most parasitic infections can be treated with prescription medications, such as antiparasitic drugs. It is essential to follow your GP or Health care practitioner’s instructions carefully to ensure that the infection is fully treated.

How can one be sure they have an intestinal parasite?

The only way to be sure if you have an intestinal parasite is if you see worms or their eggs, which look like rice, in your stools. You be sure you have protozoans you will need to have a stool test. Your healthcare provider will order a stool sample to check for the presence of parasites. If you suspect you have a parasitic infection, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

What are the most common methods of contracting a parasitic infection?

Parasitic infections can be contracted through a variety of methods, including contact with contaminated soil, water, or food. Poor hygiene can also increase the risk of contracting a parasitic infection. Travel to certain regions of the world where parasitic infections are more common can also increase the risk of infection.

How is an intestinal parasitic infection diagnosed?

The diagnosis of an intestinal parasitic infection typically involves a physical exam and laboratory testing. In some cases, imaging tests, such as X-rays or ultrasounds, may also be used to help diagnose the infection.

Do our Parasite Questionnaire if you think you have a parasite

Reference

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  9. Keiser, J., & Utzinger, J. (2008). Efficacy of current drugs against soil-transmitted helminth infections: systematic review and meta-analysis. Jama, 299(16), 1937-1948.

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