I was planning to skip over this oh-so-bloggable topic for the sake of your stomachs and my pride, but I figure some of you may have a genuine interest, the rest of you don’t have to read it, and my pride is about as compromised as my immune system at this point anyway, so…I’m going with it (consider this your second and final warning).
When we first moved to Chiapas 3.5 years ago, I adopted the (utterly ignorant) mentality that we didn’t need to disinfect our produce or be selective about street food. We would simply adjust over time to the different strains of bacteria and whatever else made its way into our (previously privileged) digestive systems. You know, acclimate. Whooo boy, lemme tell ya. Ignorance is not always bliss.
Remember those awful tie-dyed Jo’s Crab Shack t-shirts from the 90s that read, “Peace, Love and Crabs?” Well, if I had need for a t-shirt with which to remember our years in San Cristóbal it would most definitely read, “Love, Maya and Amoebas.”
For those of you who’ve not been graced with a proper introduction, amoebas are basically just hell in a single cell. I wrote a piece about them once to commemorate their having moved into my large intestine yet again called, “Gifts from the Amoebas,” which was basically just a sick attempt (literally) to find the silver lining in our sorry situation — you know, upsides like increased appreciation for toilets, a new love of toilet paper and the fact of our annual return to a land where water that flows from taps doesn’t scare a person shitless. But I can’t find it now, so you win, for the moment.
Anyhow, amoebas are a huge issue there because 1. Chiapas is an agricultural state, 2. the majority of the the farmers growing the food have no way to treat human waste nor much knowledge of the correlation between hygiene and health, 3. outhouses and farmland share the same soil, microbial-y speaking and 4. amoebas are spread by way of fruits and vegetables contaminated by the feces of infected people and then sold directly, farmers to consumers.
Though, all things considered, San Cristóbal de las Casas is still my favorite place I’ve ever been, thankfully, amoebas haven’t been near as big a problem here in Tulum. The water is cleaner, you can hardly farm here to save your life and the tropics have a different set of “gifts” altogether…
About two months ago I started feeling tired, and I mean REALLY tired, as in suspecting-pregnancy-against-the-odds kind of tired. Because digestive dilemmas have been the family norm rather than the exception since we moved south, I wasn’t overly concerned about those I was currently experiencing. But when I took the common local anti-parasite meds and still felt bad, my usually-mild food allergies picked up big time, my cat and mold-induced asthma hit me without exposure to either and I began to feel not only lethargic and foggy but uncharacteristically anxious and depressed, I knew something was up.
(If you’d been wondering why I’ve not been blogging much lately, now you know the half of it.)
Assuming I was either dying or losing my mind, I found a good doctor, got a full physical, had blood work done, even submitted three days worth of stool samples. Nothing. So, knowing better than to rely solely on conventional medicine and its practitioners, and absolutely certain I was not well, I started cleansing: raw garlic, lime juice, tons of water, no sugar, dairy or alcohol and an herbal parasite cleanse I’d used with success in Chiapas.
And what do you know? Within ten days, look who finally decided he’d had enough:
That, my friends, is an eight-inch roundworm. Yes, I passed him just as you might imagine, yes, he and I had been coexisting for as much as a year, and yes, there could be more. (Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, you might be interested to know that once I put it in the jar and closed the lid, it stayed alive for three more days.)
Go ahead, freak out if you need to, just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Roundworms are predominately tropical parasites that affect approximately one sixth of the world’s population and are spread when microscopic eggs are passed through food, water, soil and feces. The really crazy part? Once you ingest them, they make their way to your lungs via your bloodstream causing symptoms of asthma, which then causes you to cough them back up into your throat. When you swallow them again unknowingly, that’s when they grow to their full glory in your intestines (I was lucky, it could have been much, much bigger).
Gross as it all sounds, I’m honestly just glad I’m not dying, which I seriously suspected. As for treatment? I’m taking the recommended drugs specific to roundworms, but I will also continue cleansing for quite some time because apparently (and all you experts out there, by all means, share your two-bits)…
Parasites (as with amoebas and the like) line your intestines with a sort of mucous that they then hide in and which protects them from anti-parasitic drugs. The idea behind a good parasite cleanse is that it contains high amounts of fiber that pushes the mucous through, along with herbs that make the environment undesirable to whatever is living in you.
At the risk of sounding like a Para-Gone pusher, I’ve gotta tell you, two weeks in and I feel like a normal person again. I have TONS of energy, clear thoughts and only my normal quirks, no more wormy ones (hopefully that means he was a loner?).
