What’s Bugging You?
Years ago, I took a trip to Mexico City. Along with the souvenirs, I also brought back a horrendous case of Montazuma’s revenge. Of course, I got treated right away and thought I was cured. But parasites aren’t so easily defeated and – after years of battling stomach problems – I was finally diagnosed correctly and able to eradicate the little bugger.
While my parasite came from south of the border, you can pick up one of these critters in your own home town. If you often feel bloated or gassy, if you suffer from frequent diarrhea or constipation, if you’re tired or depressed, you too may be the unsuspecting victim of a parasite.
More Common Than You Think
Parasites are a public health issue that’s rarely talked about. But the truth is millions of Americans are host to more than 130 different kinds of parasites. Diagnosis is also difficult, because the symptoms can mimic so many other health problems.
Another reason we miss parasites is because we assume they are a third-world problem. Yet one of the biggest cases of contamination came from a waterborne outbreak of Cryptosporidium parvum in Milwaukee that affected more then 400,000 people in 1993. Another parasite, Giardia lamblia is also common in the U.S. and can bring on diarrhea that can last for several days – or even several years in some cases. Since chronic giardiasis can be misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome, it’s hard to tell how many people are affected – but the numbers could be astronomical!
Contaminated water is often the culprit, but fish, meat and poultry can also contain parasites. Trichinosis can be transmitted to pigs fed uncooked garbage or rodent-ingested feed. It is then passed on to humans if the meat is undercooked. Rare pork, beef or lamb can also harbor toxoplasmosis – a parasite commonly carried by cats. Ceviche, sashimi, sushi and other raw fish dishes may harbor a variety of parasites like anisakine larvae, eustrongylides, liver and lung flukes, and fish tapeworms. Kind of spoils your appetite, doesn’t it?
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to guard against exposure to parasites. Wash your hands frequently, especially before and after handling food. And make sure you scrub under your fingernails. Make sure you wear gloves when you garden. And dispose of pet wastes promptly and safely.
You can also bolster your defenses with a little help from the bees. Research in the 1980s found that propolis – the resin collected by bees from the leaf buds and bark of trees – can effectively thwart parasites, especially giardiasis. One preliminary trial of children and adults with giardiasis showed that those who took propolis experienced a 52 to 60 percent rate of successful parasite elimination. More recently, lab tests validated the findings of these early trials. They also discovered that combining propolis with conventional anti-parasite drugs proved incredibly effective at ridding the body of parasites while protecting the gastrointestinal tract.
If you do come into contact with one of these little critters, you might try one of the following herbs:
Oregon Grape: The secret to this herb’s effectiveness against parasites is berberine. Preliminary trials have shown that berberine can be used successfully to treat giardia infections. In addition, test tube studies show that berberine kills amoebae, although it is not known whether this effect occurs in humans. The amount required is approximately 200 mg. three times per day for an adult – a level high enough to potentially cause side effects. Therefore, berberine should not be used without consulting a healthcare provider.
Garlic: This odorous herb has been shown to kill parasites, including amoebae and hookworm, in test tubes and in animals. Older studies in humans support the use of garlic to treat roundworm, pinworm, and hookworm. However, due to a lack of clinical trials, the amount of garlic needed to treat intestinal parasites in humans is not known.
Pumpkin Seeds: These tasty seeds are a good addition to conventional antibiotics to treat tapeworms. In Germany, 200-400 grams are commonly ground and taken with milk and honey, followed by castor oil two hours later. Tapeworms can cause severe illness and should be treated only with medical supervision. In China, pumpkin seeds have been shown to effectively treat acute schistosomiasis, a severe parasitic disease occurring primarily in Asia and Africa that is transmitted by snails.
One Last Thing …
If you suffer from gastrointestinal problems and can’t seem to pin down the cause, ask your doctor to check for parasites. Mild cases often respond well to natural remedies. But if you have a chronic or severe case, you’ll probably need a course of antibiotics.
The problem with antibiotics, however, is that they don’t discriminate between good and bad bugs. They simply kill everything they encounter. If you do need an antibiotic, follow it up with a good quality probiotic to recolonize your gastrointestinal tract. Look for a probiotic that contains several different strains of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobaccillus acidophilus, L.bulgaris, L. bifidus and Streptococcus faeceum.
This Just in …
Red Bull, the popular energy drink, likes to promote itself by saying it gives you so much energy you’ll feel like you have wings. What they don’t tell you is that those wings come with a catch – an increased risk of stroke. At least that’s what a group of Australian researchers are saying after looking into the effects Red Bull has on the heart.
The Australian team analyzed the effects the energy drink had on the cardiovascular systems of 30 young adults after drinking a can of Red Bull. The drink causes the blood to become “sticky,” and this stickiness increases the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. Other symptoms observed were similar to those seen in cardiovascular disease sufferers.
What’s particularly noteworthy about this finding is that these symptoms were observed in people who were healthy, having no history of cardiovascular disease. The study’s lead researcher, Scott Wiloughby, told reporters that if someone has any history or predisposition to cardiovascular disease, they should stay away from Red Bull.
I’d go much further than that. Stay away from any and all energy drinks. These products are pumped with stimulants that might keep you awake, but they can also result in some very unexpected health affects. Products like Red Bull are so dangerous they are banned in Denmark, Norway and Uruguay due to the health hazards.
What speaks even more to energy drinks’ debilitating effects are the dangers of the drink that Red Bull itself makes plain, advising consumers not to drink more than two Red Bulls in a 24-hour period. If a company advises consumers not to drink or eat more than a certain amount of its product, it ought to tell you all you need to know about its safety.
This latest research supports a study done not too long ago by researchers from Wayne State University. Their results showed that energy drinks like Red Bull elevated blood pressure to dangerous levels for those with pre-existing heart conditions. There’s also some evidence linking energy drinks to seizures.
When you need a quick energy fix, an energy drink may seem tempting. But no shot of energy is worth risking a heart attack or stroke. By guzzling down these and other high-caffeine drinks, that’s exactly what you’re doing.
Yours in health and happiness,
Bonnie Jenkins, Editor
Advanced Natural Medicine Bulletin