Could your gut problems be from a parasite?

If you didn’t have time to listen to my latest podcast episode with Dr. Raphael D’Angelo, MD, who is a retired holistic medical doctor who provides thorough parasite testing through his business ParaWellness Research, here are some of the key takeaways.

What are parasites and which types are most common?

A parasite is anything that derives its life, substance or ability to reproduce from some other organism. Most parasites in the human gut are either worms like roundworms, flatworms and flukes, or protozoa. Protozoa are the most numerous parasites throughout the environment, especially in water, but can also be carried by insects, like malaria. In Dr. d’Angelo’s testing, about nine out of ten patients have a protozoan, and one out of ten has a protozoan and a worm.

Can you have a parasite and no gut issues?

While Dr. d’Angelo generally tests people who are suffering from gut symptoms, he also noted that we would probably find one or two types of protozoa in healthy people who are not having any gut problems. These protozoa may be transient and just reside in the gut for a short time.

Why do typical labs fail to find parasites most of the time?

While Dr. d’Angelo’s parasite testing (at ParaWellness Research) is very thorough and involves many different tools, Dr. d’Angelo explained why parasite testing through typical labs covered by insurance usually finds nothing. Those labs conduct a wide range of tests, including bacterial testing, virus testing, fungus testing, and more. Because there’s a perception that parasites are not a real problem in the United States, parasite testing receives the lowest priority in assigning lab personnel, with newer and less experienced technicians assigned to parasite testing. Insufficient time is spent looking for parasites because they’re rarely found, and parasites change form, making it difficult to detect them under a microscope some of the time. As a result, little effort is given to detecting parasites with a foregone conclusion that they won’t be found. So if you’ve been given an ova and parasites test through your doctor’s office and it came up empty, but you think you may have a parasite, you may want to consider additional testing.

What is Blastocystis Hominis?

The most common protozoan parasite worldwide other than malaria is called blastocystis hominis. It can come from contaminated food or water or can be transmitted from person to person with poor hygiene habits. Symptoms include diarrhea and abdominal cramping and occasionally, nausea. Often people with a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) have blastocystis hominis. Occasionally it can be found in swelling around arthritic joints when fluid is extracted. For many years it was not believed to be a parasite, but over the last 25-30 years, it’s been shown that it can invade some tissues.

While blastocystis hominis is known to be difficult to eradicate, Dr. d’Angelo has had success treating it with a silver type preparation mixed with essential oils, sometimes including liquid preparations of herbs.

While treating parasites with antibiotics is also possible and can take less time (1-2 weeks), those who wish to avoid antibiotics can choose natural treatments. Dr. d’Angelo recommends these treatments be taken over the course of three months, for 20 days from when the moon is half full to a full moon and then from the full moon until the half moon for three moon cycles, giving the body a 10 day rest in between. The moon’s pull on bodies of water also applies to parasites, and their most active metabolic period is during this time, allowing smaller amounts of the medicines to be used. Dr. d’Angelo learned this method of treatment from colleagues in other countries who treat parasites routinely.

The pull of the moon points can be an additional help in diagnosing parasites – during the fuller moon phases, people will complain of more diarrhea and cramps.

What is Cryptosporidium?

Another common protozoan is cryptosporidium, which is found in contaminated water as a result of animal or bird droppings. This can often follow on flooding in an area, where drinking water becomes polluted. Water filtration systems are generally not fine enough to be able to completely filter out parasites, so when their numbers increase, enough get through that they can overwhelm our immune systems. In addition, during the cleaning of the filters, water systems backflow their filters, which opens up the opportunity for parasites to enter the water flow. If your area has had flooding, one way to protect yourself is to boil your water one minute for every 1000 feet of elevation above sea level. Another good way to protect yourself on an ongoing basis is to use a reverse osmosis filter that you can put under your sink. Pitcher-type filters are generally not fine enough to protect you from protozoa (which require a one or two micron filter), although some units do boast this level of filtration.

A large amount of diarrhea is almost always present with cryptosporidium. They are very difficult to find on lab tests because they tend to live in upper part of the small intestine, but they can be located using a specialized

antibody test. For a normal healthy person who gets cryptosporidium, they may have a big bout of diarrhea for two-three weeks, then it tapers off and they get better. However, in an immunocompromised person, with something like diabetes or cancer, it may cause a chronic, ongoing problem.

What is Giardia?

Another common parasite found in humans in the U.S. is giardia. It’s almost universally present in wild animal populations and in soil and water, so it gets into our drinking water reservoirs. Symptoms include mushy bowel movements with a sulfurous smell and a rumbly stomach and intestines on and off throughout the day. It can be treated through 10 days of prescription antibiotics if it’s causing problems, although many people may have just a few giardia that their immune system keeps in check, causing no problems.