And so, for what it’s worth…
A few more things I’ve learned about intestinal health since living abroad:
I hesitated to bring all this up, in part, because there is already so much fear-mongering out there when it comes to Mexico and developing countries in general, and clearly, I don’t subscribe to all that, but I do think it’s smart to be informed and educated, whether deciding between a taco cart and a cevicheria or contemplating colon cleanses with your local herbalist.
And so, I’ll leave you with an emphatic don’t let this keep you from adventuring!!!!
Also, a few…
So, there you have it. More than you ever wanted to know about my digestive health and then some, though I have a feeling this adventurous crowd of mamas can handle it. Feel free to share your own parasitic remedies, preventatives and horror stories below! Trust me, nothing’s phasing me at this point.
Okay mom. Give me one good reason why you had to show your inside life (that even i want NOTHING to do with), to the world?? One good reason.
QUE? translation WHAT??
BTW this is to Taos
sorry, never mind you are a teen … you’ll grow into it. It’s all about knowledge and sharing. We can never have too much information … well with that said maybe in a very few areas to too much not so good. ps. your mom is super cool and bloody honest
You are doing amazing work! Thanks for sharing your wonderful posts.I had some problems with parasites. ???? It is often a waste of time to try and find eggs in stools as they are extremely difficult to detect. Best is just to treat with Albendazole or Mebendazole-Vermox (got it from “VERM2GET”, you can search on Google) ❤️ This helped me a lot! Albendazole and mebendazole (vermox) are broad spectrum antihelmintics and most likely to be effective.
I can totally relate Beth. . . my husband travels to Mexico. . .San Quintin. . .to fish and decompress from the stresses of So Cal life. .but last time he came back he was sick for a month. . finally went to doctor and found he had some amoeba living in his gut. . . thanks for sharing the natural remedies. . i prefer those to pharmaceuticals. . and I’ve always wanted to do a colon cleanse but never seem to be able to set aside 2-3 days to hand around the toilet. . . how do you do it?
I’ve traveled and lived abroad but have been pretty luck to never have had an actual worm. my jaw dropped when I got to the picture.
And thanks for the preventative list. Because I’ve traveled a lot I tend to get kinda cocky about having well-traveled-intestines, and then get pretty sick (so you’d think I’d learn…). On my next trip to Ecuador to see the in-laws I’ll be sure to bring some grapefruit seed extract and remember the lime and garlic trick. Super helpful, esp. now that we’re traveling with kiddos. One thing for me to get sick, but I’d feel so bad if the little ones did.
Wow! That roundworm is really something!
What kind of disinfectant do you use? I live in Uganda and a lot of people here use bleach but I don’t like the idea of washing my produce in bleach, and I would love some nontoxic ideas.
I also had an amoeba a few months ago and they are not fun!!
Wow! I don’t even know what to say! But I definitely want to avoid parasites at all costs and am glad you found out what was wrong with you! I think I may add some of the diet tips you shared, it can’t hurt 😉
What kind of disinfectant do you use for your veggies?
Hi Beth, (I’m the one that visited Vali in August…didn’t tell you I started following your blog when we got home). Just letting you know I commiserate! We just finished doing a parasite cleanse on Owen, who hadn’t been able to shake an odd off and on again mild stomach bug pretty much since we visited this summer. Happy to say he’s doing great now. We used a black walnut tincture that I’ve been pushing on everyone since. 🙂 So happy to hear you’re doing better!!
Ok, I am totally convinced that I had or still have this. I’m sick to my stomach now. I think I will do the cleanse!!! Thanks for the info.
I am so very grateful for this post. I’m horrified at your experience, and glad you’ve gotten somewhat past the hard part. Thanks for sharing this information!
Wow, I read this because I was curious, yikes! Bookmarked it for ‘just in case’…
GOOD article! Thank you!
How timely! I’m in the midst of amoeba hell right now!
I’ve been living in Puerto Morelos for about two years now, and have had issues off and on — nothing too major — until now. OUCH. I always soak/disinfect my fruits/veggies and am pretty careful about where I eat, but somehow these little guys have found a home in me.
I’ve been reading lots of interesting articles recently about gut health being directly related to mental health and I truly believe it.
Once I finish this round of medication, I think I will try your cleanse and will definitely be more diligent about taking a probiotic. Anything to avoid this icky pain again…
Taos, I think there’s already at least 11 reasons so far why your mom posted that~ Beth, I’m making an art piece, totally inspired by you. Pics to come;) I will always treasure and admire your honesty. I wondered if you were gonna post on this…..it’s an amazing story and great insight for other adventure peeps. Happy to know you’re feeling better chica~
Thanks so so much for sharing!! (I don´t think this kind of stuff moves moms a bit after they had to change diapers of sick babies)
From what you write about the round worm´s life cycle I wonder if this is the reason why muslims don´t eat pork? Ages ago I heard something similar about hygienic problems that led to that nutrition rule.
