Explains what parasites are, how they are spread, describes the symptoms of parasitic diseases, and discusses medical treatments and prevention.
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Ann Louise Gittleman is the award-winning author of more than 30 twenty-five books on health and healing, including the New York Times bestsellers Before the Change and The Fat Flush Plan. Acknowledged as a health visionary, she has been seen on Dr. Phil, The View, Extra, Good Morning America, PBS, and CNN. Gittleman holds a Ph.D. in holistic nutrition and a master’s degree in nutrition education, and is a certified nutrition specialist.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Do you feel tired most of the time? Are you experiencing digestive problems—gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea—that come and go but never really clear up? Do you suffer from food sensitivities and environmental intolerances? Have you developed allergic-like reactions and can’t understand why? Are you depressed? Do you have difficulty gaining or losing weight no matter what you do? Have you even tried a yeast control program that helped to some degree but know you can’t stay away from bread, alcohol, fruit, and fruit juices all your life? Do you sense something is not quite right with you but just can’t figure out the cause—and, for that matter, neither can your doctor?
If these symptoms and feelings sound familiar, then you may be an unsuspecting victim of the parasite epidemic that is affecting millions of Americans. It is an epidemic that knows no territorial, economic, or sexual boundaries. It is a silent epidemic of which most doctors in this country are not even aware. Yet, according to parasite expert and medical researcher Louis Parrish, M.D., at least eight out of ten of his patients have some kind of parasite infection.
Here is the untold story that finally solves the mystery of many chronic health disorders. It is a story that began for me back in 1974 when I stumbled upon the connection between parasites and disease. In that year, at a special class for the study of “scientific nutrition” in Albuquerque, New Mexico, instructor Hazel Parcells, D.C., N.D., Ph.D., introduced the topic of worms in a most visual manner. She showed the class various preserved specimens of internal visitors that had been passed by patients undergoing treatment for a wide array of unresolved health problems. I have never forgotten the sight of those little bottles and what was in them. For the next two years, I refused to eat in any restaurants—for reasons you will read about later in this book. But most important, what I learned from Dr. Parcells was that worms, from the microscopic amoeba to the feet-long tapeworm, are a fundamental root cause of disease and are associated with health problems that go far beyond gastrointestinal-tract disturbances.
Since then, in my own nutritional practice, I have observed that many unexplained health conditions often disappeared when parasites were eliminated from the body. These conditions included environmental illness, skin problems, digestive problems, excessive fatigue, hypoglycemia, arthritic-like aches and pains, long-standing obesity, and even depression. Painstaking examination of my clients’ food habits, favorite ethnic restaurants, lifestyle, and travel records often revealed the source of infection. I was amazed to find that a patient’s travel history was often the missing key to unlocking the underlying cause of persistent flu-like symptoms, allergy, fatigue, gas, and intermittent constipation and diarrhea. Frequently, symptoms started shortly after a vacation to tropical islands, Asia, or South America or a camping trip in Colorado.
A central problem in solving the parasite puzzle is that many parasite-based illnesses can mimic diseases more familiar to the doctor. Roundworm infection, for example, has been misdiagnosed as peptic ulcer, and amoebic colitis is often mislabeled as ulcerative colitis. Chronic fatigue syndrome and yeast infection may really be a case of chronic giardiasis, while diabetes and hypoglycemia can be caused by tapeworm infection. The majority of doctors in the United States do not recognize parasites and therefore do not diagnose them. This may be due to the fact that parasitology courses in medical schools are usually offered by a tropical diseases department, giving rise to the notion that parasites are primarily a foreign concern. Furthermore, the inability of technicians to accurately diagnose the problem compounds the issue. The parasites’ own reproductive cycle, in which eggs or cysts are passed at irregular intervals, also makes accurate diagnosis tricky.
Today, parasites and the diseases they cause are no longer found just in faraway places like the tropics—places that conjure up images of poverty and poor hygiene. Some parasites, like giardia and pinworms, are, in fact, found predominantly in temperate climates. These organisms as well as others have become more prevalent in America because of a number of modern-day factors discussed throughout this book.
