As Dr. Yvonne Kleine is on vacation for August, Patch is posting some of her most popular columns for those new to Patch and those who have been enjoying her insight for over a year.
Reader alert! Anyone who gets queasy should stop reading here because we're talking about parasites.
One of my all-time favorite television shows is a weekly program on Animal Planet called Monsters Inside Me; the plot usually consists of some hapless victim experiencing terrible symptoms- sometimes life threatening- which no doctor could seem to diagnose until someone thought of parasites.
I was fascinated by the variety and intensity of these minute monsters. We don't usually discuss these repulsive creatures unless we are taking a trip to the Vet, but I can assure you people can and do suffer from parasites more often than you would think.
In the 1800's it was not unusual for women to swallow encapsulated tape worms in order to maintain a "wasp waist." The damage these women did to themselves was dreadful and lifelong. Dying to be thin is not a new concept.
Parasites can lead to a host of debilitating illnesses including chronic digestive disorders, diarrhea, intestinal bleeding, blindness, and lung and brain damage. Giardia is a common water-borne parasite that has caused illness in thousands of people, and along with shigella, has killed many of those who are weakened or immuno-suppressed. Leptospirosis is a spirochetal parasitic disease found in raccoons and other vermin. Passed through the urine, it infects standing water and can kill your dog or cat by destroying the liver. In humans it's known as "Weil's disease." Thank goodness, Weil's is extremely rare. If you have a pet and you kiss him, touch him and don't wash your hands, if you handle cat litter or clean bird cages or coops, you are a prime candidate for a nice little infestation.
Zoonotic parasites, such as roundworms, and infections such as histoplasmosis and toxoplasmosis are spread in both feline, canine and avian feces and can pass into human beings. You may be totally asymptomatic, because parasites are tricky bugs that can hide out until you're feeling very sick. If your children play in sandboxes, or you allow them into what I call the "Virus Pits," those horrible tanks filled with plastic balls at fast food restaurants, there is a very good possibility that they have been exposed to parasites. If you notice that your child has a protruding belly or "pop tummy," flatulence, and a runny nose but no cold, it's a tell-tale sign. Picking at one's posterior is also a giveaway.
Before I scare you to death, there is a very easy way to kill intestinal parasites without resorting to prescription vermifuges, which can have some nasty side effects. The magic elixir is GARLIC! Yes, raw garlic is one of the best parasite killers there is. You may take it internally, chopped up raw with a spoon of olive oil, or you can use my all time greatest quick fix, "DR.BOOTSIE'S GARLIC SHOE." This is particularly good for your children, since getting them to eat raw garlic without nuclear winter ensuing is improbable.
Peel two cloves of garlic and crush them slightly. Place one clove on the sole of each foot and pull on a white cotton sock. You may secure the garlic with paper or cloth tape. Put on shoes, walk around. Repeat daily until the breath is good and garlicky. At this point there is enough allicin in the bloodstream to have done the trick. I can hear you laughing out there, but I promise you, I have used this many times in my practice and it never fails.
Other good ways to prevent parasites are washing your hands after touching pets or litter (sing "Happy Birthday" and rinse), eating pumpkin seeds, and rubbing wormwood extract onto the soles of the feet. Be warned, though, wormwood is exceedingly bitter and you will taste it in your mouth, even used trans-dermally. Wormwood is not good for those with liver problems.
The best way to avoid becoming an unwilling host is to make sure your pets are tested for parasites regularly, and for your children to keep their hands out of their mouths. Wear a mask and non-latex gloves when cleaning the litter box or bird cage. Wear shoes, parasites can enter the body through small abrasions on the feet. For the safety of your pets, dump all standing water in your yard. A few simple, precautionary steps can prevent this problem altogether.