get worm wise!...

It is not a pretty topic but someone has got to talk about it: parasitic worms. Shuddering already? Then you will probably feel rather uncomfortable knowing just how common infestations are. Considering how well adapted these little creatures are at catching a ride with us it would be truly amazing if we never got them.

The Great Equaliser
While exact statistics aren't known it is thought that at least 20% of Americans & Europeans have parasitic worms. Our bodies are well designed to combat infestations but the impoverished and malnourished, those with weak immune systems or chronic disease, and children are less resistant. People with low stomach acid bile or digestive enzymes should also be extra careful. 

Got Worms?
Unless infestation is severe and/or the sufferer was malnourished or ill already, symptoms are either vague or absent altogether. If present they may include anaemia, nausea, fatigue, irritability, concentration problems in children, appetite changes, diarrhoea, an itchy rash or an itching anus, weight loss, abdominal discomfort and a cough.

You may see traces of worms or actual live ones in the loo after passing stools, or around the anus - they may look like white or off-white fine threads (threadworm), narrow, flat ribbons, or segments thereof (tapeworm), tiny earthworms (roundworms), or little ‘squiggles’ with a hooked end (hookworm). Never try to remove them from the body - instead start de-worming measures immediately.

The Big Four!
» Roundworms: These are the most common parasitic worms. There are two types: human (ascariasis) and dog or cat (toxocariasis) which can be transmitted to humans.

» Hookworms: Infestation usually results from walking barefoot on hookworm contaminated soil which is damp, warm and well-shaded.

» Tapeworms: Infestation with these flat, segmented worms results from eating meat contaminated with worm larvae, mostly pork and fish. They can grow up to 10m long!

Occasionally if pork tapeworm eggs are swallowed by a human host they can hatch and migrate to other body tissues (cysticercosis), especially the brain causing neurological problems such as seizures, depression and irritability (although sometimes no symptoms result).

» Pinworms (also Threadworms): Particularly common in children.

Supplement Savvy
The number one worm-related problem is nutrient deficiency which causes fatigue and ill health. Once you have eliminated the worms take a probiotic (healthy intestinal bacteria decrease the risk of infestation), vitamin B Complex, and possibly iron (you will need a blood test to check for anaemia).

Sutherlandia has also traditionally been used in South Africa for all manner of digestive complaints, including worms, and to help support immune function. When your immune system is functioning well intestinal parasites find it very hard to set up residence.

Regularly eating fresh garlic, turmeric and cloves helps to combat worm infestations, and pineapple, pawpaw (especially the peppery-tasting seeds) and raw coconut are traditionally used to eliminate intestinal parasites. Proper fibre and fluid intake is also important.

An effective traditional anti-worm remedy consists of grated carrots and pumpkin seeds, both of which are said to be toxic to worms. While pumpkin seeds are considered to be more specific for roundworms, they are thought to affect all intestinal parasites - plus the fibre content will help to expel dead worms and toxins in general.

When Is a Worm Not a Worm
When it is a ringworm. This is actually a fungal infection, identified by itchy, red, raised and scaly skin patches that start out as a bump and spread outward into a ring-like shape, often clear in the centre which resembles a worm curled up - hence the name. Ringworm occurs in people and animals and is fairly easily transmitted but fortunately also fairly easy to treat.

Top Tips
» Hygiene. Always wash your hands before eating or putting anything in your mouth, and after visiting the loo and handling soil.
» Food. Avoid eating insufficiently cooked pork, beef etc, and ensure that sushi fish comes from a reputable supplier (flash-frozen immediately after catching at 20•C for 24 hours). Wash all fruit and vegetables.

» Animals. Don’t kiss pets or let them lick your face, always wash your hands after petting them, changing cats’ litter boxes or picking up animal faeces, and de-worm regularly.

» Water. Tap water is generally safe, but in rural areas or in countries in the developing world boil water before drinking or brushing teeth, or use bottled water.

» Shoes.  Wear shoes when walking on, and gloves when working with, soil in potentially contaminated areas.

» Children.  Teach children to wash their hands before eating or touching their mouths, nose or eyes, and avoid sandpits.

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