The 411 on Parasites
Today, let’s talk about something that many of us would rather not talk about, and that is parasites. We may not like to think about parasites taking up residence in our bodies, but it’s an important topic to consider and learn about if we have “tried everything” and still haven’t reached our best state of health.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Todd Watts. Dr. Watts is a specialist in functional medicine, but also specializes in treating parasites. He is a national board certified Chiropractic Physician, speaker, and expert in parasitology. Along with his chiropractic training and Clinical Kinesiology, Dr. Watts has extensive training in functional medicine, cellular detox, nutrition and biochemistry. His purpose and mission has been to help others rid themselves of chronic infections and restore optimal cellular health and vitality. His own story has been his fight in overcoming chronic Lyme disease, Epstein-Barr virus, and parasitic infections. Dr. Watts is currently innovating and formulating new products for parasites, mucoid plaque, and Lyme disease.
I was curious about what prompted Dr. Watts to study parasites in the first place. This isn’t something we hear about every day, and I know very few people who know as much about parasites as he does.
“…As I was going back to school and getting my doctorate, I had a lot of health problems. I was at a conference, and Dr. Allan Lindsley presented on Lyme disease. At that conference, all the symptoms he was talking about, especially with some of the co-infections . . . I had many of those, especially Babesia.
“Afterwards, we talked, and eventually I went through protocols with him on getting treated…. My health improved to a point, but it stagnated. That’s when I was introduced to a friend of mine, Dr. Matt Buckley that told me about parasites. He had studied Dr. Klinghardt’s protocols, and he had a lot of knowledge about it. As we went through, I found out I had parasites, and have gone through multiple cleansing processes on getting rid of them. My health totally turned around.”
This makes perfect sense, because I went through something similar when I was sick with mercury poisoning. Because of my personal experience, I became an expert on heavy metals and cellular healing, something I would’ve never considered if I wasn’t sick.
Dr. Watts goes on “The final component to that was the cellular healing. That really helped me bring it all together, so treating the infections, treating the Epstein-Barr virus, treating the parasites made the big difference, especially with my food sensitivities….I had severe headaches when I had dairy exposure, any little bit. With gluten, my brain would shut down. If I had gluten, within 30 minutes I was tired, and I wanted to rest and sleep. By getting rid of the parasites and cleaning up the gut, I no longer had headaches with the exposure to dairy. My gluten sensitivities aren’t near as bad. Not that I try and test it very often but definitely have reduced symptoms with those things.”
To my chagrin, I had parasites too. The heavy metals brought my immune system down to the point where my body was ripe for them to grow and multiply.
How Parasites Thrive
Parasites are systemic. In other words, they are easily spread and can affect various systems throughout the body. One such parasite is the threadworm or Strongyloides, a small intestinal parasite that is quite common. It has larvae that goes into the lungs, and can also spread to the muscles and nervous system. There are over 40 species of this parasite, which can affect all types of animals, including birds, reptiles, fish livestock and humans. Strongyloides are usually transmitted via the soil, and if the larvae come into contact with the skin, they can easily enter the body and make their way to the small intestine.
No one can give an exact number of how many folks have parasites, but many experts (including Dr. Watts) believe most people may have them at any given time. It is difficult to determine exactly how many are infected with Strongyloides because the majority do not have any symptoms.
For those who do have symptoms, they can be very broad and general in nature. The CDC lists the following as potential signs of a Strongyloides infection:1
- Abdominal pain
- Occasional diarrhea or constipation
- Dry mouth
These symptoms are easily misdiagnosed, a reason why I always stress looking upstream. Why do you have abdominal pain? What is causing your heartburn? Why do you have a rash? For example, the skin condition eczema can be rooted in a type of intestinal parasite that could eventually lead to other skin conditions like psoriasis. We have to look at chronic pain the same way. What is causing it? The root cause may be parasites.
Dr. Watts has treated many patients who were at their wits end. They were seen by chiropractors, naturopaths, acupuncturists, orthopedic surgeons and many specialists. No one could determine what was causing the pain and discomfort, but when treated for parasites, the chronic pain (along with other symptoms) dissipated.
