Do You Have Parasites?
Better Nutrition|August 2021
Five signs you may have these bad bugs, and how to get rid of them.
By Lisa Turner

You probably assume that parasites are a problem only if you’ve traveled to remote regions with iffy sanitation. But they’re way more common than you might think. Millions of Americans have parasites, and some types infect as much as five percent of the U.S. population. Here’s what you need to know about those bad bugs—and how to banish them, for good.

Who’s at risk?

“Parasite” is a broad term that describes any organism that lives and feeds off another organism, including lice, giardia, and even mosquitoes. Intestinal parasites—including worms (known as “helminths,” usually visible without a microscope) and protozoa (microscopic, single-celled organisms)—specifically reside in the gut. Pinworms are the most common parasite in the U.S., living primarily in the large intestines. Giardia is the second-most frequent domestic parasite. When it’s swallowed, it makes its way through the digestive tract, splitting into two hungry microorganisms that attach to the walls of the small intestines. Other parasites, such as hookworm and whipworm, are less common in the U.S. And while you’ll hear plenty of horror stories about tapeworms—flat, segmented beasts that can grow as long as 50 feet—they’re relatively rare. You’re probably at risk only if you’ve traveled to a developing nation or work closely with livestock.

Intestinal parasites are usually contracted from eating undercooked meat from an infected animal, or from raw fruits and vegetables that have been contaminated. Giardia is commonly water-borne. It lives well in cold streams, so if you’ve been drinking that “clean” mountain water on your backpacking trip, you’re likely at risk. You can also pick up parasites through direct contact with contaminated soil and feces, or indirectly from contaminated objects such as bathroom handles or children’s toys.

Signs and Symptoms

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM BETTER NUTRITIONView All

In the Can

In a culinary world dominated by farm-to-table eating and fresh ingredients, MasterChef semifinalist and author Theo A. Michaels celebrates the joys of cooking with canned food.

5 mins read
Better Nutrition
November 2021

Is Your Skin Going Through a Dry Spell?

Moisturize your dry, winter skin with natural formulations that will leave you feeling soft and smooth—not sticky, slippery, or like you’re covered in chemicals.

3 mins read
Better Nutrition
November 2021

All-Star Sides for Thanksgiving Dinner

Turkey gets all the attention at Thanksgiving, but it’s the side dishes that really deserve the spotlight. Bright green peas, golden beets, crunchy Brussels sprouts, purple and green frilly kale, jewel-red pomegranates, and sunny orange winter squash take center stage in the following holiday recipes that are also perfect every day of the week.

3 mins read
Better Nutrition
November 2021

Diabetes Research Update

Weight loss and exercise are effective for both prevention and reversal of type 2 diabetes, and supplements can provide additional benefits:

2 mins read
Better Nutrition
November 2021

A Taste of the Tropics

After returning home from Nicaragua, Pitaya Foods founder Chuck Casano couldn’t get dragon fruit smoothies out of his mind. So he decided to bring the delicious, exotic fruit to the states.

3 mins read
Better Nutrition
November 2021

Self-Care 101

How to create a nourishing self-care routine that can help you feel calmer, more centered, and better able to face the challenges of the world around you.

6 mins read
Better Nutrition
November 2021

The Amazing Benefits of Cat's Claw

This South American superstar herb can quell inflammation and boost immunity—and it may even help stave offcognitive decline.

3 mins read
Better Nutrition
November 2021

Fresh Marinara Sauce in Minutes

If you have five minutes, then you have time to make this no-stir, no-simmer, über-healthy tomato sauce.

4 mins read
Better Nutrition
October 2021

10 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Immune System

Never as a nation have we been more focused on immunity. But in spite of our best efforts, some all-too-common daily habits may be undermining our resistance to infection. Here are 10 sneaky immune saboteurs, and ways to change them.

5 mins read
Better Nutrition
October 2021

Out of the Amazon

Some of nature’s most powerful healers come from the depths of the South American rainforest. Here’s why—and what you should look for in supplements.

5 mins read
Better Nutrition
October 2021