Did you know that 1 out of 3 Americans is infected with an intestinal parasite at any given time? Read Kira’s story!
by Kira Betz | guest writer for The Snap Mom
Trigger Warning: High Grossness Factor
I ventured to Vanuatu (island nation in South Pacific) for a missions outreach which ended up changing my life in many, many ways. God allowed me to see the very different life that people live in third world countries, and I saw how good we have it here in the U.S.. He also allowed the beginning of a struggle with a variety of parasites that would last several years.
We volunteered in the local hospital in Malekula and worked with a local pastor. We travelled to other islands to meet and talk with more isolated Nevans (people of Vanuatu). They are all amazing and welcoming people. We stayed with them in their dirt-floored huts, and at times, rats could be seen strolling through the rafters. We ate what they ate: fruit, “lap lap” which was any variety of mashed root crop, cooked in banana leaves over a fire, sometimes served with fish and chicken. Water sources were sketchy: in certain places, we were told to put bleach in our water bottles to kill whatever might be in there. One day, I saw a women cutting dead skin off her foot with the same knife they used to cut their food. They didn’t seem to use hot water to clean things, and I’m pretty sure I never saw any dish soap! It’s anyone’s guess what sort of contaminants made their way into our food.
Towards the end of our time in Vanuatu, I ended up sick for two days with a fever and stomach pains. Though I had prayed I wouldn’t get sick (specifically with parasites), I started to face the reality that the exact thing I feared had likely occurred.
Back in New Zealand, two other affected friends and I saw a doctor, did a stool sample, and all three of us were diagnosed with “flagelles” (which may have been their generic diagnosis for giardia). I honestly can’t even remember what they did for us (maybe prescribed something?). It was a whirlwind, and we were all scheduled to return to our home countries in less than two weeks.
I returned to California, stayed for two weeks, and then moved to Colorado to spend time with my dad indefinitely.
Once settled, I realized I had symptoms I could not ignore: very low energy, gas, bloating, discomfort, and cramps after consuming dairy, refined carbohydrates, and sweets. Time to get to the root of the problem. I saw my primary care physician, who referred me to a gastroenterologist.
First visit to Gastroenterologist: stool sample ordered, eventually diagnosed with Giardia. This microscopic parasite inhibits fat absorption, so until I was “cured,” it was recommended that I avoid fatty foods. At this point, I also stopped eating dairy, except for yogurt because I really needed that good bacteria. Also gave me a general “gas prevention” list: “Foods to avoid: cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, beans, bran, cabbage. Eliminate carbonated beverages. Avoid chewing gum or sucking on hard candy.” Following this advice reduced symptoms, but not completely.
I was prescribed Metronidazole: “used to treat infections.” If I recall correctly, this is the drug that had me in the fetal position for two days with severe cramping. I recovered from that but still wasn’t feeling great. I figured, since Giardia is characteristically difficult to get rid of, it would be a good idea to take lots of garlic pills and black walnut shell (toxic to parasites).
Likely as a result of taking the garlic and black walnut shell, to my complete shock and dismay, I passed a nine-inch roundworm. Thank God it was dead. Do I laugh? Do I cry? Do I flush it or save it? Thank God it was out of me. Were there more? Did it lay eggs? You can imagine all the things racing through my mind. I had to keep searching for answers!
I found a specialist in Boulder who could take things a step further than my gastroenterologist had: Dr. David Luce, M.D., P.C., Board Certified Internist, who has experience treating issues of the gut. Though I hadn’t saved the worm, after I described it he felt certain it was “asceris.” He had me do a “comprehensive digestive stool analysis/parasitology” test, and also checked intestinal permeability.
At my follow-up appointment with Dr. Luce to go over results, he wasn’t concerned about any eggs remaining from asceris, but test results showed a higher than usual level of Blastocystis hominis , a one-celled parasite and a high level of Klebsiella pneumonae. This is “a bacterium that normally lives inside human intestines, where it doesn’t cause disease”. I don’t have any records of what he prescribed, though I suspect there was one more prescription involved. After that, since it seemed everything had been addressed, I had no further treatment. However…
Two and half years after that, I was still not feeling quite back to “normal.” I still experienced regular intestinal discomfort, and especially dairy products caused a lot of cramping. All I can say is when I met my husband that year, he committed to praying for my healing. Months later, I seemed to be better: I could tolerate ice cream and a majority of the other symptoms subsided!
Though my issues resulted from overseas travel, even people in the United States are affected parasites. It’s important that food is clean/fresh and properly cooked, that our water is not contaminated, and that proper hand-washing routines are followed.
If you suspect you or your child may be affected by parasites, please seek help! Collecting a stool sample is a bit gross, but it can provide health care professionals with the information they need to properly diagnose. Not all stool samples are created equal: some are more thorough than others. Ask about your options.
About the author:
Kira has been happily married to Travis for nearly eight years and is mother to two lively kids. A health enthusiast and aspiring artist, she lives near Denver, Colorado.