Ew. Ew. Ew.
Unfortunately, humans are animals, which means we get worms and other parasitic infestations just like dogs, cats, birds and every other creature on the planet. Because parasites reproduce during the full moon, they are believed to be one of the reasons people are restless during that time. They also can cause people to wake up around 3 a.m. each morning.
That's ridiculous, you say. We live in an industrialized nation! We have clean (well, cleanish) drinking water and good sanitation! I wash my hands several times a day! I go through so many Clorox disinfectant wipes each day, I'm probably personally responsible for at least three different kinds of antibiotic-resistant superbugs!
All of those things are probably true. Except the last one might be an exaggeration. Or maybe not.
Regardless of your privilege or hygiene, according to the Center for Disease Control and more scientific journals than I can link here, at least one quarter, maybe even one third, of Americans have or have had a parasite infestation.
How can that be? Well, it turns out some of our luxuries actually put us at greater risk for worms and other parasites. They include:
There's another alarming reason why the CDC devoted an entire section of its website to the five most under diagnosed parasites in America, which includes our friend the tapeworm, pictured above.
Doctors are dangerously uneducated when it comes to parasites. They don't realize they are common in the U.S. and other industrialized nations, which means they don't recognize the symptoms, don't test for them, and even when they do, sometimes they don't properly treat them. That's why the CDC launched its awareness campaign.
Don't believe me, believe the CDC.
We started the Specific Carbohydrate Diet to reduce yeast overgrowth and control other "bad bacteria" that can thrive in the gut and wreck havoc on digestion and the nervous system. So far, it's been very successful! Tosh's behavior improvements are off the charts and his language continues to develop. Yesterday, he even mainstreamed without an aide, which is remarkable for kid with nonverbal, severe autism.
Last week, I took our health regimen up a notch and started a parasitic cleanse. The diet starves them out, and the cleanse carpet bombs those mufukas and also kills any other parasitic infestations, like these three included in the CDC's list of five.
Are you ready? My apologies in advance for ruining your love of carnitas tacos.
Remember when you were pregnant and your doctor warned you that you shouldn't change the litter box? Toxoplasmosis, a condition caused by the single cell parasite Toxoplasma gondii, was the reason. You can also be exposed by undercooked meat, unpeeled vegetables and contaminated food prep surfaces.
The CDC estimates 60 million Americans are chronically infected with this nasty bug.
That's nearly 20% of us, and the CDC admits its numbers might be too conservative. Other scientific journals put the estimate at 25%. If you know four people, one probably has it.
Toxoplasma gondii lies dormant in your body until your immune system is compromised, and then causes flu-like symptoms. So that flu you think you have? Maybe it's this instead.
Scientific American estimates one-third of people worldwide are chronically affected, and Toxoplasmosis could be responsible for many cases of psychotic behavior, self-harming and suicide.
That crazy cat lady? She doesn't have all those cats because she's crazy. She's crazy because she has all those cats.
When pregnant women are infected, they pass the parasite to their baby. If contracted early in the pregnancy, it usually results in miscarriage or a still born infant. If contracted later in the pregnancy, the infant appears healthy when born, but as it grows, the child develops seizures and intellectual disabilities.
That last sentence makes me cry. Maybe it causes seizures and ID in autistic children. Maybe it doesn't. The problem is, we don't know because doctors don't routinely test pregnant women, or anybody for that matter. You may have had it, you might have it now, and your child might have it. As far as I'm concerned, that's enough reason for a parasitic cleanse.
Fifteen years ago, when I did my first parasite cleanse, I found one of these nasty suckers in the toilet. These are round worms, common in pet dogs and cats.
Even if you're diligent about treating your pet for worms, your kids can still pick them up in the sandbox at the playground, in the park or even in your own front lawn. It just takes one neighbor who lets their dog do his business on your lawn to deposit eggs your child could touch or track in on their shoes ... even if your neighbor picks up after his dog.
Toxocara, as well as other round worms, can also be contracted from undercooked meat.
According to the CDC, approximately 14% of the U.S. population has Toxocara antibodies, which means they either have roundworms, or they have in the past. I had two cats in the house and two dogs in the backyard when I found mine, so the odds were stacked against me.
Those infected with roundworms usually don't show any symptoms. However, they can cause organ damage, nervous system damage and vision problems.
We're back to our friend the tapeworm. It's possible to have an actual tapeworm in your intestines, and we certainly eat enough in the U.S. to sustain one. But an even bigger danger is cysticercosis, which occurs when tapeworm eggs hatch and the larvae burrow into your muscle, organ or brain tissue, where they form cysts. The photo above is of a very bad case of cysticercosis of the brain.
You can't usually feel them in your muscles, although sometimes they form cysts under the skin that you can feel. But if they burrow into your brain, they cause adult onset seizures and masses in the brain as illustrated above.
Tapeworms and tapeworm eggs spread through contaminated food (especially undercooked pork), water or surfaces.
It's highly infectious among families, so if someone in your household is infected, the rest of the family can easily be infected if they don't scrub their hands immediately after using the toilet, or if you don't wash your underwear in boiling water. (And who does that?)
Feeling sick yet?
These are just three of hundreds of parasites that can wreck havoc on your body and cause or make worse your child's physical symptoms and autism behaviors. If you have a progressive pediatrician, they might test for them. But too often, if you ask for testing, your doctor will roll their eyes and jot down "hysterical mother" in your child's medical charts.
Thankfully, it's pretty easy to wipe out many of them. I've always used a tincture of cloves, wormwood and black walnut, and it's worked well. Those three ingredients have been used around the world for centuries to control parasites in times and places with inferior sanitation systems. And it sure beats choking down castor oil, which is another effective remedy.
We use Intestinal Edge, which I like because unlike most tinctures, it doesn't have an alcohol base. That makes it safer for kids and easier to hide in their juice. You can get it at the link above through my Amazon Affiliate account, or from whatever source you'd like. You can try other brands, too. Just make sure they have the three important ingredients: wormwood, black walnut and cloves.
The directions say to take 1/2 teaspoon two to three times daily on an empty stomach for three weeks, then take a week off and repeat.
I do it a little differently. I take 10-12 drops in water, before or after meals, three times a day for two weeks. Then I take two weeks off. Then I repeat that twice.
Supposedly, this is safe for children of all ages, but being the kind of mama who takes all medicines very seriously, I waited until Tosh weighed 50 lbs before giving it to him. So, this is his first cleanse.
The dosage is based on a 150-lb person, so I reduce my dose by one-third for Tosh. He gets 3-4 drops in apple or orange juice three times a day. We started our second week of our first round today.
The first week, Tosh had super stinky farts, which is a sign it's working. He also had some minor shart accidents in his undies - that's also very common, as is full-blown diarrhea. He's also been scratching his butt, which like a dog scooting across the carpet, is a sign of parasites.
NOTE: Any poop that comes out during a cleanse is infected, which means you should throw out undies after an accident and clean your bathroom with bleach. Also make sure your kids wash their hands after using the bathroom and/or scratching their butts. And bleach the bathtub and their bath toys, too.
Flu like symptoms, headache and other symptoms are also possible. If you experience headaches or any other intolerable symptoms, cut the dose in half and gradually work your way up to a full dose.
If you have any other questions, please leave a comment below.
Heather Anderson is a blissfully happy autism mom and lover of life in Southern California who is on a mission to help autism parents rediscover their happy place.
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