Parasites – Listen to Your Body
Your body has a variety of special cells designed to help you fight off different types of infection. These cells differ depending on the invader, but most of us are at least familiar with the white blood cells that attack bacteria and viruses. So what about parasites?
Parasites present a unique problem because parasites are rather large compared to bacteria or viruses. Essentially, parasites are often too large for our white blood cells to digest. So, your body has to come up with a different strategy. Thankfully, your body is equipped to help. We have to try to listen to what our body is trying to tell us because the chances are good that our body will need some help.
When it comes to parasites, there are three things we need to pay particular attention to. These are B-Cells, Mast Cells, and IgE antibodies. Together, these will often let you know that something isn’t right.
B cells, also known as B lymphocytes, are white blood cells that function as part of the adaptive immune system. These little guys go around the body looking for things that don’t belong. When they find an invader, they secrete antibodies to help prevent intruders from harming the body further. But more importantly, they start calling for backup.
Mast cells, also known as leukocytes, are another type of white blood cell that essentially floats around the body looking for a fight. This particular cell carries with it the mighty “histamine.” Of course, when the mast cell doesn’t have an invader to fight, it will often pick a fight with otherwise harmless proteins such as pollen or pet dander. We call these “allergies.”
Then, of course, there are antibodies. When it comes to parasites, IgE antibodies are particularly important. That’s because IgE antibodies are specially designed to knock out and kill parasites – if they can find them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the body can’t or won’t mount a defense in the absence of an abundance of IgE, but it is believed that IgE was explicitly designed for this purpose.
The point is that these three things work together to protect you and tell the entire immune system that a battle has begun once a parasite has been identified. This creates a few issues for us, though. Since the white blood cells can’t eat the parasites, and since the body wants to get the parasite out of the body as fast as possible, you might start feeling quite ill. This is because the immune system is trying to figure out how to get these guys out before they take up residence.
When B cells call for backup, the mast cells respond, holding a bunch of IgE. Once the parasite is identified, the fight escalates immediately. What I want you to know is that you could present with various symptoms depending on where the parasite is in your body. Listen to your body!
For example, you may get substantial swelling and inflammation. Shortness of breath, headaches and hot flashes are also possibilities. You might also get mild to severe itch and even moderate to substantial mucus secretions, with the possibility of severe vomiting and diarrhea. The symptoms are varied, but all are important nonetheless.
However, as you know, the immune system doesn’t always work to perfection, which is why some parasites can stay with us for many years. Be aware that you may not get or have any symptoms at all. It is estimated that millions of people in the United States are currently infected with some kind of parasite and don’t even know it. This is because some parasites have figured out how to trick our immune system. Furthermore, it seems that the longer they are in the body, the more adaptive they can become to our immune system.
I have mentioned this in other articles. Protozoa, for instance, are really good at “evading or subverting your innate and adaptive immune responses.“ Like protozoa, helminths such as flatworms (flukes and tapeworms), nematodes, or even roundworms can also find their way to places they shouldn’t be, and they are all really good at “subverting immune surveillance” as well. So just because you don’t have the “classic” symptoms doesn’t mean that your body isn’t sharing some space with some little critters. In these cases, your body just hasn’t quite figured out the problem.
If you suspect a parasite, though, then an IgE test might help. An immunoglobulin E (IgE) test measures the level of IgE in the blood. If your levels are high, this can be a big clue and help guide doctors to a particular solution. Unfortunately, and especially in developed countries, many doctors have concluded that increased total IgE level indicates only allergies. As a result, they don’t even look for parasites – even though the symptoms are sometimes very similar.
Understand that your doctor will likely be reluctant to accept the parasite theory if you haven’t traveled recently. This is ironic if you consider our interconnected and global world today. Still, I’ll let you ponder the ridiculousness of how a doctor can accept how someone in a developed country can get a virus or bacteria from another country but not a parasite. Of course, they have been told some rather misleading and dangerous information on this topic. It’s not entirely their fault, but it’s not due to a lack of effort from scientists. In fact, the CDC has been trying to doctors about this threat for several years now. The point is, if you don’t get the help you need, FIND ANOTHER DOCTOR!
I am sharing this to help you better understand what your body might be going through. Try to listen to your body. It’s always giving you clues about the status of your health. There is plenty more to learn, however. I will be writing more on this topic in the future. Until then, check out the following page regarding potential treatment ideas.
Also, Dr. Amy Myers, MD, has written a decent article regarding vague symptoms that might present due to parasitic infection. You can check that out by clicking here.
And finally, while we are on the topic, are you interested in a good reason to spit out what you cough up? Parasites can infect almost any part of our bodies. However, some parasites have figured out rather interesting ways to get around our immune system. When some parasites get into our bodies, they circulate through our bloodstream and find their way to our lungs. Our bodies don’t like that, and we try to cough them up. Not only can the parasite learn about our immune system from our immune response, but if we cough the parasite up and then swallow it, the parasite gets a fast track to our gut, where it can live for years. This is just something to think about. While spitting isn’t always the most attractive thing we could do, sometimes it’s definitely better health-wise.
This article was written from a Health Science perspective. Dr. Robertson is a health researcher and educator, not a physician. The information provided here is not medical advice, a professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or service to you or any other individual. The information provided is for educational and anecdotal purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation, or the advice of your physician or other healthcare providers. Dr. Robertson is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or additional information, services, or product you obtain or utilize. IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, YOU SHOULD IMMEDIATELY CALL 911 OR YOUR PHYSICIAN.