Few things can turn your stomach like the thought of having tiny parasites crawling around inside you feeding off your blood. Infection is surprisingly easy--mostly by ingestion of the parasite eggs or contact with an infected person or animal. The good news is that parasites are usually pretty simple to get rid of, once you know they're there, that is.
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Constipation hits the best of us from time to time and is usually no cause for concern. But sometimes the cause is something a little more sinister than simply not eating enough fibre or keeping hydrated. Some parasitic worms can physically block certain organs. Large infections can obstruct the intestinal tract, making it difficult for things to flow regularly or easily.
The flip side of constipation, diarrhoea can occur for a lot of reasons, most of them innocent. But certain parasites, primarily the protozoa type, produce a hormone-like substance that leads to loose, watery stools. Contrary to popular belief, and increasing the "ick" factor of parasites, this is a function of the parasite itself, not the body's attempt to rid itself of these unwanted guests.
Gas and Bloating
Parasites that live in the upper small intestine cause inflammation of the tissues there, and can cause gas and bloating. This discomfort can multiply when hard-to-digest foods such as beans and raw fruits and vegetables are eaten. Occasional bloating may not mean anything, especially if it occurs after eating the aforementioned gas-prone foods, but if it is persistent, you may not be alone in your own body.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Parasites can infect almost any part of the human body, but intestinal parasites are by far the most common. The little buggers tend to irritate and inflame the intestinal cell wall, which leads to a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms. Parasites can also interfere with the absorption of vital nutrients, and that can lead to uncomfortable stools.
Joint and Muscle Aches and Pains
Parasites aren't necessarily stay-put creatures, and some of them have been known to migrate to other parts of the body. Some enclose themselves in a sac and take up residence in joint fluids or muscles. Pain results from these nomadic invaders and is often written off as arthritis. The various aches, pains and inflammation also result from tissue damage caused by the constant battle of the body's immune system against the parasites.
If it's not bad enough to have the pests inside you, they can also feed off of you, sometimes making you sick. Some species of intestinal worms survive by attaching themselves to the lining of the intestines, feeding off your blood and thereby leaching valuable nutrients from you. In large enough numbers, these bloodsuckers can eat so much so as to cause an iron deficiency.
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