Did you know that parasites can be one of the biggest disease factors in people with chronic Lyme disease? Yet our tendency is to focus on the well-known Lyme coinfections such as Borrelia, Babesia, Bartonella and Ehrlichia, and give parasites only a passing thought. Babesia is a parasite, but I’m talking about all kinds of pernicious and tenacious critters that afflict many of us with Lyme, in addition to Lyme infections, including protozoa, nematodes, trematodes and cestodes. Or, in the layperson’s vocabulary—single-celled parasites, worms, flukes, tapeworms and other bugs that feed off the host and inhabit the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and other organs.
Parasites and Chronic Lyme Disease
Yes, parasites live everywhere, including the liver, spleen, pancreas, heart, brain, blood and other places. They aren’t limited to the gastrointestinal tract, and therefore aren’t always detected by routine stool tests. What’s more, even those that live in the GI tract often stick to the walls of the GI tract and aren’t always excreted in random stool samples.
Yet many Lyme doctors still treat their patients only for the most commonly known Lyme infections, because the idea of parasites being a third-world phenomenon still prevails within the medical community, and, some healthcare practitioners figure, if the parasites don’t show up on a stool test, then patients must be OK.
But parasites inhabit all of us, and certain parasites can cause widespread damage to the body, if they get out of control. According to some parasite experts, all people are all infected with parasites, but those of us who have compromised immune function due to Lyme disease may find ourselves with more infections since our immune system may not be as functional as that of a person who doesn’t have Lyme.
Dr. Klinghardt, who contributed a chapter to my book, New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment: 10 Top Doctors Reveal Healing Strategies that Work, shares that parasites are the first microbial infections that he treats in his patients. He contends that parasites harbor smaller organisms, such as bacteria and viruses, and that because of this it actually makes no sense to treat Borrelia and the smaller creatures first, since the larger organisms in the body also contain them. So for example, if you treat Borrelia first, but neglect the parasites, you’ll still be infected with the Borrelia that’s inside the parasites!
Dr. Klinghardt also contends that if you treat parasites in the body first, then Lyme treatment can be accomplished in a matter of weeks or months, rather than years. His philosophy is to treat microbes in order from largest to smallest in the body. So parasites first, yeasts and molds second, and Lyme microbes, last.
Ann Louise Gittelman, PhD, award-winning author of the informative book, Guess What Came to Dinner?: Parasites and Your Health shares about a variety of ways in which parasites can get transmitted. The variety of routes of transmission is staggering; everything from food, water, soil and toilet seats, to pets, public sauna benches, diaper-changing procedures, and more.
Basically, if you touch anything that an infected person touches, you can get infected, too, so that would include things like handrails in public places, and even grocery carts! However, I think the biggest routes of exposure for most of us are through food, water, soil and perhaps toilet seats. If you have pets, or children who play in public parks or where animals roam, these sources are also major routes of exposure, too.
Dr. Gittelman recommends all of the following for parasite prevention. (Note: I have summarized her recommendations, for the sake of brevity):
- Wash, disinfect fruits, vegetables and meats with Clorox bleach. Add ½ tsp to a a gallon water and soak for 15-30 minutes, then rinse and dry.
- Wash hands before eating and after using the restroom.
- Don’t sit on a bare toilet seat in public places without first wiping it or protecting it with toilet paper. Better still, squat (and don’t sit) on the seat.
- Take care when using mud or water baths and sauna benches, as parasites can live in these places.
- Don’t walk barefoot, especially in warm, moist, sandy soil.
- If you travel, eat out a lot, or have pets, have a complete parasite exam at least once a year.
- Keep animals off of your bed, and if you have a compromised immune system let someone else change the cat’s litter box.
- Be sure children wash after contact with household pets. Don’t let them lick your face.
- Don’t let children play in yards, playgrounds or sandboxes where animals have been allowed to run loose.
- Keep your fingernails short and clean.
- Use a water purifier that has a fine pore filter or not more than three microns to filter out microorganism cysts. Over half of all water supplies have been contaminated by giardia or cryptosporidium.
- Keep your house clean and well aired.
- Use mild bleach to clean all cooking utensils, or surfaces that come into contact with food, like cutting boards.
- Don’t eat sushi except at fine restaurants.
- Use garlic in cooking, and when eating out, skip the salad bars, which can be parasite hotbeds.
- Snack on pumpkin seeds which have anti-parasitic properties.
- Keep animals outside if you have toddlers in the house. Immune compromised people should wear a mask and gloves when changing litter boxes.
- Deworm your pets regularly. Consider keeping your cats indoors to prevent their access to rodents and birds, which carry toxoplasmosis and other worms. Use flea collars and give them filtered drinking water.
- Make sure your kitchen and dining room areas are off limits to pets.
- Keep your house free of rats, mice and other rodents, which are carriers of parasites.