The idea of harboring a living organism inside our bodies is repulsive and unpleasant to dwell upon, but learning all we can about our unwelcome boarders is the only way we can discover enough to evict them and rid ourselves once and for all of their presence. This is one situation in which ignorance is definitely not bliss.
knowledge is the key
In this book I will tell you:
In the following chapters, you will find answers to such questions as:
The answers to these questions and many more may surprise and even shock you. But this book was written to do just that—awaken you, your family, and your doctor to the fact that parasites are alive and well and thriving in America today. I wrote this book because as a health-care professional I am worried...worried that so many individuals are not well, even though they are following a balanced diet and a good exercise program, and are unable to find the reason. I am convinced, after dealing with patients for more than eighteen years, that one of the major reasons for the chronic ill health we are seeing today is none other than parasites.
After you read this book, I urge you to share it with as many people as you can. Pass it on to your neighborhood health clinic, the hospital emergency room, your personal physician, and to veterinarians, day-care centers, outdoor clubs, restaurant owners, and travel agents. Education is the most potent weapon against the parasite epidemic. It is my hope that Guess What Came to Dinner? will become a wake-up call for every individual living in America today.
what you don’t know can hurt you
April 1999: A tiny parasitic worm that bores into tadpoles and disturbs cells may be the cause of a large numbers of mysterious frog-leg deformities.
September 1998: The parasite Cryptosporidium causes widespread water contamination in Sidney, Australia.
May 1997: Business executives in Houston, Texas, fall prey to the parasite cyclospora after eating infected produce.
April 1997: Centers for Disease Control estimates between 100,000 and 1,000,000 cases of Giardia lamblia occur each year.
October 1994: NBC television program Dateline reports that unnecessary deaths and illnesses throughout New York City are the fault of cryptosporidium-contaminated water.
November 1993: According to a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) press release, parasites in the U.S. affect millions.
Spring 1993: As reported by the NIAID, 100 deaths and more than 400,000 residents become seriously ill in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, after the parasite cryptosporidium contaminated the water supply.
January 1993: Several deaths and hundreds of others fall ill to an E. coli outbreak in Washington due to fast-food hamburgers.
September 1992: Pork tapeworm cysts show up on the brains of four orthodox Jews: A feature story by the Associated Press zeroes in on the mystery.
Spring 1991: U.S. suspects Gulf War GIs are carrying the parasitic disease leishmaniasis and stops them from donating blood!
Believe it or not, Americans today are host to more than 130 different kinds of parasites, ranging from microscopic organisms to foot-long tapeworms. Practically every imaginable kind of exotic parasitic disease has been found on our shores: African sleeping sickness, toxoplasmosis, schistosomiasis, giardiasis, amebiasis, filariasis—unpronounceable to most of us, but potentially deadly nevertheless. Even malaria is making a comeback, with cases of this mosquito-borne tropical disease being reported as close to home as New Jersey, Virginia, Texas, and California.1
Parasites are an insidious public health threat in the United States today. Insidious because so very few people are talking about parasites, and even fewer people are listening. Insidious because of the common misconception, among physicians and the general public alike, that parasites occur only in tropical Third World countries, areas traditionally associated with malnutrition and poor hygienic practices. Insidious because physicians do not suspect, and therefore do not recognize, classic symptoms. And insidious because even if physicians are aware of the threat, most use outdated and inadequate testing procedures, which result in underdiagnosis.
Lack of education is to blame. In the United States, physicians are simply not educated in parasitology and are, therefore, inexperienced in recognizing common clinical symptoms. A doctor’s introduction to parasitology may come from a chapter here and there in a microbiology course in medical school. If parasitology itself is taught at all, it is as a specialty in the department of tropical medicine at some universities. Courses in these departments are not often elected by medical students who believe they will not be seeing “tropical medicine” problems in their general practices in the United States.
