Parasites can be broadly classified as either protozoa (such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium), worms (such as nematodes and cestodes), and flukes.
You may think that parasitic infections of the gut only happen to people who travel in far off places, but over the last few years we have seen several outbreaks in the UK and the USA. There are few statistics that highlight the extent of this as a problem in the UK but researchers in the Center for Disease Control in America found parasites in 20% of routine stool specimens.
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Most parasite infections affect the bowel, where mild IBS type symptoms occur. Parasites can contribute to a wide array of systemic health problems, especially chronic digestive disorders, arthritis, chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, as well as problems with memory, anxiety and depression, enlarged lymph glands, night sweats and occasional fever.
A parasite is an organism within you that lives off your body. In acute cases the person is alerted to an immediate problem by watery diarrhoea, intestinal cramps, fever and fatigue. But often a parasite problem goes undetected for years. Vague gastrointestinal symptoms, allergic and immune problems and chronic fatigue can all be caused by parasitic infection. The main culprits are Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Entamoeba hystolica and Blastocystis hominis. Cryptosporidium is seen more and more in city water because chlorine does not kill it.