Whew. That’s a long list, and may seem extreme to some of you. We don’t live in a perfect world, so my recommendation is simply to do the best you can to avoid parasites, without letting these recommendations be a burden. If you are severely immune-compromised, however, or you know that parasites are a major problem for you, you may need to follow more of the above-mentioned guidelines than the average person.
Treatment for parasites varies. If your doctor has a one-size-fits all parasite treatment, consider seeking out someone who is more knowledgeable, as parasite treatment must be targeted to the type of pathogens present and the individual person. There is no one size fits all treatment, and both medications and natural therapies can be helpful.
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Options for Tackling Parasites
For instance, mimosa pudica is a natural remedy for tapeworms, which come from uncooked and contaminated beef, pork and fish. Many of us in the United States have tapeworms, too; they aren’t a third-world phenomenon! Some can live in the body up to 50 years and can be hard to detect on standard labs, which is why I prefer ZYTO or other types of bioenergetic testing to find them. But you can’t kill a tapeworm with a little bit of wormwood, so it pays to find out what bugs you may have.
However, Dr. Gittelman, as well as other health pioneers such as Hulda Clark, PhD, have found that the combination of clove, wormwood and black walnut will knock out over 100 types of parasites, so it may be worthwhile to ask your doctor about trying out a clove, wormwood, black walnut combination product if you have multiple infections that are susceptible to these herbs.
I personally prefer taking herbs in essential oil form, whenever possible, because I think essential oils offer a nice combination of being both powerful and yet not harmful to the body. Parasite expert Dr. Rapahel d’Angelo, MD, owner of ParaWellness Research, uses essential oils to treat parasites in his clients.
Herbal tinctures and capsules may be a good option for sensitive people, but herbal remedies alone may not be potent enough for tenacious infections, while pharmaceutical remedies are often too harsh for the body. Still, I believe each type of treatment is useful, depending on the person and types of infection present.
It’s difficult to diagnose parasites solely via symptoms, since parasitic infections mimic Lyme disease symptoms and other conditions. They include, but aren’t limited to: gastrointestinal symptoms, such as gas, cramping, diahrrea, bloating, distended belly; chronic fatigue, IBS, anemia, allergies, skin conditions like hives, rashes, lesions, dermatitis, swellings and other allergic type reactions. Even joint and muscle pain. Anxiety, depression, immune dysfunction and teeth grinding can indicate parasitic infection.
Diagnostic tests can also be useful, but I’ve found bioenergetic testing to cover the most ground, as no single blood, urine or stool test will reveal all the parasites that could be lurking in the body, although they can be used to help confirm a diagnosis. Indirect lab testing can also be helpful; for instance, elevated liver enzymes and high eosinophil counts may reveal the presence of a worm in the body, since worms commonly cause these two markers on a standard blood test to be elevated. Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell involved in fighting parasites.
Abnormal levels of vitamins, minerals, and liver enzymes can be other indications of parasitic infection. For instance, low serum potassium reveals strongyloides, while low B-12 may indicate fish tapeworm. In an interview that I did with parasite doctor, Dr. Omar Amin, owner of the lab, Parasitology, Inc. shared that one of his clients had developed dementia as a result of low Vitamin B-12 levels caused by a parasite. When he gave her B-12, the dementia disappeared.
Blood serum tests can also sometimes measure antibodies to organisms like entamoeba histolytica, toxocara, leishmania, toxoplasma gondii, malaria, filarial, heartworm, trichinella and blood, liver and lung flukes.
Finally, you could always ask your doctor to do a parasite treatment challenge test, to see how you respond to different anti-parasitic treatments, based on what he or she believes that your body is dealing with. This is often the most inexpensive, although subjective, way to test and treat for parasites.
By treating parasites, you can remove another major burden on your immune system, and in turn, perhaps recover more effectively and faster from Lyme. Indeed, I believe that parasites should be a frontline consideration in Lyme disease treatment. Consider that parasite treatment may be what gets you to the next level in your healing journey, and look for an integrative practitioner who understands Lyme as well as parasites and other infections. You may be able to find a recommendation for a good doctor by asking around on Internet Lyme forums, or by contacting parasite labs like those of Drs. Amin and Raphael, to see if they know someone in your area who tests and treats parasites, in addition to Lyme disease.
This article was first published on ProHealth.com on August 2, 2017 and was updated on August 16, 2019.
Connie Strasheim is the author or co-author of 11 wellness books, including New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment: 10 Top Doctors Real Healing Strategies that Work. (October, 2016) and Beyond a Glass of Milk and a Hot Bath: Advanced Sleep Solutions for People with Chronic Insomnia. (March, 2017). She is also a medical copywriter and an editor at ProHealth.com, as well as Editor of the Alternative Cancer Research Institute (ACRI). Her passion is to help people with complex chronic illnesses find freedom from disease and soul-spirit sickness using whole body medicine, and she collaborates with some of the world’s best integrative doctors to do this. In addition to Lyme disease and insomnia, Connie’s books focus on cancer, nutrition, detoxification and spiritual healing. To learn more about her work, see: www.ConnieStrasheim.org.