Yet, times have changed and parasites are much more widespread than previously believed. An article appearing in the June 27, 1978, Miami Herald states that a nationwide survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 1976 revealed that one in every six people selected at random had one or more parasites. The survey also pinpointed a parasite known as Giardia lamblia as the number-one culprit in water-borne disease. Louis Parrish, M.D., a New York City physician who specializes in parasites, wrote in 1991, “Based upon my experience, I estimate in the New York metropolitan area that 25 percent of the population is infected....”2 Projections for the year 2025 suggest that more than half of the 8.3 billion people on Earth will then be infected with parasitic diseases.3
Often regarded as opportunistic invaders, parasites have no respect for class boundaries. The publicized illnesses of celebrities like actor Yul Brynner, who became seriously ill from trichinosis after eating in a well-known New York restaurant, and tennis pro Martina Navratilova, who was affected by cat-transmitted toxoplasmosis, illustrate that we are all susceptible. Contaminated well water at some of this nation’s most prestigious ski resorts has led to outbreaks of giardiasis, which goes to show that parasites can occur even in the seats of the mighty.
how did it happen?
A number of seemingly unrelated factors unique to the late twentieth century have contributed to the unrestrained parasite epidemic and added to the increased risk of parasitic infection. Some of these factors include:
Let’s examine each of these factors in detail.
Today more than ever before, American tourists are traveling to remote areas of the world. An affluent society is a mobile one. In 1990 alone, more than 390 million people worldwide made international trips for pleasure and/or business. Over 15 million of them were Americans, and half of these Americans traveled to Third World countries. More adventurous trips to exotic destinations like the Caribbean Islands and remote areas of Mexico, South America, Asia, Africa, China, and Israel have replaced the old-fashioned grand tour. We know that smallpox, cholera, and the plague have been eradicated, so we’re safe.
Unfortunately, travel can be fatal. As mentioned earlier, malaria, the most virulent of the parasitic diseases, is on the rise both here and abroad. Malaria is a ruthless killer, responsible for up to 2 million deaths per year in over 100 countries. The rise of this disease is partly due to the fact that mosquitoes have become resistant to DDT and other insecticides. And drug-resistant parasites have been found throughout South America, East Africa, and Southeast Asia. In parts of Thailand, the organism is resistant to every known drug, and the problem now presents a medical crisis.4There are many documented clinical cases of travelers, including businessmen and foreign exchange students, who had been infected in other countries but did not manifest symptoms until after their return home. In some of these cases, the disease was properly identified but by that time had progressed beyond the point of medical intervention, and the patients died.5
For the majority of us, less threatening conditions such as bouts of diarrhea are expected souvenirs of world travel. We pack out Pepto-Bismol right along with our passports and think nothing of it. Unless we go to St. Petersburg, Russia. Formerly known as Leningrad, this is “Giardia City” to visitors who go home with severe diarrhea, fevers, chills, muscle pain, and intestinal bloating. The cause: The city’s tap water is infected with Giardia lamblia, a microscopic parasite. Visitors to Nepal are routinely stricken with severe cases of giardia, unaffectionately referred to as “Delhi-Belly.” Giardiasis, however, can do more than ruin your vacation. Symptoms of this illness can persist long after the vacation has ended. And it has been known to set the stage for unexplained conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue.6, 7
Besides returning with photographs of the Great Wall of China, travelers there return with internal hitchhikers in the form of roundworms caused by widespread agricultural use of night soil (human waste). Eggs are not found in stool samples until sixty to seventy-five days after initial infection. By this time, they have gone through their pulmonary phase, creating such symptoms as cough, wheezing, bronchial spasms, and increased mucus. Symptoms of the intestinal phase may mimic those of peptic ulcer but require an entirely different treatment regimen.
The International Travelers Hotline of the Atlanta-based CDC warns those traveling to Africa of the danger of bathing, wading, or swimming in fresh water that may be infested with blood flukes, which cause a disease called schistosomiasis. This infection not only produces fever and chills, it elevates the number of specialized white blood cells known as eosinophils and causes abdominal pain with enlargement of the liver and sple...
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