Getting to know parasites
If digestive symptoms are still present after 4-8 weeks on a diet based on food intolerance results, then other factors need to be considered. Equally, if the improvement is less than expected, usually around 60-80%, then again there is some other factor at play beyond food. One of the factors is overgrowth, of either pathogenic bacteria or parasites. Others include SIBO, stress and candida (yeast) overgrowth.
We recommend a faecal PCR test with activity assessment to determine if any parasites are indeed present. Due to the life cycle, which is not well known, of most parasites, a visual inspection of a sample is not enough to conclusively rule put parasite growth.
Furthermore, a faecal PCR, a gene identification process, is not enough to determine if the parasite is active. The test is sensitive enough to pick up any genetic material of the parasites tested, which means a past, opposed to a current, overgrowth may be detected. Hence the importance of the activity assessment.
The most common parasites detected, at The Gut Clinic, are Blastocystis species and, to a lesser extent, Dientamoeba fragilis. An additional three parasites and 6 pathogenic bacteria are tested.
Once confirmed present and active, treatment is focused on:
1) Decreasing the overgrowth – not necessarily eradicating the parasites or bacteria as this approach can cause a great deal of damage, some irreparable, to the microbiome. Both pharmaceutical and natural options are considered.
2) Rectifying the environment that allowed the overgrowth to occur – issues might be a lack of commensal or beneficial bacteria, acidity levels of the gut and of course food
3) Ruling out any other conditions that may be contributing to the overgrowth such as SIBO, candida overgrowth, Gilberts syndrome
Treating parasite overgrowth usually takes a bit of time, in some cases up to 3 months. Therefore, perseverance and dedication are important. Equally so, treatment needs to be carefully considered to ensure the health of the microbiome of the gut is supported and nurtured.