What is Cyclospora Cayetanensis?

Another parasite that was a problem relatively recently in the U.S. is cyclospora cayetanensis, which came in through a cilantro farm in Mexico that had contamination from animal waste. This also causes profuse diarrhea and can be treated with antibiotics or three months of Dr. d’Angelo’s remedy.

What are examples of some types of parasites that typical labs will not identify as pathogenic but that may cause problems?

Other protozoan parasites that the CDC may not classify as pathogenic but that Dr. d’Angelo recommends treating include dientamoeba fragilis, endolimax nana and iodamoeba buetschlii. Dientamoeba fragilis can enter through contaminated food and water and also piggybacks onto roundworms. Endolimax nana and iodamoeba buetschlii are very common and can be found in almost any water source. In some people these protozoa may be numerous enough to block nutrient absorption. These are typical of parasites that a traditional lab will not identify.

What are the most common parasitic worms found in the U.S.?

Worms are also pretty common in the U.S., but in nowhere near the amounts that Dr. d’Angelo would find in samples from Vietnamese people, where he received his original training through the U.S. army during the Vietmam war. A typical Vietnamese worker on their base might have had five or six different types of worms and four or five types of protozoa and have no digestive issues at all, because their immune systems were well adapted to keeping these populations in check.

In the U.S., some of the most common worms are pinworms and a large roundworm called ascaris lumbricoides. With pinworms, which are common in young children, symptoms include restlessness at night and itching of the anus. If you press a piece of scotch tape to your child’s bottom before they get out of bed in the morning and look at that under the microscope, you can see the eggs of the pinworm.

Ascaris lumbricoides usually comes through swallowing an egg from contaminated food, mainly meats. That’s why Dr. d’Angelo recommends wearing disposable gloves when you’re handling fresh, slaughtered game meat like deer, and cleaning the meat under running water. Sometimes it’s possible to find an egg in a parasite test, but often it’s only discovered when the worm is passed in stool.

For many people, ascaris lumbricoides will cause no problems while residing in your gut for six to nine months and will pass out without incident. Some people may have no symptoms but others may have a sense of fullness or of movement. However, in other people, the worm may find its way to a spot in the upper part of the small intestine, where it can block the outflow of pancreatic juices or bile into the small intestine for digestion. Symptoms of this include pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. If given an x-ray, the worm may be visible on it.

Can parasites cause food sensitivities?

When there are disruptions of the integrity of the lining of the intestinal tract, parasites can contribute to food sensitivities. Blastocystis hominis, for example, eats good bacteria and can strip an area of the intestinal lining of commensal or beneficial bacteria that would normally protect it. As a result, the mucus layer is stripped and partially digested food particles can escape, causing an immune response and the production of an antibody against that food, which leads to a sensitivity.

In addition, parasites take in nutrients and put out toxic waste products, which can also deteriorate the lining of the intestinal tract, causing the immune system to react as it tries to clean up the problem, creating an allergic reaction involving foods that are also in the area.

If you are found to have a parasite that you believe created a food sensitivity, you should wait about a month after clearing it before trying to eat that food again.

Should your sexual partner be treated for parasites when you are?

If there is some chance that there’s been shared stool, urine or other bodily fluids, it’s wise to test both members of a couple so that you don’t pass things back and forth.

What is mimosa pudica seed and can it be used to treat parasites?

Dr. d’Angelo finds it very helpful for resistant parasites and something called rope worm. Symptoms of rope worm include a rumbly tummy, and the frequent passing of long, rope-like or stick-like, mucus-covered items in the stool. The mimosa plant has been used for centuries by the indigenous healers for parasites, and so it’s a very good anti-parasitic for many different kinds of parasites that would also work in place of the essential oil/silver/herbal preparations that Dr. d’Angelo uses. However, his preparation also treats pathogenic bacteria and candida.

Does Dr. d’Angelo also test for yeast/candida?  

In Dr. d’Angelo’s testing, he also looks for excess yeast in the stool and in the urine. Forty percent of patients have excess yeast, which is why he includes silver in his treatment, as it is effective against candida.

How much is testing through ParaWellness Research and can I order it myself?

An initial test, including a $10 membership fee to his research program and shipping is $316.95. Patients can order tests themselves at

If you want more help with your gut, autoimmune or other health issues, you can set up a free, 30-minute Breakthrough Session with me (Lindsey) to share what you’ve been going through and decide whether my 5-appointment gut health coaching program or a longer program for autoimmunity or weight loss is a good fit for you. Individual 1-hour consultations may be scheduled directly here.

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