It should be noted that Strongyloides are usually transmitted via the soil, but that is not the only way they can be transmitted. Dr. Watts elaborates:
“It’s in food….a lot of pork. It’s in even vegetables that aren’t cleaned well, water sources, lakes, rivers. Animals…. all the animals have them, so you should be treating your animals as well. They’re easy to pick up. (This quote is meant to be reflective of most parasites not just strongyloides)
“The thing is, we’re a globally traveled world now. It’s not United States specific….There are people crossing the borders every single day, and the food sources come from international sources. Apples could come from Chile, or your fish could come from China or Taiwan….food is global now.”
In other words, exposure is not just from travelling to an exotic country and drinking the water or eating foreign food. Bacteria and parasites are in places we may not anticipate. For example, a study on random shopping carts reported by the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona found that children are at an increased risk of Salmonella, Campylobacter, and other infections if they ride in grocery store shopping carts that contained meat at some point. The study suggests that children are exposed to bacterial pathogens in shopping carts occurs on a regular basis.2
It’s important we understand how prevalent these parasites are and ways to take necessary precautions to avoid them.
Yin-Yang and Parasites
Parasites seem to be everywhere today. A logical question then is are some people more prone to getting and harboring parasites than others? Dr. Watts shares his Yin and Yang theory:
“In Chinese medicine… there’s a yin versus yang person, so it could be a yang deficiency…”
Yin represents coolness, darkness, rest, stillness and structure, while Yang represents motion, heat, and brightness. Yang is activity, while yin provides the energy for that activity. In other words, Yin and Yang are opposite of each other but also need each other to function and remain in balance.
A yang deficiency can be caused by the following actions:
Negative emotions. Fear, excessive anger, and chronic stress.
Lack of rest. Working too much or excess exercise (overtraining).
Too many cold foods and drinks. Lots of iced and frozen foods can chill the body.
Overexposure to cold. It’s important to keep the body covered and warm in the cooler months.
Symptoms of a yang deficiency include the following:
- Always feeling cold
- Low libido
- Urinary disorders
- Lack of energy
- Lower back pain
- Poor circulation
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
By balancing out yin and yang, a person may be able to decrease susceptibility to having parasites. Popular ways to restore yang include the following:
Sunshine. Sunlight is a rich source of vitamin D, essential for overall health.
Cold showers. Cold showers have been used for centuries to increase the body’s resistance to disease.
Diet. Warm, nutrient dense cellular healing foods can help bring yang to normal levels.
Dr. Watts thinks a balanced diet is very important when fighting or treating for parasites. For vegans, be sure to incorporate enough yang foods. For meat eaters, be sure to eat a sufficient amount of yin foods such as leafy greens and don’t overeat meat. Simple carbs and sugar can drive inflammation and an imbalanced microbiome. Overall, most people need to incorporate more of the good fats into their diets. Also, consider that parasites can affect digestion creating nutrient deficiencies, not allowing our bodies to repair and function properly.
Potential Health Issues Caused by Parasites
Parasites are a challenge to treat because many people have parasites, but are not sick or show many symptoms. Some people exhibit mild symptoms, while others become extremely sick. For those who do have symptoms, they may not know parasites are the cause. Therefore, Dr. Watts stresses the importance of proper diagnosis:
“Parasites can cause such a low chronic infection that it can suppress the immune system allowing things like Epstein-Barr, or Lyme, or other bacteria, or viruses to really take hold. Some of the kids I’ve dealt with (and you see this with little kids a lot) is the molluscum warts. It’s a virus that they have a difficult time getting rid of them. They’re supposed to resolve on their own. What I find is, if I take care of the parasites in the gut, then the immune system comes up, and they’re able to overcome it much quicker.”
Another issue Dr. Watts notes is blood sugar:
“If someone has a chronic anemia, or maybe chronic blood sugar issues, or cortisol issues, you got to consider that parasites can create that problem. They’re reactive. They seem to be more active at night when you’re sleeping. It goes along with people who are waking up one to three or four in the morning. Because they have high amounts of ammonia being released, it causes insomnia issues, and sleep issues, and difficulty falling back to sleep.”
Parasites and the Immune System
When I had issues with parasites, it seemed like they would keep coming back. I eventually realized that the key for me was to eliminate the mercury, heavy metals and other toxins from my body before I could effectively deal with the parasites. This is where the immune system comes into play. A strong immune system is the key to eliminating parasites. If your immune system is impaired because you have heavy metal toxicity or chronic active Epstein-Barr or other viruses, it will be extremely difficult to overcome other health issues you may have.
