Note: This article was originally published on ProHealth.com.
Parasitic infections don't just happen to people in third-world countries. Dr. Amin, a world-famous parasitologist and owner of Parasitology Center, Inc., in an interview for the Alternative Cancer Research Institute last year, shared with me that at least half of all people in the United States have some type of parasitic infection.
People with Lyme disease may be particularly susceptible to parasitic infections because Borrelia and co-infections suppress the immune system and create an environment in the body that is hospitable to such infections. Indeed, some Lyme-literate doctors have discovered that many of their patients are infected with parasites beyond Babesia.
Parasites can cause a diverse array of symptoms, including gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, brain fog, depression, and pain—among others, and basically mimic symptoms of Lyme disease. I was amazed when Dr. Amin shared with me about how a certain type of tapeworm depletes vitamin B-12 in the body and causes dementia, which can also be a complication of Lyme. He then shared with me about how he was able to help reverse one woman's dementia in a matter of weeks just by removing the parasite and giving her B-12 supplementation.
In my 2012 book, Beyond Lyme Disease, I shared that parasites are a major cause of chronic illness in people with Borrelia and co-infections, but are often missed by Lyme-literate doctors who may focus more upon the common tick-borne infections than other causes of symptoms. But parasites besides Babesia can make a person with Lyme just as sick, or even sicker than the Lyme-related infections. For this reason, when I was really sick with Lyme disease, I found it worthwhile to test and get treated periodically for parasites.
Just as important, I adopted lifestyle strategies to help prevent me from getting re-infected. Parasites are in our food, water, soil and other places that we come into contact with daily, so if you have Lyme disease, you may also want to take the following simple steps to avoid parasitic infection or re-infection.
1) First, don't let your pets sleep with you or lick you, especially your face! I love animals, but dogs and cats carry parasites and parasite eggs in their fur and saliva. If you know that you are susceptible to parasitic infection, you may want to have your pets sleep elsewhere.
2) Thoroughly wash all produce. According to Dr. Amin, fruits and vegetables should be soaked for 15 minutes in vinegar or in 1 teaspoon of bleach mixed with a gallon of water. If you use bleach, you'll want to make sure to thoroughly rinse the produce afterward. Much organic produce in the US is imported from Mexico, where human waste is used as fertilizer, so even organic produce needs to be disinfected.
3) Wash your hands after using the bathroom, cleaning the litter box or changing your baby's diaper. Parasites hang out everywhere on toilets- (so it goes without saying that you should also clean your toilets frequently!).
4) Thoroughly cook all meats, especially pork, so that there is no pink color left in their middle. Some researchers argue that when you cook meat well, you destroy some of the beneficial amino acids in it, but in the end, I think that it’s better to avoid the parasites and find other ways to get your amino acids, such as through protein drinks and supplements.
5) Don't drink tap water, which nowadays is laden with microbes such as giardia and cryptosporidium. Purchase a high-quality water filter with a sub-micron pore structure. Multipure: multi pure.com makes good filters.
6) Don't walk barefoot on soil, and use gardening gloves when working in the garden. Avoid swimming in rivers and lakes, especially those where the water is stagnant and does not flow continually.
Parasitic infections can be difficult to treat, and I've found that the best of herbal formulas are sometimes inadequate for addressing stubborn infections. On the other hand, pharmaceutical drugs, while more effective, can be harsh on the body, especially the liver, and compromise immune function.
Interestingly, Dr. Amin has developed an herbal parasite protocol that he has found to effectively remove a wide variety of parasites- from worms to protozoa, and even fungi and bacteria, and which works better than many pharmaceutical drugs. If this protocol works as well as Dr. Amin contends, it would be great news for people who haven't had luck getting rid of the microbes with drugs or other herbal remedies. Dr. Amin always advocates getting tested so that people can follow a protocol that is tailored to their needs, but his basic Freedom-Cleanse-Restore regimen may be helpful for some people. It contains a wide variety of anti-parasitic herbs; the only drawback is that some people may need different dosages than what are contained in the formula.
MMS, or Miracle Mineral Supplement (sodium chlorite), mixed with citric acid or lemon juice, is another option for removing parasites, as is ozone. However, these are best administered under physician supervision, as they are very powerful and can be toxic if prepared improperly or taken in the wrong dosages.
Parasite treatment may be the missing link to recovery for some people. I have known a few people with Lyme disease for whom this was true. As all things, I recommend working with an experienced Lyme-literate doctor or integrative doctor experienced in parasite treatment, if you suspect you have parasites or simply want to get checked for them.