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Intestinal parasites in humans? Yes, you could have worms in your body and your poop. Even when eating well, exercising regularly, and taking care of your overall health, parasites can invade.
It is not just a third world problem. People living in a developed country also suffer from parasitic infections. These parasites infect people all around the world. When caught early, most are evicted relatively easily.
You may imagine those large squirmy critters we find on sidewalks after rain. Although parasitic worms are their distant cousins, they are not the same. There are three types of worms – segmented, flatworms and roundworms.
What are intestinal parasites?
First, let’s discuss what a parasite is. Medicine Net defines it as “a disease-causing organism that lives on or in a human or another animal and derives its nourishment from its host”.
When infected with parasitic worms, also known as helminth, your body becomes their food source. They often rob you of the same nourishments your body needs to remain healthy. Too bad they don’t just eat parts we don’t want! You know, like fat cells or cancer.
How do we become infected with parasitic worms?
The world around us is contaminated by parasitic worm eggs. We can find them in foods, on your hands and other body parts or on items like toilets. It is common to find them on items that are touched by many people throughout the day. Some common examples are door handles, grocery carts, and public transportation.
Touching your face, and your mouth in particular, will give the eggs access to your body. Once inside, they travel to your intestinal tract and set-up camp. From that point, each worm operates a little differently. A female pinworm will migrate to your colon at night and lay her eggs. A tapeworm can be more invasive. After laying eggs, the tapeworm larvae can travel to various parts of the body.
What parasitic worms can humans have in their bodies?
Humans may become infected by a variety of worms. The most common methods of transfer are through undercooked meat or unwashed hands. The list below is a sample of what worms people may become infected with.
Herring Worms or Anisakiasis Disease
What is anisakiasis disease?
Herring worms (nematodes) attach to the intestine, stomach or esophagus, and result in anisakiasis disease.
How do you get anisakiasis disease?
In short, herring worms come from undercooked or raw fish and squid.
Marine mammals defecate egg infected stools into the sea. Crustaceans eat the larvae before fish or squid, then eat them. Humans eat the raw or undercooked fish and ingest the larvae. Once ingested, they invade your gastrointestinal tract. When the parasite dies, it creates a mass in the esophagus, intestine or stomach.
In the past, this condition was most common in Japan. Eating raw fish has become more common around the world and with that, anisakiasis disease rates have increased.
What are the symptoms of a herring worm infection?
There can be a long list of symptoms, but they revolve around gastrointestinal discomfort. Most often, you would experience nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood and mucus in the stool, or abdominal distention. You may also run a low grade fever. Patients may experience a rash and itching. Although much more uncommon, some will suffer from anaphylaxis (breathing difficulty).
How is anisakiasis disease diagnosed?
Once a doctor determines that the symptoms began after eating raw or undercooked fish, they will order further testing. They can make a clear diagnosis after an endoscopy or radiography.
What is the treatment for a herring worm infection (anisakiasis disease)?
Most likely, the doctor will remove it with an endoscopy. If the worm is embedded, surgery may be necessary.
How can I prevent a herring worm infection?
Simply put, do not eat any raw or undercooked squid or fish. Always use a thermometer and cook the fish at an acceptable temperature. The FDA recommends an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
What are Paragonimus or fluke worms?
Paragonimus is a parasitic flatworm, otherwise known as a fluke worm. If these worms are consumed, the patient will develop a condition known as paragonimiasis.
How do you get paragonimiasis or fluke worm infection?
A person can become ill after eating infected crawfish or crab if it is partially cooked, pickled, salted or raw. The parasite larvae are released during the digestion process. They will move throughout the body and end up in the lungs. Six to ten weeks later, the larvae develop into adult fluke worms.
What are the symptoms of a fluke worm infection?
Paragonimiasis presents with symptoms that are like tuberculosis. The initial symptoms happen within the first two to fifteen days. At first, the patient will experience abdominal pain and diarrhea. After a few days, a fever, fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain develop.
Eventually, they may develop a dry cough that turns into a productive one. The cough will then produce a rusty-colored combination of saliva and mucus (sputum). If left untreated, the patient will suffer from a chronic condition that can go on for decades.
How is paragonimiasis diagnosed?
After reviewing the patient history, a doctor will place a sample of sputum on a slide and view it under the microscope. If Paragonimus eggs are found, then a diagnosis of a fluke worm infection reached. It is also possible to find the eggs in a person’s stool. This happens when a patient coughs up the eggs and then ingests them.
What is the treatment for a fluke worm infection (paragonimiasis)?
The treatment will involve an oral anti-parasite medication. The doctor will determine the most appropriate form of treatment based on severity of the infection.
How can I prevent paragonimiasis?
Do not eat any raw or undercooked crustaceans. Do not eat any raw crawfish or crabs from freshwater.
What are tapeworms?
Tapeworms are in the flatworm category. They live in the intestines of animals that have ingested the eggs or larvae through contaminated food or water. The adult tapeworm cannot survive outside of a host (human or animal). The parasite absorbs nutrients from the host’s bowel.