Ironically, we don’t always see the parasites – we only see the results of them being removed. This is how we know the immune system is getting stronger. For example, a person may have liver flukes, which is parasitic disease of the bile ducts, a possible reason why some people are unable to digest fats or why their gallbladder must be removed. As the parasites are pulled from the body, these symptoms disappear. We may not know the parasites were the cause of these issues until they have been eradicated. Constipation is another example. Some may have constipation issues due to roundworm, or intestinal worms. Dr. Watts has encountered women who had chronic constipation issues since they were little girls, but once they get rid of the roundworms, symptoms disappear.
Test Don’t Guess
Testing for parasites is very limited. Some people have a few mild symptoms, while others have major health issues that could be due to parasites or something else. Some feel a stool sample is the best method, but that’s not necessarily the case:
“On a regular stool sample test, most come back negative. Genova Diagnostics has a Comprehensive Stool Profile which offers a PCR assay checking for 24 commensal bacteria, Calyprotectin, ova & parasite identification and enhanced test reporting. This test provides a better look into the overall microbiome. For most patients or clients, I have them fill out a parasite questionnaire assessing how impactful the parasites may be on their systems. We tally up the points and rate them on the scale. I see people upwards over 100, and they have severe infestation of parasites. On average, I see between 40 and 60.”
With the questionnaire, I find that muscle testing, a good case history and symptom evaluation seem to be the best way to assess for parasite infections. The main reason is that I see patients who have done colonoscopies, endoscopies, and stool testing which all come back negative. I treat them, and there’s the proof right there, right? It is amazing what we see come out of people! Parasites are in a great environment in your body. They help create that environment along with other microbials and toxins. I like to create an environment that they do not thrive, and that’s where diet and nutrition comes into play.
Dr. Watts has a systematic approach where he focuses on the symptoms:
- What are the symptoms?
- Do symptoms match with parasitic symptoms?
- Which type of parasite would match the symptoms?
From here, Dr. Watts looks at different parasites and checks them off the list of probable causes of health issues. He looks for parasites in this specific order:
- Cestodes (tapeworms)
- Trematodes (flukes and hookworms)
- Nematodes (Intestinal roundworms)
He prefers this order because protozoans are microscopic in size and can come back if they’re inside the larger parasites. Other microbials such as bacteria and viruses can also exist in the larger parasites. The method has proven to be quite effective for Dr. Watts. In one case, a patient had chronic hives every day for a year. She’d seen all kinds of specialists and nobody could figure out why she was having it. Within ten days of putting her on a protocol, she passed a six foot tapeworm. It’s been over a year now and she is still free of hives.
Removing Parasites with Detox and Cellular Healing
One of the first steps to getting rid of parasites is to open the detox pathways. If the body is unable to eliminate toxins naturally, it will be extremely difficult to remove the parasites and keep them away. The idea is to create an environment in which parasites cannot easily thrive. The parasites have found a home and want to stay, but we must make their living conditions inhospitable. Once done, removing them will be much easier.
The parasites may not be in the bowels, but we can look at how clients’ bowels are moving. Do they have diarrhea or constipation? Even in the absence of parasites, this can be an important clue to investigate further.
Next, patients are put on the Cellular Healing Diet:
“In first two months, I’m doing the Cellular Healing Diet. I try and get the inflammation down, and then I also try and build the yang body up so that they can heal better.
“Then from there, depending on what the issues are, if I can move forward into more of a ketogenic diet and fasting. I think fasting is really important. I implement both of those protocols that Dr. Pompa has taught us and I also do some flushes. I’ll do the Vitamin C flush. I’ve also done some kidney flushes and some liver flushes to help clear out some of those issues.”
The next step is to use a binder to help move out toxins. Binders support the body’s detoxification process by eliminating unhealthy waste. The toxins attach to the binders and are eliminated from the body. Dr. Watts prefers to use BIND from Systemic Formulas. He also uses the Detox 2 Formula from Byron White Formulas or Takesumi Supreme from Supreme Nutrition:
“I use those lines, all three of those lines, quite a bit. I use Systemic Formula’s VRM1, 2, 3 and 4. I’ll usually use the 1. I always start with 1, especially if they have any tapeworm issues. It’s really nice how they set them up because they go from large, to small, to the microscopic, to the cellular ones, and so you just have to learn their product line that way. Be careful and start out slow.”