I´ve been to amoeba hell this September -yes, me too, I had similar thoughts about my life ending, it can be one of the symptoms- I didn´t even have to leave the European Union for this experience, Malta did it; it made me learn what it means to travel “all inclusive”. All lovers of this kind of travelling be warned: your hotels don´t care about your health too much.
Tummy trouble has accompanied me all my life, I was said to be sensitive and believed this for most of my life… Working on increased health issues, which seem beyond digestions, for some years now, I suspect some “stranger´s hand” being part of the game – your post encourages me to investigate further in this direction. It´s not easy around here because of the German arrogance of being-cleanest and knowing-all etc. especially among the doctors; pretty difficult to find a doc who does not send away a person with a heap of diffuse symptoms including those “mental ones”, diagnosing it to be psychosomatic, so “go and relax” or “go see the shrink and learn to cope with yourself” instead of (expensive) blood etc. testing…
Thank you tons for sharing your story and all the tips, it helps so much!
I have been reading your blogs for a year now.
Your the best! Thanks for sharing. So sick but true. I live in Quebec Canada but am travelling with my family to Cancun for vacation in December, so I appreciate the info that much more.
Take care Beth and Blessings
OMG, Beth, you must have been so grossed out but also grateful that thing was out of your body. I hope there are no more. Were you the only one in the family? In Oaxaca they have a tree seed. I think it is called the Oaje (actually where the name Oaxaca comes from) that they say is good for parasites. It’s interesting and disconcerting that the doctor did not find the existence of that worm. It’s a good thing you went on and did your cleanse. Ick!
Great post Beth! Take a deep breath Taos, sharing helps people. You have one of the best moms I’ve ever met kiddo!
Oh my god. I actually shuddered when I got to the worm photo. Yikes! I had a friend here who did a months-long parasite-cleansing diet after yeeeeears of vague physical & mental symptoms. The amount of wormy things that came out of her body over the course of a few weeks was…well, I can’t even think of a good adjective, but I wish you could see my facial expression! xoxoxo
(And Taos, your comment made me laugh!)
I had parasites so many times living in Ecuador (even being very careful) that when I had amoebas it began to feel mild. Giardhea (spelling?) is by far the most disgusting and horrible out of anything I have had. Because of never wanting to suffer through that one again, I try to be super extra careful when I travel. I never got a worm though so it was intersting reading your experience and how much it can affect you beyond physical symptoms.. I also didn’t know about that cleanse-will definitely use it if I got a parasite again. In Ecuador I was also told about papaya seed and have done grapefruit extract when back in the states. I found papaya seed on its own didn’t work. Grapefruit extract did. Thanks for sharing your experience!
okokokokokokokokokokokokok.ok..ok…ok…..I am now aware of a whole new level of courage that you possess – and the amoebas that you don’t. I think I am thankful…mostly I am just disturbed. I have read a fair amount about parasites – just never met one before.
This is a great post, and the tips are very useful- for everyone, not just people moving to less developed countries. My mom was obsessed with parasites when we were kids, and we lived in Maine. I try not to be quite so worried about them, but I agree with your idea that they’re more common than people realize, not just in “poor” places. I suppose this is one reason why I prefer cold places, even though the winters get long and dreary- less parasites.
We recently adopted a stray cat, and I had to go through the whole “he’s got worms” thing. But for once I just dealt with it and didn’t freak out, so I felt kind of proud of myself for that. It’s all about finding our own right balance I guess.
Glad you’re feeling better!
Thanks for sharing. Hope you feel better!
wow just read this post…glad you’re feeling better. this is definitely a new level of parasitic talk than what we heard from Sylvia Flesner back in Austin.
I love this post! I hate that you had parasites, though. Thank you for educating us- I had no idea that they could cause symptoms beyond the basic stomach/intestinal kind. Seriously, thanks for the info. I hope your health is recovering in leaps and bounds. xoxo
I am so sorry to say i can relate. When we adopted our sons from Brazil, it took me 4 years to know what was going on with my health — but parasites were part of it. Yuk, yuk, yuk. It is not fun to scream at what you see come out of your body.
I am feeling better. I hope you are too.