There are a variety of tapeworms that people become infected with. If you can determine what meat was contaminated, you will determine which type of tapeworm. Beef carries the taenia saginata tapeworm. Fish or pork carry a different variety.
How do you get tapeworms?
The most common way patients become infected is by eating contaminated meats that are undercooked.
Pork tapeworm eggs pass through a host’s bowel movements. If they do not wash their hands after wiping, the eggs can be transferred to foods they prepare. When another person eats the prepared food, they are now infected with the eggs.
What are the symptoms of a tapeworm infection?
It is common to not experience symptoms because tapeworms adapt well to their host environment. Often the first sign of an infestation is seeing the worm in bowel movements.
If symptoms occur, they are abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, weakness, weight loss or an unexplained change in appetite.
How is a tapeworm infection diagnosed?
After a doctor reviews a patient’s history and determines that tapeworms could be present, they will need a stool sample. They can then use a microscope to locate the worms or eggs in the sample. The adult worms may be visible to the naked eye.
With a larval infection, the doctor will need to order tests that use imaging like a CT scan or MRI.
How can I avoid becoming infected with tapeworms?
When cooking any kind of meat or fish, use a thermometer to check for the correct temperature. Do not eat undercooked meats. Avoid eating meats, especially fish, that have been frozen for extended periods of time. Wash your hands after every trip to the bathroom.
What is the treatment for a tapeworm infection?
A doctor has a variety of medications to choose from. Once the treatment is complete, there may be a new stool sample collected and examined.
According to one study, a natural treatment option is papaya seeds. Before starting any treatment, talk to your doctor and do your research. Know what you are putting in your body.
What are pinworms?
They are white parasitic worms that live in your intestines. Pinworms are also known as seatworms or threadworms.
They are approximately the size of a staple. Pinworms are the most common worm infection diagnosed in the United States. Children are most often affected. This is the direct result of their less active hygiene routines. Even when they wash their hands, children do not tend to be as thorough as adults.
How do you get pinworms?
The most common way of becoming infected is through hands-to-mouth transmission. That is why pinworms are more common among children. If the eggs are on a person’s hands after using the restroom, and they do not wash their hands well, the eggs can transfer to others.
What are the symptoms of a pinworm infection?
The primary complaint patients report is anal itching. The pinworm lives in the large intestine. During the night, the female pinworm will move to the anus and lay her eggs on the skin. The eggs are in a jelly-like, sticky substance. Itching results from the combination of the worm’s movement and the eggs.
How is a pinworm infection diagnosed?
Perianal itching during the night is a powerful sign a pinworm infestation is present.
We can see the eggs or worms near the anus, on clothing or on sheets. Normally that will happen about 2 to 3 hours after falling asleep. Using the tape test is an effective way to detect the worms or eggs. Press the adhesive side of a clear tape to the area around the anus. Repeat this with additional pieces of tape. The tape can be placed on a slide and examined under a microscope.
Children, especially, may scratch the area when the itching happens. For this reason, a doctor may do a fingernail scraping to locate any pinworm eggs.
How is a pinworm infestation treated?
The doctor may prescribe a medication or suggest an over-the-counter one. There are also natural options on the market. It is important to treat all people in the home.
Wash your hands frequently while paying special attention to the nails. Just as important is washing all clothing and bedding regularly. Each morning, wash the clothing and bedding in hot water to prevent reinfection. A morning shower is important to help wash away anything that has accumulated during the night.
How can I prevent a pinworm infection?
Adhering to very strict hand washing routines is key to prevention. This includes after each time the bathroom is used or we change diapers. Always wash hands before and after handling food. While treating the infestation, wash your hands after placing the linens and clothes in the washing machine.
How can I avoid parasitic worms?
Cook foods thoroughly. Wash your hands. Clean the bathroom and kitchen frequently. Oh, wash your hands. Keep your hands away from your face as much as possible. Think of it this way, if you don’t pick them up you cannot transfer them to your mouth and others.
It is also important to only drink water from clean sources. Chlorinated water is ideal when possible. Intestinal parasites are a common issue in undeveloped areas that do not have modern water filtering processes.
Undercooked or raw meat is another source of parasitic worms. Some common meat sources are beef, lamb, pork, and wild game. Anisakiasis (herring worm disease) is the direct result of eating undercooked or raw fish. After ingesting the worm, it attaches to your intestine, esophagus, or stomach. Cleanliness is your key to avoiding a parasitic infection.
If you still find yourself with stomach issues, consider reading Gut Health 101: Top Prebiotic and Probiotic Foods
The Go Nutrients team hopes you enjoyed this article and find more valuable information here that makes living a healthy lifestyle easier. We are a leading brand of alcohol-free, high potency liquid herbal supplements and vitamins. Our focus is on delivering premium products that are safe and effective. Plus, our products are MADE IN THE USA!