A key is to strengthen and support the liver, kidneys and lymph nodes because toxins will be pulled from all parts of the body and flowing to these organs so they can be removed from the body. Dr. Watts recommends starting slowly with binders, because the body can experience adverse reactions initially as the body adjusts. Side effects can include headaches, fatigue or rashes.
Dr. Watts prefers to use herbals to treat parasites, but occasionally he will refer to an osteopathic doctor to prescribe medication. He makes that decision on a case by case basis: for some, it can take six months or longer to treat a tapeworm with an herb while medication can be much more potent. Treatment options depend on a person’s flora and the condition of the gut as well. An important point about parasites is they can be located anywhere in the body, like a hidden infection from a root canal or cavitation. This is why Dr. Watts has several detailed protocols.
Who Should Be Tested?
Dr. Watts tests everyone for parasites, but he also believes anyone with a chronic disease should ask to be tested by their physician. As with any illness, the key is to resist treating the symptom and attempt to find the source of the problem. Using the thyroid as an example, it is difficult for it to work properly if a person has a blood sugar issue, an iron issue, or chronic anemia. If a person can’t sleep, why? Is cortisol higher at night? We must look at blood sugar, which then goes back to possible parasites and chronic stress. Seeking the root source is extremely important because health issues can wear a person down not only physically, but mentally. Over time, a negative outlook on life can change brain chemistry and physiology. However, once a person starts to feel better, they tend to have a completely different outlook on life. They can overcome struggles and see things in a whole different way. By getting better physically, life changes on multiple levels.
The Gut is the Key
Most functional medicine or nutritional practitioners understand that healing the gut is the key to good health. Both Dr. Watts and I have seen people who have been on leaky gut protocols or candida protocols for years because they have a chronic condition they can’t seem to cure. If heavy metal toxicity is the culprit, then it will be extremely difficult to fix the leaky gut without proper detox. The same philosophy applies to parasites, but few practitioners are looking at it from this perspective. Most practitioners do not make the connection that parasites could create chronic candida or chronic infection.
In order to fix the gut, we have to clear the parasites out and then restore both the stomach and intestinal environment. We must heal and seal the lining and support the healing process. Like bacteria, parasites love to generate toxins that create an environment where they can thrive. It’s important to clear that environment of toxins because a person could have a buildup of mucus over time, which can make it difficult to digest foods properly and can cause the gut to hold heavy metals, bad bacteria, toxic flora, yeast and fungus. It is important to focus on healing the gut and removing toxins and bacteria first. Once the leaky gut is fixed, a person can get a fresh start, from being allergic to everything to being able to eat many foods. When I encounter someone who has a lot of food allergies, I know they have inflammation, perhaps parasite driven. Many people are having chronic gut issues and aren’t sure how to fix them. We don’t talk about parasites enough, but they’re affecting a lot of people, albeit unknowingly.
As a society, we’re conditioned to think antibiotics are the answer to health issues, but that’s not always the case, especially when dealing with chronic conditions. For example, Dr. Watts had a patient that had UTI’s chronically for over two years. She was constantly on and off antibiotics. Once he did the parasite cleanse she felt relief almost immediately. The antibiotics weren’t affecting the parasites, they were just alleviating symptoms. If we don’t attack the bacteria directly, they’ll keep coming back because we’re not fully getting rid of them.
Products by Dr. Watts
I’m really excited to hear that Dr. Watts is in the process of creating his own product. It’s a product that is a great anti-microbial, especially anti-parasitic. It also helps remove mucoid plaque and what some may consider rope worm.
“The product, Para 1, has a potent version of mimosa pudica in it. I’ve done different versions of testing, for the past 3 years . I’ve been testing different blends to see what’s most effective.
Order Para 1 here.
Dr. Watts has some final words of advice:
“I think the first thing is finding a good practitioner that’s going to help you, especially one that understands the impact that parasite infections can have on your health. Dietary changes are really important. That is going to be a key, really, to ultimate health. You have to get inflammation down so your hormones can work, so your thyroid can work. Because if your thyroid isn’t working, then it’s hard to build that immune system back up to where it needs to be. Get at it. Get after all of it. It all is important, every single one. Heavy metals, Lyme, bacteria, viruses, you can’t leave any of them out.”
If you’d like more information about Dr. Watts, please visit his Facebook page Total Body Wellness Clinic and website www.totalbodywellnessclinic.com.