Treatment Of Parasite Infections – Gut Health

dientamoeba fragilis infection natural parasite treatment herbalist naturopath gut health specialist

Issues With Digestion?

Byron Bay is an incredible place. But as with many warmer climates humans aren’t the only creatures that like to take up residence here. Due to the warmer temperatures and the many people living off of tank water there seems to be a higher than average amount of parasite infections in the area.

The amount of people that I know that currently have, or have had Blastocystis infections is staggering. Many people, myself included have spent years trying everything from antibiotics to herbal medicine to fasting to try to remove this particular parasite infection.

Common Parasite Infections

There are a number of different parasite infections that can cause a range of different digestive and non-digestive symptoms. Follow the links listed below for a deeper dive into each individual bug.

Blastocystis spp., sometimes known as Blastocystis hominis or blasto – This particular bug is everywhere here in the Byron Bay area and as such I spend quite a bit of time covering the different aspects of this gut infection. It has developed quite the resistance to the front line antibiotic, metronidazole, aka Flagyl. As such it is quite common to see repeat rounds of unsuccessful antibiotic treatments leading to diminishing returns and impacted gut flora.

Recommended readings on Blastocystis spp.

Dientamoeba fragilis is another parasite infection that is commonly found here in the Byron Bay region. It is frequently found alongside Blastocystis spp. infections and can be almost as hard to treat. It is a protozoan parasite as well but, unlike many other protozoans, does not appear to have the ability to form cysts. If this is true it means that Dientamoeba fragilis cannot survive long outside of a host. There has been speculation that helminths (parasitic worms) may be a vector of transmission and children with repeat pinworm infections presenting with digestive complaints should be tested for Dientamoeba fragilis.

Giardia lamblia aka Giardia duodenalis, Giardia intestinalis – This parasitic infection is yet another bug that can be found in contaminated fresh water, be it ground water or unfiltered tank water. Personally I haven’t come across many Giardia infections here in Byron Bay but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a common infection. In some people Giardia infection can be transient and the body can mount an effective attack and eliminate the parasitic infection. In others, particularly those with poor secretory IgA (an immunoglobulin secreted in the gut as primary defence against intruders) Giardia can persist indefinitely causing a range of digestive symptoms and nutrient deficiencies.

Helicobacter pylori – While H. pylori is not technically a parasite it certainly can cause some serious digestive issues in certain people including gastritis (inflammation of the stomach), nutrient deficiencies (particularly vitamin B12) and even gastric cancer in a small subset of those that are infected.

Recommended readings on Helicobacter pylori

Signs and Symptoms of Parasite Infections

The list is long but can include digestive symptoms including the following

  • Stomach pain
  • Bloating
  • Loose stools (diarrhoea)
  • Constipation
  • Skin conditions
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Distention

Finding Parasite Infections

In Australia this is relatively easy for the more common parasite infections. Medicare offers a reliable PCR test through your local doctor. As parasite infections are quite common here in the Byron Bay region most doctors are more than happy to order the stool test for you. In other areas, depending on the doctor, it might be harder to convince them that it is necessary. This PCR stool test will screen for the top offenders including a handful of the parasites listed and a number of bacterial pathogens as well. Unfortunately Helicobacter pylori is not included on that list so it must be added on, at your doctors insistence, otherwise it won’t be screened for.

More advanced stool testing are not covered by Medicare meaning you will have to pay for them out of pocket. They include investigations for opportunistic infections such as Klebseilla and Citrobacter and can include information on how you are digesting your food.

Recommended reading on stool testing

Treating Parasite Infections

Now we get down to the real question. How are parasite infections best treated. The answer will depend on who you ask. Many doctors that are unfamiliar with the increasing and slightly alarming rise in antibiotic resistant parasites will turn to the front line antibiotic. The exact one will depend on the parasite in question. Some times this will work and repeat stool testing will come back clear of the infection. Many times front-line therapy won’t work. In these cases biomedicine turns to antibiotic cocktails (combinations of 2 and even 3 antibiotics) combined with a proton pump inhibitor as pharmaceutical antibiotics are more effective in alkaline environments.

Alternative practitioners, including Herbalists, Nutritionists and Naturopaths will turn to their toolbox. In my experience antimicrobial herbs alone are normally not enough to shift the balance in the gastrointestinal tract back into balance. I believe they are still essential in most cases (others would argue that probiotics can do it alone) I do think they should be combined with specific probiotics including

  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae variety boulardii – particularly the Biocodex strain which has been well researched
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus  LGG
  • Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12

Recommended readings on treating parasite infections

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