A doctor has revealed the signs that may indicate you have intestinal parasites – from muscle joint pain to hunger after meals.
Dr. Sara Mesilhy, a gastroenterologist at the Royal College of Physicians UK, told FEMAIL what to do if you suspect you have a parasite.
An intestinal parasite infection is a condition in which a parasite infects the gastrointestinal tract.
Such parasites can appear anywhere in the body, but prefer the intestinal wall.
The infectious disease expert said that you can avoid getting a parasite in the first place by thoroughly cooking meat.
While it is also a good idea to wash fruits and vegetables before consumption, and practice good hygiene, such as washing hands after using the bathroom or handling soil or waste material.
Dr. Sara Mesilhy, who is a gastroenterologist at the Royal College of Physicians UK, told FEMAIL the signs that could mean you have intestinal parasites – from muscle joint pain to hunger after meals (stock image)
SIGNS OF INTESTINAL PARASITES
1. Hunger after meals
Parasites can consume the nutrients from the food you eat, leaving you hungry even after a full meal.
Some parasites also produce substances that can interfere with the signals that regulate appetite and metabolism, increasing hunger and decreasing satiety.
They can cause inflammation and damage the lining of the digestive system, which can hinder nutrient absorption and cause malnutrition, which can lead to increased hunger.
2. Digestive problems and weight loss
Parasites cause digestive problems by damaging the intestines, interfering with the digestion and absorption of food and producing toxins.
This leads to symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain and malnutrition.
The presence of parasites disrupts the normal functioning of the digestive system and causes a range of uncomfortable symptoms.
Parasites cause weight loss by consuming the host’s nutrients or cause diarrhea, leading to a loss of fluid and nutrients.
They can also disrupt hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism, resulting in weight loss.
Weight loss alone is not a clear sign of a parasitic infection and other symptoms such as digestive problems, fatigue and skin problems should also be considered.
Parasites can cause itching in several ways, such as pinworms, they lay eggs around the anus, leading to intense itching and the risk of re-infection.
Toxins released by other parasites can cause allergic reactions and skin problems such as hives and eczema, leading to itching. The exact mechanism of itching depends on the parasite and immune response.
Dr. Sarah’s advice
Dr. Sara said: ‘If you suspect you have a parasitic infection, a medical professional can perform tests to confirm the type of parasite and provide appropriate treatment.
Treatment options for intestinal parasites depend on the type of parasite and the severity of the infection, but commonly prescribed medications include albendazole, mebendazole, praziquantel and metronidazole.
“My main advice is not to ignore any symptoms, as they can lead to chronic health problems, such as anemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, joint problems and fever.”
Parasites can cause anemia in several ways. First, some parasites, such as hookworms, attach to the lining of the small intestine and suck their host’s blood, which can lead to significant blood loss and anemia.
Second, some parasites consume or compete for the host’s nutrients, especially iron, which is needed to produce red blood cells.
Third, certain parasites, such as Plasmodium, which causes malaria, can directly destroy red blood cells, leading to anemia.
The severity of anemia caused by parasites depends on the type of parasite, the duration of infection and the nutritional status of the host.
6. Muscle and joint pain
Parasitic infections cause muscle and joint pain by causing inflammation in the body.
They trigger an immune response that releases inflammatory molecules, damaging tissues and causing pain and stiffness.
They can also migrate to the muscles and cause direct damage or lead to anemia, which results in decreased oxygen supply to the muscles and joints, leading to weakness and pain. The exact mechanism varies depending on the type of parasite and the host’s response.
Factors that may increase your risk of contracting intestinal parasites include living in or visiting an area known to have parasites, poor hygiene, exposure to child and institutional care facilities, and a weakened immune system.
In addition, handling soil or debris and working closely with animals can increase the risk of parasitic infection.
One of the most common ways intestinal parasites are contracted is through contaminated food and water.
Foods to be wary of include undercooked meats and contaminated fruits and vegetables.
Contaminated water sources can be ponds, creeks and lakes in underdeveloped countries.
Not washing hands after using the bathroom or gardening is also said to increase the risk of parasitic infections.