This may shock you if you think that a primal mama like me is too healthy for a parasite. For me it’s a bit exciting because it finally helps to explain the excess weight loss and facial rash I’ve had for a year. It’s time to tell you all about what a strange year it has been…
It started with a rash
Well, really, I had plenty of digestive issues before the rash, but I had gotten quite used to the bloating, gas and occassional cramping and constipation, that I thought it was just a result of certain foods not agreeing with me. I could never seem to pinpoint which food it was though, and the bloating was getting more frequent. Then the dry pink rash spread across my cheeks. This splotchy, blemished and flaky rash developed on the inside of my cheeks near my nose. My forehead was also covered in blemishes for months, which later moved to the chin, along with some dry flakiness and pimples around the edge of my face near the hair line. Occasionally my lips get inflamed and seriously cracked around the edges. The rash sometimes looks much better and other times gets really inflamed, dry and red, though I can’t pinpoint what sets it off. My own research tells me the rash is called Rosacea, but giving it a name doesn’t help, as no one has officially determined what causes Rosacea.
I wrote about all the things that ugly rosacea rash taught me about life and myself.
Then I started getting way too skinny
I currently weigh 48 kg (105 lbs.), and can see bones protuding from me everywhere. After developing a primal diet and lifestyle, my weight didn’t fluctuate for 6 years. Even living 80/20, with the occassional ice creams, samosas and beers, I remained a healthy 55 kg (121 lbs). I only knew my weight because I donate blood regularly and they weigh you, but suddenly my clothes were falling off me and I could see my breastbones and shoulder blades sticking out in pictures. Then I saw the numbers on the scale decreasing…
Searching for the cause
Are you wondering why I don’t just get some cream to clear up my rash? Well if I did that, I would look better, but I wouldn’t know the cause of the rash, and if that cause was still damaging my insides. The rash is the main signal from my body that all is still not well. Despite my very hearty primal diet of organic meat, fruit and vegetables, I can not seem to gain back my weight. This is with no intense exercise. So for over a year, I have been fine-tuning my Primal 6, seeing many different health practitioners, taking herbs, vitamins and supplements, trying different anti-fungal protocols, and testing for and eliminating intolerance foods. None of these things eliminated the rash, stopped the weight loss, or gave indication of the cause. Yes, I am learning so much about health and myself from all of it…but I’ll get to that later.
Blood tests don’t tell much…
So far my blood tests were all pretty ‘normal’, except for high probability of celiac disease. However, I hadn’t been eating gluten for a long time (except on occassion). Though I knew that my prior gluten-filled diet had surely caused intestinal damage (and I will tell you lots more about that later too), there was something else going on. I heavily researched all of the integrative medicine doctors in Sydney and chose one with extensive experience in digestive diseases and functional diagnostic medicine. Functional diagnostics is a growing field of modern medicine which uses detailed lab work to identify the specific malfunctions in the body (causes), then a holistic approach to begin healing (rather than just treating symptoms).
I have a parasite!
After collecting numerous samples of my poo, it turns out I have a parasite living in my bowel. It’s called Dientamoeba Fragilis, and it may have been living in me, with little to no symptoms, for years. Yes, years! It is a common parasite that causes digestive distress and other health issues for many people but is dismissed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and rarely tested for. This parasite, along with gluten, has been suppressing my levels of intestinal flora (good bacteria) and damaging my intestinal lining. The Center for Digestive Diseases says:
“Dientamoeba fragilis (D. fragilis) and Blastocystis hominis (B. hominis) are parasites which can at times infect the human digestive tract. Many of those infected are asymptomatic carriers. These parasites can, however, be associated with a range of gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhoea/constipation, mushy stools, abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas and pain. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, weight-loss, chronic fatigue, depression, low-grade fever, bloody stools and anal itching. D. fragilis has also been implicated in some cases of indeterminate colitis. Many patients may suffer for years before proper diagnosis is made and are often misdiagnosed as having Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).”
Was it something in the water?
Where I got the parasite is anyone’s guess. It is commonly transmitted in bad water, fecal matter and possibly via threadworms (pinworms), all of which I have been around at some point. Especially plenty of fecal matter in the last few years, being the mother of a 4-year-old. 🙂 Many people think you only get parasites from developing countries, but interestingly, parasites like Dientamoeba are very common in the U.S. and Australia. Personally, I travelled extensively in third-world countries, but it wasn’t until I arrived in Sydney, Australia in 2001 that I got Giardia from the tap water. But again, there’s no telling where I got the parasite, and maybe it really doesn’t matter.
Killing the parasite with drugs
Unfortunately, I was told that this parasite is extremely difficult to treat effectively through natural methods of eradication, which would have been my preference. The use of antibiotics is gut-damaging in itself, and we aim to only use them as a very last resort, which I talked about in my antibiotics article. However, the good news is that The Center for Digestive Diseases recommends a very pure antibiotic called Secnidazole (which I had to special order from a compounding chemist) which, in conjuction with another antibiotic Doxycycline, should eradicate this sucker from my gut in 10 days. I might feel terrible for a week as the parasite dies-off, but I am optimistic about my health steadily improving afterwards. I will keep you posted!
If you suspect you have a parasite
It’s best to learn as much as you can about them from experts. Paul Chek in particular is a wealth of knowledge on the subject. We highly recommend purchasing this his program called “Healing Fungal and Parasite Infections“.
Just make sure you ask for the right test… A run-of-the-mill stool sample is not sufficient for detecting certain parasites, as the parasite doesn’t show up in every poo AND dies off easy if the poo is not preserved. For the test, you must collect poo samples from three days and keep in jars with a special liquid preservative. Your doctor will give you a testing kit and/or refer you to a pathologist (we used Histopath in Australia) to send your samples. In Australia, this test is bulk-billed through Medicare – FREE!
Angela of Natureglow had a very similar experience this year, and there are numerous helpful comments below this great article on her experience with D. Fragilis.
Resources and more information on Dientamoeba Fragilis:
Center for Disease Control – Dientamoeba FAQs
Center for Digestive Diseases – Parasites Emedicine – D. Fragilis Parasite Overview
‘Parasites Linked to Sewage Fertiliser as Stomach Bug Grips Sydney’ – The Daily Telegraph
A Gut-Full of Parasites – My Experience with Dientamoeba Fragilis
The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene – Detection & Transmission of Dientamoeba Fragilis
My Parasite UPDATE:
After 10 days of taking the antibiotics, I waited one month for full parasite ‘evacuation’ from my body, then did the parasite stool sample test again…and tested NEGATIVE for Dientamoeba Fragilis. AND while I was still taking the antibiotics to get rid of the parasite, the ugly rosacea rash on my face completely disappeared! So phase one of my healing finished – parasite eliminated – I am now onto phase two, which is healing my leaky gut.
UPDATE #2: Just over 1 year later
During 7 months of overseas travel, I got pretty lazy with my gut healing protocol and primal diet. By the 6th month, a smaller version of the face rash was back, and the bloating and other random symptoms have returned. Is the D. Fragilis back?
For now, I’m not sure that matters. What matters is that my body is telling me to get back to my primal ways which nourish and heal my body! My perspective on parasites is changing, in part due to an amazing visit we had with Dr. Amin, a parasitologist in Scottsdale, AZ, U.S.A. Here’s everything we learned about parasites, and what we are taking for our parasites now:
Parasites 101 – my sequel to this article!
Have you ever had a parasite or suspect you may have one?
I Have a Parasite Called Dientamoeba Fragilis – July 2016