Many Americans have been through the nightmare of living with a parasite for years, even after being told they didn’t have any harmful parasites. A common misdiagnosis is irritable bowel syndrome. How could this happen? The answer lies in the way most doctors test for parasites. Usually, a single stool sample is sent to a lab and tested, but as many people have learned the hard way, it’s easy for these tests not to catch what they’re looking for.
Why the usual test isn’t enough
- Some types of parasites reside in the cecum, which is a pouch-shaped area in the intestine. Whereas other parasites leave traces in stool samples, these ones won’t, thanks to this hiding spot
- Some medication can mask the evidence of living parasites up to 3 weeks after you take them. These include antibiotics, mineral oil, bismuth, and anti-malarial pills (taken if you’re travelling somewhere with malaria outbreaks). If your stool sample is tested within that 3 week time frame, your doctor can miss all signs of the parasite.
- A single “unfixed” stool sample is designed to make parasites grow large enough to analyse. This method can kill some types of parasites before they grow, physically breaking them down and making them impossible to find.
- Certain types of parasites aren’t tested for, period. The b. hominis and the d. fragilis parasites are two significant examples. The majority of medical practitioners don’t consider these to be either harmful or probable. So, even if there’s plenty of evidence for them in a stool test, that evidence simply won’t be reported by the lab.
If you are among those who continue to suffer even after your doctor has ruled out parasites and tried treating you for something else, you still have plenty of options. First of all, ask for a second test. Instead of getting a single stool sample, ask for a triple fecal test (TFT). Since there are more samples, the lab has a better chance of finding evidence of parasites. Getting this second test done at a later date can also make sure you won’t miss any evidence that a medication might have masked the first time. Ask your doctor about trying alternative tests:
- A purged sample. This method uses strong laxatives to flush out any parasite that’s hiding in the cecum of your large intestine. While this option might not be the best choice for everyone, if you and your doctor decide it’s a safe option, it might just lead to finally identifying the source of your symptoms.
- A “fixed” test. This method keeps parasites completely intact, making them ultimately more ‘find-able’ by the lab than the first unfixed method did.
- PCR’s (polymerase chain reactions) are used to analyse a small sample of DNA. These can identify the DNA of a foreign parasite which is making its home in your body, and expelling bits of waste inside your intestine.
- Live blood cell analyses use samples of living blood cells which show your current state of health. Taken from your fingertip and magnified to 1500x, they can catch evidence of parasites from your bloodstream, along with many other health issues.
Unfortunately, many people aren’t able to obtain these extra tests from their family doctors. Thankfully, there are other options. Functional Medicine practitioners are trained to address your health from a holistic perspective. They will take the time to evaluate multiple factors in order to figure out how to bring your body to health. There are also specific parasitology centres, whose specialty is finding and eliminating parasites of every kind. I encourage you to share these resources with anyone suffering from an undiagnosed or misdiagnosed digestion issue. For more information check out our post on balancing your diet.