I can really relate to this, though I never saw an actual worm. I would’ve fainted!!! I lived in Mexico for two years and Guatemala for one year. I was pretty lucky in Mexico and only had mild tummy troubles but in Guatemala I had parasites constantly, even though I never ate out and disinfected veggies like a mad woman. I drank GSE drops pretty much all the time. They seemed to stop working well after a while, so I alternated with other remedies. Another one that worked very well was a tea made with the leaves or flowers of a tree called “jacaranda”. I’m not sure if they have the same thing in Mexico, but I imagine they do, considering the proximity of the two countries.
Hi, Beth! I just heard about your blog from your cousin, Hollie. I’m so glad she told me about it because I love it!
I’ve had parasites twice, but my son getting pinworms was the worst! After hours of research and some failed remedies, we found a solution that worked: ParaGone for Kids and 1 tsp of food-grade Diatomaceous Earth in yogurt per day. That was a hard time and I’m so thankful that it’s over.
It’s great that you’ve shared your experience because parasites are more common than most people think!
What brand of diatomaceous earth (DE) did you use and how long did you give it to your son? Did you use both treatments DE and paragone together? What side effects should I think about before giving DE to my toddler? Please, please reply. Thank you!
Sue I use FOOD GRADE Diamacious Earth to worm my dogs. Don’t know where you get it in MX though. Would like to know for the future
I can’t thank you enough for this….spend 5 months in Mexico a year…tried what the locals recommended just in case, when we got home. Could you give details of a herbal parasite cleanse, in case we have a problem and nothing else works, or would that be too extensive for here?
have being living for 22 years in mexico and from the beginning all my Mexican friends told me that is a good habbit to deparasite every 6 months to get rid of uninvited guests. So coming here and not being prepared or just stubborn and not following advice can only blamed to yourself
If you can’t get rid of parasites after doing herbal cleanses, check out Advanced Cell Training with Gary Blier. It works. I’m getting rid of parasites picked up in Mexico when I was 14, Central and South America when I was 22, and in India in 2010. I’ve also cleared out Epstein-Barr, H. pylori, etc., and I’m working on Lyme disease. It’s a long process, but permanent.
I gave grapefruit seed extract to my niece when she offered 6 months of volunteer service in rural Africa. She put some in tea or water every day. She didn’t get sick.
Janet- I’m getting rid of worms with ACT with Gary Blier right now. I wanted to find someone else who’s experienced this miracle. Please contact me if you can. Thx
Hi, have you come across Uticaria as a result of parasite infection? Ta, Bernie C
How did you go? did you end up getting rid of them? Please let me know what you’ve used
I have roundworms, flukes, tapeworms, blastocystis, dientamoba.. xx
The picture of the worm was crazy. Trying to convince my european boyfriend that parasites are a fair concern for almost everyone and this post did it LOL. Thanks so much for sharing!
Than you for the info. I have been brought up here since I was a young child. (Mexico) . Never really had many problem, but at the age of 50 while living in Hawaii I developed meningitis…….about a week after I continued with severe headaches and was admited at the hospital feeling like the exorcist girl. Cist being the real culprit. After many tests and time my local Dr. Figures it out…… I had cystercercosis in the brain. Not uncomon here in Mex.It is caused by tapeworms. Uncooked pork, veggies that have not been cleaned, people not washing their hands, etc. Soo I do take Albendazol once or twice a year as I still live here as
Wonderful information, thank you so much for sharing. I am a wildlife photographer and had to go in a swamp for a photo op myself. My hip waders unfortunately overflowed..Much to my surprise when I went to the doctor about my rash all over and being so very itchy, I was diagnosed with parasites. Took a bunch of meds prescribed and it helped but ruined a planned holiday..so happy to be rid of them. Love this blog and would very much like to follow. Again, thanks for posting!
Thanks for the information! I was in Tulum 2 years ago and has a horrible travellers diarrhea, my sister mom and I thought we were dying – high high fever and dehydration. We saw a doctor who gave un medicine (no clue what it was) to treat what we had. But when I got back to Canada I started getting issues breathing. I now am suffering with chronic bronchitis and coughing up yellow on a daily basis. Have tried antibiotics to get rid of it multiple times. My immune system is very low. I never had asthma before just allergies and I now have to take a puffer 3 times a day and wash out my nose with a netty pot twice daily. 2 years have gone by so I’m sure this things is deep in my system but I never knew to connect the dots. I never had parasite testing but as I’m now living for part of the year in Italy will see if I can get it done here. In the meantime I was wondering if I treat this parasite and get it out is it going to come out of my lungs?? I feel like I’m coughing up phlegm that looks like skinny short worms but I don’t know if I’m just freaking myself out or not. Please help!
Oh my gosh what happened? I go to Italy several times a year. Now Im at home in Toronto dealing with parasites. Do you have parasites and are you better?