By Marcelle Pick, Ob/GYN NP
When I started Women to Women over 25 years ago, I saw patients almost every day who were suffering from digestive problems like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas and fatigue.
Back then I often referred patients to gastroenterologists. Frequently they came back to me with the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and with the recommendation that they should make dietary changes, increase fiber in their diet and use Metamucil. But too often these changes brought them no relief. I was aware at that time that stress could play a part in their discomfort, and made suggestions accordingly. But this also did not seem to be very effective. Their symptoms remained mysterious and frustrating.
An unwelcome souvenir
I didn’t sort the puzzle out until I went to Mexico and got what is known as “Montezuma’s Revenge. ”I returned to the US and realized I had all the symptoms that many of my patients had been complaining about. So I did a stool test, which was sent to the hospital. I was shocked when the test indicated nothing abnormal.
Being the person that I am, I did not stop there but began to explore the options available within the alternative medical community. I found a chiropractor who recommended a lab in Arizona. Sure enough, this stool test came back indicating parasites. She then effectively treated me and also recommended staying away from particular foods to which I had become sensitive. My symptoms disappeared. So began my real awakening to the alternatives for women who suffer from digestive problems that cannot be explained as irritable bowel syndrome or symptoms of anxiety.
IBS or intestinal parasites?
It is now my belief that IBS is just the beginning of the story, not the conclusion. I think IBS is being used by doctors as a catch-all diagnosis for a complicated host of symptoms that need to be explored in depth before the root cause (such as yeast, intestinal parasites or food sensitivities) can be identified and treated. Because of my own experience with GI distress, I now test for parasites in every woman who comes into the clinic with a diagnosis or symptoms of IBS. You may be surprised to learn that 40% of these women prove to have intestinal parasites — even though many have never left the United States.
The intestinal parasite environment
How do so many people get parasites?
When I first began working with women with issues of bloating and gas, I never anticipated seeing the number of women with intestinal parasites that we do. My expectation was that parasites really only occurred in third world countries. We know from a number of studies that in such countries parasites affect up to 99% of the population. The problem in the United States is obviously much less, but it is growing.