How taking probiotics can prevent intestinal parasites
Even as you sleep, your gut microbiome is always working for you: creating vitamins, educating your immune system, and fighting off potential infections – including intestinal parasites.
Parasite infection is more common than you think: if you’ve ever known someone who came down with beaver fever after a week at the cottage, you’ve encountered parasites. Giardia, the parasite that causes beaver fever, can cause infection after consuming untreated lake water; symptoms such as diarrhea, cramping and fatigue usually show up two weeks post-exposure.
Pinworm is another common parasite that can be very persistent: the worms lay eggs around the anus that can live on skin or surfaces for up to two weeks. Another common and interestingly controversial parasite is blastocystis hominis. There is so much we don’t know about this organism, including how it spreads – although it is thought that daycare environments and exposure to animals may increase risk. It is also found in the guts of those without symptoms, leading researchers to question whether the bloating, diarrhea or constipation that is attributed to blastocystis hominis is in fact caused by another organism3.
Bacteria vs Parasites
When you’re exposed to these parasites, is infection inevitable? It would appear that it depends on your microbiome. For example, helminths were once common in the human microbiome but are now rarely seen – and some researchers believe that without them, our immune systems are more hyper-reactive1. Likewise, exposure to giardia doesn’t always cause symptomatic infection1. While much is still unknown, it is thought that the ability of gut microbes to strengthen the mucus barrier of the gut helps prevent parasites from causing infection1. Lab studies also suggest that gut bacteria excrete substances that kill parasites, along with providing competition for space and resources1,3. In fact, in one human trial, there was noted similarities in the gut microbiota of people with parasite infection – even if they lived in different regions2. Similarly, despite living in regions far apart, the guts of those who were able to fight off parasite infection showed similar microbes2.
Early laboratory trials suggest that probiotics may help reduce risk of, and assist in fighting off, some parasitic infections3. It has been shown that certain probiotics can help get rid of potentially infectious organisms, while strengthening the mucus barrier of the gut and supporting our immune defenses3.
Strength in Numbers
While the research is underway, there is no harm in aiming to strengthen your intestinal microbiome now. A healthy gut microbiome is a diverse one. To get there, you need to build the right environment. A clinical strength probiotic, such as Bio-K+, helps to foster a healthy and balanced microbial community – in fact, you may not know this, but taking a probiotic doesn’t just add beneficial bacteria to your gut, it helps foster the growth of the beneficial bacteria you already have3.
And once those good bacteria are in place, you need to feed them well. Our modern diets, low in fibre and high in salt, sugar and fat tend to have a negative effect on our gut microbiomes, encouraging the growth of more pro-inflammatory strains such as certain E.coli strains. Eating a variety of high fiber plant foods such as vegetables, whole grains and legumes provide non-digestible carbohydrates that drive fermentation and keep your gut microbes happily fed.
Intestinal parasite infection is more common than you think; if you are experiencing symptoms such as watery diarrhea, cramping or severe bloating, don’t wait. Go see your doctor right away. Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When you’re feeling well, help strengthen your defenses by eating well and taking a daily dose of Bio-K+ probiotic drinks or capsules.
Do you have any other questions about your gut health? Ask us in comments below. If you are looking to stock up on Bio-K+, head to our store locator. For more information on Bio-K+, probiotics and digestive health, contact us, find us on Facebook and Instagram or join our community.
- Leung, Jacqueline M et al. “Parasite-Microbiota Interactions With the Vertebrate Gut: Synthesis Through an Ecological Lens” Frontiers in microbiologyvol. 9 843. 14 May. 2018, doi:10.3389/fmicb.2018.00843
- Rosa, Bruce A et al. “Differential human gut microbiome assemblages during soil-transmitted helminth infections in Indonesia and Liberia” Microbiomevol. 6,1 33. 28 Feb. 2018, doi:10.1186/s40168-018-0416-5
- Vitetta, Luis et al. “Modulating the Gut Micro-Environment in the Treatment of Intestinal Parasites” Journal of clinical medicinevol. 5,11 102. 16 Nov. 2016, doi:10.3390/jcm5110102