This is a very icky post. I am revealing I have not done proper stools for about six months now due to hosting in my gut the parasite: Dientamoeba fragilis. How hideously gross, and importantly, dangerous to my health and potentially those around me!
Finally after suffering for months, I turned to a last resort – antibiotics. I’m still not sure if I am out of the woods yet, but thought I’d share on the topic as it seems to be far more common than we realise.
Before you think that I must have travelled to a less developed country, and only places like India and Africa have such things…. I tell you otherwise. I have not been to any other country since June last year (there is a case for it being in my system from then). I am not exactly sure where I contracted these foul buggers (the literature is not sure on the route of contraction, but most obvious is the feacal-oral route). My suspicions point to when I stayed with friends in the hinterland of the north coast of NSW in a cabin on their property which is infrequently used. We drank filtered water, but I showered, brushed teeth etc using tank water which hadn’t been flushed out in over six months. Interestingly, there is mounting evidence and personal experiences that threadworm (sometimes called pinworm) Enterobius vermicularis is the vector (infective agent or carrier) responsible for person to person spread. And anyone with little kids at school knows how common worms are!
More and more it is being discovered that being infected with parasites is no longer a problem of developing countries alone. Parasites could potentially be contracted from infected water supply in cities such as Sydney as is discussed in this article on the topic here.
Having this experience has certainly made me take water filtration far more seriously. Previously I had felt invincible and been adventurous (or stupid) enough to drink town water in places like India (note this was after six months of traveling in India).
What is this species living in my gut?
Dientamoeba fragilis is a parasite that lives in the large intestine of people, and animals. Many people who have the parasite do not have symptoms. Often it is mis-diagnosed as something like Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS). It is also not often recognised even by well known clinical practices, with many saying that it is asymptomatic, that is, it occurs but shouldn’t have any effect on humans and so is not always treated. This seems to be changing with well known medical schools such as St Vincent’s in Sydney (Dr Damien Stark) and UK schools recognising that the parasite is a health issue.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Disease Prevention, the most common symptoms are diarrhea and abdominal pain. Symptoms can also include loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, and fatigue. The infection does not spread from the intestine to other parts of the body. My symptoms included bloating, foul gas (smelly farts), unformed stools (I describe them as ‘fluffy’ – I’m sorry this is very graphic!), and as it got worse I also experienced sleeplessness and fatigue. Occasionally I felt so unwell I had to leave work early and lay down, and even lost it emotionally.
Through my own research on blogs and forums, there are many people suffering from this parasite and from another more common one Blastocystis hominis. Some people are desperate to rid themselves of chronic infection with the ‘bug’ while some struggle to even have it properly diagnosed.
Why D.fragilis and B.hominis are not easily diagnosed
It seems the reason these parasites are not well diagnosed is mostly due to the way in which the stool sample is preserved. The parasites easily die off in air, and so a special fixative is required to preserve three stool (poo/faeces) samples. This is the reason that people may carry the parasite undiagnosed for years, and are often provided with a diagnosis of IBS.
If you suspect you may have one of these parasites be sure to see a sympathetic doctor who will write a referral to a pathologist indicating that your stool samples need to be taken over three consecutive days and be preserved in a special fixative!
Once I had an accurate diagnosis, I got straight onto herbal treatments. While this didn’t work for me, with correct dosage and persistence, this may be a good method. See a skilled naturopath for the full list of practitioner dispensed herbs/supplements. My experience with this route was that it certainly reduced my symptoms dramatically, but once the monthly dosage finished my symptoms would return.
I took preparations of anti-parasitic natural ingredients including Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), Black Walnut leaf (Juglans nigra), coupled with herbs and nutrients for the gastrointestinal tract which is damaged from the persistent infection (things like Aloe Vera, Slippery Elm bark, Tumeric, Glutamine). I also took a probiotic.
In the end I called my naturopath and after a discussion on symptoms and risks, I asked for a last resort antibiotic prescription. It is important to take particular antibiotics as some types work better than others in treating parasites. I took a high dosage of two types of antibiotics for ten days, and I felt quite awful, particularly for the first few days.
Fingers crossed I am all clear but I wont know for sure until I have another series of stool tests later this month. You will be happy to know my bowel movements are getting closer to normal, but as I have damaged my gut flora it may take some time to settle into a proper healthy rhythm.
Take aways for me: super cautious with own hygiene, eating and drinking from clean places only, filtering tank water, staying healthy so my own immune system can fend off any reinfections.
© Angela Standley natureglow.com.au – please link back to my site if you use the recipe/reference/source me. Love to have your comments/questions below.