You can contract parasites in numerous ways. Walking barefoot, swimming in public pools, physical intimacy, playing with animals, using restrooms, and even getting an insect bite can expose you. However, eating and drinking contaminated food and water presents the highest risk. Data gathered by the National Resource Defense Council shows that more than 40 million people annually are exposed to Cryptosporidium and Giardia from public water supplies—and this is from water that has been chlorinated and filtered.
Restaurant food is a common source of infection. Parasites are easily spread by staff and patrons. Eating uncooked or undercooked foods and frequenting salad bars and buffets elevates the risk. But, dining out should not be all that concerns you. Inadequately cleaned supermarket fruits and vegetables contain viable parasitic cysts (eggs) or even fully developed organisms. Raw and partially cooked meats can be even worse. Ground meats have especially high contamination rates.
We are not trying to scare you or keep you from enjoying your next meal, but use caution and common sense about what you put into your mouth. This is especially critical if you have a compromised mucosal barrier and cannot adequately defend against infectious agents.
|Causes:||Entamoeba histolytica (E. histo) infection|
Tom is a retired medical doctor and PhD. After losing his first wife to cancer, he got involved with integrative medicine and alternative therapies based in nutrition and biochemistry. When I was a young man, Tom was the doctor who treated me for allergies. Thirty years later, I became Tom’s doctor.
One day Tom told me he had acquired dysentery while traveling. I sent him a diagnostic test kit to determine whether he had a parasitic infection, because his symptoms suggested that he did. It turned out that he had an acute Entamoeba histolytica (E. histo) infection.
Being a physician, he knew exactly how to treat the infection and called me a couple of weeks later to thank me for helping him identify it. At that time, I said to him, “Tom, keep in mind that even though you had an acute infection and have treated it, E. histo can be tricky and invasive. Be sure to do follow-up testing to confirm that you got rid of it.”
A year passed before I heard from him again. One day, I received an urgent call from Tom. He said, “I’m scheduled tomorrow morning for a liver biopsy. I have three abscesses in my liver. I was praying and your name came to me, so I’m calling to ask your advice.” I reminded him, “You had an E. histo infection about a year ago. Did you retest to make sure you got rid of it?”
Because all of his symptoms had gone away and he felt fine, he hadn’t retested. I explained that if he hadn’t eradicated the E. histo infection, his liver abscesses could be amebic abscesses. If they were, a biopsy could result in his death within two to three hours from the release of toxins that would overwhelm his body. Tom cancelled the biopsy and I sent him a diagnostic test kit. As I suspected, his test result for E. histo was positive. Although his initial treatment had controlled his symptoms, it hadn’t eliminated the infection, which had invaded his liver. Thank God he called!
After Tom completed the first part of the treatment for E. histo, a ultrasound showed that one that one of the abscesses in his liver had completely dissolved; another had dissolved by 50 percent, and the third by 20 percent. Another round of treatment followed. The next liver ultrasound showed that all three abscesses had completely dissolved. After this ordeal, Tom did follow-up testing to be certain he had eradicated this infection.