The human body is host to several organisms that work together for your ensured health and well-being. While most organisms present in the human body are beneficial, there are some parasites that can find their ways into our bodies with their own survival in mind, leading to serious health complications.
What Is an Intestinal Parasite?
Parasites are organisms that live within other organisms and feed off their cells and tissues. Intestinal parasites live within your intestines and feed off your body’s nutrition, leading to the nutritional and health issues listed below that could signal their presence.
There are several different parasites that cause a wide range of health problems. Parasites are more common in less medically developed countries, yet that doesn’t mean they aren’t present in areas with more sanitary conditions.
How Do You Get an Intestinal Parasite?
Parasites like to hitch rides in our bodies through contaminated food or water. Another favorite ride of parasites is under-cooked meat. Swimming in contaminated lakes or ponds can also allow parasites to enter our bodies while others may find an entry through the bottoms of our feet. Handing certain animals may also pass parasites that they may have along to us.
Frequent hand-washing is a good way to prevent against contracting a parasite as they can be picked up from touching surfaces (much like a cold virus may be contracted). Be careful to drink only treated water during travels in underdeveloped areas to avoid contracting a parasitic infection.
1. International Travel to Underdeveloped Countries
This isn’t a symptom for intestinal parasites so much as a potential risk sign. If you have traveled to a country with unsanitary water or living conditions though, you are more at risk for contracting a parasite.
Drinking or eating contaminated food or water allows parasites entryway into the body, so knowing if you came in contact with a potentially hazardous bug can eliminate doubt early before too much damage is done in your body.
2. Trouble Sleeping
Insomnia may be a sign of several other health disruptions, but it could signal the presence of a parasite. While you sleep, your body takes this time to cleanse out toxins through the liver. An intestinal parasite can throw a wrench in this delicate routine and change your usual sleep patterns. Parasites can also cause uncomfortable itching, especially around the anus.
3. Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)
Many people who grind their teeth while they sleep may see it as just something they do. However, if you find yourself waking up with a sore jaw or headache, your nightly teeth grinding could mean a parasite has hitched a ride within you. Unlike disrupting sleep patterns, parasites cause teeth grinding by causing anxiety from releasing wastes and toxins into the body, thereby making you restless while you sleep.
4. Muscle and Joint Pains
Parasites don’t always take up residence in your gut. Sometimes they may find a cozy place in a cyst within muscles or joint fluids, leading to aches and pains which can be mistaken for arthritis. In response to intestinal parasites, muscle and joint aches may be the body’s immune response to their unwelcome presence.
Whether it’s mental exhaustion or chronic fatigue, an intestinal parasite can literally drain your energy away. This is because they feed off your body’s nutrition and sap you of vitamins, minerals, fats, and carbohydrates. If a parasite is stealing these vital staples before your body can even get them, it’s no wonder you’re experiencing such fatigue. Left untreated, this could also lead to depression, difficulties concentrating, apathy as well as several vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
6. Constipation, Diarrhea, Gas or Irritable Bowel Syndrome Complications
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) tends to be a common complaint of a parasitic infection as parasites take up residence in the gut, leading to cramps, spasms, and other issues. Gas, diarrhea, and constipation are other common complaints as well since parasites tend to upset the way the intestines do things once they move in. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration if not addressed. For bugs that cause gas, painful bloating is often present as well.
7. Skin Irritations
While intestinal parasites may do their most harm in your gut, they may also do some skin damage as well. Parasites could cause skin irritations due to releasing hormones into the body whenever they attack intestinal walls. This gives rise to rashes, hives, or other allergic reactions. On that same note, since parasites irritate the intestinal walls, certain foods become difficult to digest, which may lead to an external reaction.
8. Immune Disorders
A parasite drains and weakens your body of the nutrition and energy it needs to fight off illness and infection. While your immune system is trying to fight the parasite, it’s also trying to protect against other outside illnesses. However, since the parasite is draining your system of nutrition and energy, it’s leaving you wide open to other illnesses. If you seem to be getting each cold that goes around this season, a parasite may be to blame.
9. Not Feeling Satisfied After Meals
No matter how much you eat for lunch or dinner, it seems like it’s never enough. In a sense, that’s because it isn’t. Although you’ve probably eaten enough, your body says it’s not full because a parasite could be sending mixed signals to your brain as well as stealing any nutritional value you’d be sure to get from your meal.
Iron-deficiency anemia can lead to several serious health complications if not addressed. Parasites may cause anemia through internal blood loss or through causing a nutritional deficiency. Anemia can cause other symptoms of parasites such as fatigue, so it’s good to check with your doctor to make sure of its true cause before treatment.
Other symptoms of an intestinal parasite may include dizziness, headaches, cold hands and feet, shortness of breath and pale skin.