According to the CDC, parasites can cause different symptoms depending on their type, from unexplained digestive problems to insomnia, anemia, joint pain, and weight loss.
The signs and symptoms of parasites may result from the toxins these microscopic organisms release into our bloodstream. However, intestinal parasites receive the most attention due to the uncomfortable symptoms they cause. Different types of parasites can lead to various symptoms, but some symptoms are prevalent with most parasites. The most common parasitic infection symptoms include:
Strong Sugar Cravings
According to the National Library of Medicine, parasites hijack your serotonin release, which controls appetite. The result of this hijacking is an intense sugar craving in the host. A diet high in simple carbohydrates like sugar, syrups, white flour, and sweetened foods fuels parasites. Parasites can’t survive without a steady sugar supply, which triggers a craving for carbs and sugar in the host.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, if parasites are present in your body, you can lose enough blood to cause anemia or iron deficiency. Blood loss can also cause exhaustion, as blood supports normal body functions. Parasites can either feed on your red blood cells or cause blood loss through the stool.
Unintentional Weight Loss
Parasites can cause nausea, loss of appetite, and poor nutritional absorption, leading to unintentional weight loss. According to the National Library of Medicine, 3.5 billion people worldwide have gastrointestinal parasite infections, which frequently cause infections that lead to a lack of appetite and weight loss.
(Bruxism) Teeth Grinding
According to the National Institutes of Health, grinding your teeth in your sleep may also be a sign of parasites. Intestinal parasites release toxins that can interact with your neurotransmitters, leading to nervousness, mood swings, and grinding your teeth at night.
Parasites can irritate and even perforate the intestinal lining, increasing bowel permeability to extensive undigested molecules and activating the immune response, causing allergic reactions, according to Prodeco Pharma. Some of the most common sensitivities parasites produce are gluten, lactose, and casein. This fact is why you should reduce your milk, cheese, and grain intake if you suspect you may have parasites.
Not Feeling Satisfied After Meals
Another sign of parasites is not feeling full or satisfied after meals but still losing weight even when eating more. Although many people may make fun of having an intestinal parasite because they frequently feel hungry, a study that BBC News reported found parasites can also decrease hunger levels. Parasites like tapeworms can hatch in your stomach and feed off what you eat, causing you to still feel hungry after a big meal.
According to Manhattan Gastroenterology, parasites like Giardia can create chronic fatigue syndrome, leading to nutritional deficiencies and malabsorption of iron and B12. Parasites can be tough on your body and can lead to feelings of fatigue or exhaustion that can result in headaches, mood changes, personality shifts, apathy, and even memory issues.
Persistent Digestive Problems
According to the Diagnostic Solutions Laboratory, tests like GI MAP can identify unusual gut symptoms often related to parasites. Unexplained diarrhea, constipation, bloating, nausea, or gas can indicate a parasitic infection. Intestinal parasites take root in your GI tract and cause your immune system to react, resulting in different symptoms based on the organism.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some parasites can dig tunnels under your skin and lay eggs, which causes itchiness, but parasites like pinworms can produce localized itching, especially around your anus. The body recognizes parasites as dangerous invaders, so the immune system produces immunoglobulin E, antibodies that travel to the cells, releasing chemicals that can cause an allergic reaction—itching.
As noted by Manhattan Gastroenterology, skin irritation, rashes, rosacea, hives, or eczema can be signs of intestinal parasitic existence. If you have skin irritation without significant improvement even after over-the-counter treatments, it may be more significant than a common skin issue. Epidermal parasitic skin diseases are a category of infectious diseases in which parasite interactions stay on the upper layer of the skin. The National Institutes of Health report that the major epidermal parasitic skin diseases are scabies, pediculosis, tungiasis, and hookworm-related cutaneous larva.
According to Manhattan Gastroenterology, parasites can invade joint and muscle space and release inflammatory toxins that affect movement and range of motion. Parasites like trichinosis can cause painful aching muscle and joint pain that won’t ease with common over-the-counter treatments. Some parasites can migrate and nest in joint fluids and muscles, leading to chronic inflammation.
Intestinal parasites can build extra gas in your GI tract, resulting in bloating. The seriousness and length of your symptoms depend on the type of parasite. According to the CDC, serious complications often happen in older adults or those with severe illnesses. And while bloating is the most common symptom caused by intestinal parasites, not everyone will react or have the same signs.
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This originally appeared on Planet Natural.
Melissa Pino is a biologist, master gardener, and regular contributor for Planet Natural. Melissa's work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices, helping people create healthy gardens and finding ways to achieve overall health and wellness.