Updated: Jun 2
Low-grade, persistent symptoms are the ones most likely to be dismissed as insignificant.
This is unfortunate, as long term symptoms like dairy sensitivity, anxiety, frequent headaches and overall tiredness are frequently the only symptoms of a parasitic infection.
Most people only think of gastrointestinal symptoms as being the only possible symptom of a parasite infection - this is not true.
Parasite infections can cause many systemic symptoms and in some cases digestive symptoms are not experienced.
It is only when the infection is correctly identified and successfully treated that these symptoms disappear and the patient can enjoy more energy, better digestive health and overall improved health.
In this article we will be focusing on a particular kind of parasitic infection. Strongyloides (also called 'threadworm') is a common, yet treatable infection that causes many symptoms.
A Strongyloides or 'Threadworm' Infection
Transmission can result from walking barefoot on contaminated soil, not washing your hands after you use the bathroom (fecal oral transmission) or ingesting food with parasite eggs. (5)
Symptoms of a Threadworm Infection
tired all the time
dairy allergy or dairy intolerance
coughing unrelated unrelated to cold or flu
asthma or asthma-like symptoms
rectal or vaginal itching (especially at night)
threadworms in stool (they look like little threads)
weight loss or difficulty losing weight
bedwetting (especially in children)
The Life Cycle Of Threadworm
Threadworm is one of the only helminths (worms) to have its entire life cycle inside humans. This means that parasites can reproduce and create a cycle of constant infection and reinfection.
Once the infective larvae has penetrated into your body, it can travel through your blood stream and into your lymphatic system.
From there, they can travel into your lungs and bronchial tree where you then swallow these larvae to have them hatch and then migrate to the intestines.
From the large intestine they can then penetrate the intestinal wall and then start the whole cycle again. Adult worms can live in the body for up to five years.
Low grade infection can persist for decades and cause symptoms long after initial infection. (6)
In one instance, a World War II ex prisoner of war was shown to have symptoms of threadworm from an initial infection 40 years prior. (7)
Risk Factors For A Threadworm Infection (8)
history of taking long term steroid medications like prednisone
taking biologic therapies
chronic viral infections
history of cancer
Timeline Of An Acute Infection
Within a week of transmission a dry cough is common.
Within three weeks gastrointestinal symptoms will begin (diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain).
Auto-infection (active reproduction and reinfection within the body) starts within a month. At this stage skin conditions can arise, hives are the most common or a rash called larva currens which is specific to a strongyloidiasis. (9)
Symptoms Of A Chronic Infection
Hallmark symptoms of a chronic infection include persistent gastrointestinal problems. These symptoms can range from diarrhea, constipation, stomach cramps, poor digestion, bleeding and colitis.
Skin problems range from dryness, itchiness, hives, pruritus (itchy skin), angioedema (swelling in the lower layer of the skin) and the characteristic rash larvae currens (which looks like a red thread underneath the skin). (10)
Palpitations have also been observed in threadworm patients. (13)
A severe infection can spread to many organs including the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidneys, ovaries, diaphragm, heart, brain and muscle. (14)
Low Grade Symptoms
These symptoms are what many of my patients come to me with.
They are general, low level symptoms that are easily dismissed by practitioners as being solely due to stress or diet but I find that they are indications of deeper imbalances like infection or hormonal problems.
Less Common Symptoms Of A Threadworm Infection
food allergies and sensitivities (especially dairy)
leaky gut (because the larvae can penetrate the intestinal wall)
migraines and headaches are very common
Functional Medicine Testing
Functional medicine testing is designed for situations like this.
Usually with my patients I order a few different tests. In a case of suspected parasitic infection, testing would usually be ordered to confirm the parasitic infection, to assess gut function and to establish if there are other (viral or bacterial) infections that need to be taken into account.
A stool test on its own is not accurate enough for a diagnosis since it only detects threadworm in about 50% of cases. (15)
Increasing the stool samples to 7 when testing does increase accuracy (16) but in most cases, blood testing is preferable.
ELISA tests for strongyloides stercoralis antibodies were shown to have a sensitivity of 83-89% and 97%for specificity. (17)
Considerations When Self-Treating
Treatment must be done in a specific order so that the entire parasitic infection (along with any co-infections) are eradicated.
If it is not 100% cleared then infection will simply reseed and begin again.
Also, parasites are known to contain heavy metals, bacteria, and viruses.
This is one of the major reasons to eradicate the infection but this also means that if your body’s detoxification pathways are not ready to handle the detox process, trying to kill parasites will make you sicker than when you started.
Through testing and diagnostics, I can ensure that you are ready to eradicate the infection at the same time as supporting your overall health.
Taking handfuls of anti-parasitic herbs most of the time will not work if the herbs themselves are not potent enough and if you don’t take the right amount at the right time for the right duration.
Don't be fooled by advertising and 'quick fixes', parasitic infection should be managed by a doctor who has experience treating it.
Natural Treatment Options
These treatments should be administered under the supervision of a doctor. More specific treatments will be tailored to you as part of your treatment plan.
Mimosa Pudica Seed
Vidanga is a antimicrobial against tapeworms and nematodes (20) and is antibacterial. (21)
Functional Medicine Consultations
I have a worldwide consulting practice as well as an office in Kansas City, Kansas, USA and am accepting new patients.
I offer consultations and appointments on the phone or through secure video conferencing.
I can coordinate treatment with your general practitioner or you can become one of my patients, testing can also be ordered at a hospital or testing facility near you and.many nutritional medicines can be shipped directly to your door.
You can talk to me directly by scheduling a Free 15 Minute Consultation or you can call or text my office at 913-728-5291.
If you think that you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information. Nor should you ever delay seeking medical advice or treatment due to the information contained on this Website.
20. Williamson, Elizabeth Major Herbs of Ayurveda, Elsevier Science Ltd 2002 129-133
21. Chitra M, Shyamala Devi and Sukumar E: Antibacterial activity of embelin. Fitoterapia 2003; 74: 401-403.