Let me start by giving you some background information about us:
My husband (42 years), my 15 year old daughter, and I (39 years) had no reason to believe that we had parasites. It’s been about 5 years since we stopped eating in restaurants both at home in the United States and abroad. Yes, we travel overseas, but we don’t even eat the food served on airplanes. On long trips, we eat peanut butter and raisins pre-made by yours truly. We wash our fruits and veggies thoroughly, after soaking them in chlorine, we cook all our own food (or starve), and we’re compulsive hand-washers. We’ve struggled with various food sensitivities which is why we’ve avoided restaurants and food that we don’t prepare ourselves, but now, I’m learning that many of our allergies aren’t allergies at all, but rather, symptoms of a parasite infection.
Even though I completed a pre-medicine curriculum during my undergraduate degree, spent 2 years shadowing a general practitioner, a semester shadowing a psychiatrist, attended medical school camp in high school, and worked in a long-term care facility for five years, I never once encountered parasites in patients (or so I thought). I have a Master’s Degree in psychology and I’ve spent time shadowing psychiatrists in different settings. Through all my schooling, including microbiology classes, I only attended one lone parasitology seminar during my final semester in college where I sat in awe that people could be so fascinated with what seemed to me to be a terribly mundane and unimportant topic.
Despite all my experience working in healthcare settings and with people in general, I never EVER heard mention of stomach parasites or intestinal parasites as the cause of any illness EVER.
Last month, our entire family started having strange symptoms that I couldn’t explain. We were all unnaturally tired. Every afternoon my daughter and I would get horrible headaches. I couldn’t sleep. My eye would twitch. Often, I would wake up around 3:00 AM in a sweat. I started getting my periods every two weeks while my daughter stopped getting hers altogether. I thought I was going through menopause perhaps. I worried silently about cancer. My husband’s skin looked gray. He was having headaches too and chronic stomach upsets. He’d had diarrhea every day for a month. He had tinnitus. He and I would go out jogging together, but instead of returning home feeling invigorated and ready to start the day, we’d be exhausted by it. I had strange pains in my side and in the morning, when I would lay in bed trying to will myself to get up. Often, I could feel my innards “quivering”. Was it anxiety, I wondered? Sometimes I could feel squiggly sensations in my right elbow or sharp pains in my lower left abdomen.
My daughter is homeschooled and so we’re really familiar with her normal moods from day-to-day. Typically she’s very easy going, but had she been going to public or private school, I would’ve thought she was entering a new phase of rebellion. She became moody and petulant. Normally, she was extremely self-confident (she works as a volunteer journalist in our small town) but she became really insecure and almost “shy”.
The symptoms were insidious. Each of us had different symptoms but since my husband and I both work at home and my daughter is homeschooled, we all were able to see that our symptoms shared one thing in common: we all felt like crap all the time. We tried to ignore the symptoms at first. Slowly, we stopped eating. We’d have a potato for lunch and then something for dinner. Often, this was too much. Our stomachs felt full all the time. We all agreed about this. We hadn’t noticed it happening but we were also garbling our speech on a regular basis and we couldn’t think clearly (which seriously impeded our efforts at solving the problem). We would say the wrong thing to each other without thinking like, “I’ll be right in,” when we were going back into the house. Despite efforts to correct ourselves, we’d often keep saying the wrong thing. Once, it was my husband’s turn to try something and I said, “Your way,” to him instead of “Your turn.” He and my daughter snickered at me. We weren’t adding everything up because we were so foggy headed. I’d noticed that I couldn’t hold a thought in my head for longer than a few seconds at a time. If I didn’t write even the most important things (that normally I wouldn’t forget) on my hand, I couldn’t remember them.
So, one Wednesday afternoon, we decided to get out of Nebraska and go to Colorado to see an acupuncturist and find out once and for all what ailed us. As it turned out, this small gesture of just trying to figure out what was wrong with us and getting in the car to go do something about it was enough to set the healing journey in motion. I already knew what the doctors would say. We’d spend tens of thousands of dollars to have them do Cover-Your-Ass work on us like ultrasounds and useless tests to arrive at the conclusion that my husband has IBS (not curable), I have fibromyalgia and possibly some kind of reproductive problem (maybe they should remove my uterus?) and my daughter is depressed and needs psychoactive drugs. As a general rule, unless I already have a strong sense of what’s wrong with me and I can tell a doctor precisely what treatments I’d like to have done, I don’t visit doctors because I don’t like to be pushed around when I’m sick and then ultimately made even sicker.
My acupuncturist had recommended a parasite cleanse after we’d returned from our trip abroad two and half months prior to our health crisis, but I didn’t think a cleanse was necessary. In fact, it seemed a bit like a hoax. In the CDC Yellow Book it says that parasitic infestations rarely happen in humans, even humans that travel abroad outside of the United States. So why would I need a cleanse? I thought.
As I sat in the hotel room, my acupuncturist’s advice occurred to me again and I started investigating the symptoms of a parasite infection on the Internet. The second I read the list of symptoms, I felt confident that we had parasites. It creeped me out, but I was relieved to have found something that was curable and that at least made sense.
The following are the symptoms I found in an online search for symptoms of parasites:
1) Symptoms of IBS including inexplicable constipation, diarrhea, or excessive gas.
2) Insomnia, trouble falling asleep or awakening often during the night.
3) Skin irritations or rashes, hives, eczema or rosacea.
4) Grinding your teeth at night.
5) Strange aches and pains in your muscles or joints
6) Fatigue and exhaustion
7) Apathy, anxiety, depression, moodiness
8) Foggy thinking
9) Night sweats at 3:00 AM or thereabouts
10) B12 or Iron-deficiency anemia (which can lead to foggy thinking, extreme lethargy, tinnitus, and a variety of other additional symptoms)
11) Hair loss
12) Menstrual problems
13) Eye Twitching
Since my initiation into the world of parasites about 1 month ago, I’ve learned that it’s very likely that all people have at least a few worms living in their guts. That’s not a speculative thought, it’s fact. Parasites aren’t popular, but they are survivalists. Pinworms, for example, can be transmitted through the air. Hookworms are estimated to infect at least 25% of people worldwide. They can burrow into the skin and migrate to the intestines. You may have gotten parasites from a pet or you may have been born with them. Whether you notice symptoms of an infection or not, it’s likely that you have parasites somewhere in your large or small intestines.
The idea of helminthes (worms) really bothered me at first, but I’m working on making peace with them (so to speak). Parasites are so pervasive and so easy to get, that the only way to really keep our bodies from becoming infested with them is to do bi-annual cleanses. I’m quite certain that as we complete our cleanse, our bodies will still be home to one or two worms (possibly more). But if the ecology of our gut is balanced with enough other competing organisms (like the normal bacterial flora), the parasites should stay under control, especially if we flush out excess numbers of them every six months or so.
Our family never took prescription medications and we never had tests done by doctors to find out that we had parasites. In fact, modern medicine is still in so much denial about parasites that diagnostic tests haven’t really been developed to diagnose patients properly. And not only is prescription medication toxic to us as humans, but it also doesn’t work as reliably as herbal treatments like wormwood, black walnut, and cloves. Prescription medication may seem more convenient until you take it and it doesn’t work (and all your hair falls out). You have to be diligent and take herbal remedies regularly for at least 3 weeks or even up to 8 weeks, but at the end of a cleanse, you should start feeling like yourself again.
Once we realized that we had parasites, my husband and I went to work to come up with a treatment strategy that would rid us of them as quickly as possible. I’ll talk about our treatment regime in my next article, Treating Parasites.