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5 Foodborne Parasites that make you sick and how to prevent them

Foodborne parasites or parasites in food?

Have you heard the term “foodborne illness” before?  They could really be foodborne parasites!

When you consume contaminated food or beverages you get a foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning.  There are many causes of a foodborne diseases like infectious bacteria, chemicals toxins, and viruses.  One of the major causes of foodborne illnesses is parasites as well.

This blog will help you understand the 5 most common parasites in your food and how to prevent them naturally.

But first, let’s understand a slight difference between the phrases “foodborne parasites” and “parasites in food”.

Both terms are often used interchangeably (at least on the internet) but there is a subtle difference;

  • “Foodborne parasite” generally refers to a parasite that is transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food.  It emphasizes the idea that the parasite causes illness when ingested with food.  Think larva or eggs on it.
  • “Parasite in food” is a broader term that suggests that parasites are found within the food itself, whether in its raw state or during the processing and handling stages. It may not necessarily imply transmission through consumption but highlights the presence of parasites within the food source.  Think of pork or fish with parasites within the meat.

In this blog, I will cover the most common parasites that are either transmitted through food or found within food. I will keep everything super simple…so get ready to safeguard your food.


5 Unhealthy and scary foodborne parasites in your food

There are two interesting facts about parasites.

  1. Parasites need a host to survive.  Their hosts could be animals, plants, and humans.  The parasites keep transmitting from one host to another.  When you eat contaminated meat, vegetables, or fruits…you become the host.
  2. You can’t smell, or taste these parasites.  They are invisible and can be lurking around you so you won’t even notice them.

When these parasites are left unchecked, they highly affect your health and can even be deadly in time.


Here are the 5 most common parasites on or in your food that make you sick.  I will also share some practical tips to prevent them naturally, so keep reading.

1.    Cryptosporidium spp. or Crypto

You are a milk and fruit juice lover?  If so, you need to be cautious!

According to research, this microscopic parasite was the leading cause of waterborne disease outbreaks in the US during 2001-2010.  At the time its major host was recreational water (water in swimming pools, lakes, and rivers). After that period, they got transmitted in food, animals, and soil.

Currently, Crypto is primarily found in undercooked foods, raw apple cider, or milk that is near expiration.

Crypto lives in the gut of infected humans. It is also called Cryptosporidiosis which is an infection that causes;

  • Watery diarrhea and dehydration
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Fever and stomach cramps or pain
  • Weight loss

If the infected person has a weak immune system the symptoms can last up to 1 to 2 weeks.


How to prevent Crypto Parasite?

  • Drink clean water to prevent dehydration and fresh juice.
  • Avoid coffee, tea, or beverages that contain caffeine, alcohol, and soft drinks as it may be in the water.
  • Maintain a well-balanced diet.


2.    Giardia intestinalis or Beaver Fever

This is the most common parasite and causes Giardiasis disease which is also a diarrheal disease.  Beaver fever is a common name for Giardiasis disease.  According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), this parasite is found all over the world, but the US people host it abundantly and the reason is the same as for the Crypto.

The most common source is the water that contains G-lambia. This parasite is rarely found in food, because heat kills it.  If you are eating undercooked lamb, pork, or wild quarry Giardia may be residing there.

Other sources of contamination included human and animal feces, diapers, and agricultural runoffs.  An interesting fact about Giardia is that this parasite can survive out of the body for weeks or even months!

When a person gets infected with Giardiasis, the symptoms could be gas, upset stomach, nausea, dehydration, foul-smelling, and greasy poop that can float.   Prolonged hosting of this parasite can lead to serious infection as well.


How to prevent Giardiasis?

You can’t prevent Giardisis exposure fully, but you can lower the risk of getting sick by;

  • Washing your hands often especially if you work in a day care center or around small children.
  • Avoid tap water and don’t brush your teeth with it as well.
  • Cook your food fully and always purchase very fresh groceries.


3.    Cyclospora cayetanensi

It’s a coccidian parasite that causes a diarrheal disease called cyclosporiasis. This is an emerging parasite in the US in recent years. Minnesota is reported among the leading states that contain cyclosporiasis. Cyclospora’s spread was noticed mostly in tropical and subtropical areas.

Interestingly, fresh produce like raspberries, basil, cilantro, snow peas, and mesclun and romaine lettuce were the resources of this parasite in medical reports. Commercial and canned foods do not contain this parasite.

The symptoms of this parasite include fatigue, loss of appetite (and consequently weight loss), slight fever, nausea, and stomach cramps.


How to prevent Cyclosporiasis?

  • Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water.
  • Wash your hands while preparing/cooking vegetables
  • Keep raw meat, seafood, and poultry away from fruits and vegetables when cooking.


4.    Tapeworm

Tapeworms are also intestinal parasites that can be found within food.  Three main species of tapeworms can infect humans, especially in the United States;

  1. Taenia saginata which is also known as beef tapeworm
  2. Taenia solium, also known as pork tapeworm
  3. Hymenolepis nana, also known as dwarf tapeworm


Tapeworms’ main hosts are;

  • Raw or undercooked meat and fish
  • Eating dried or smoked fish, which may contain larval cysts

These parasites can also dwell because of poor hygiene.  The interesting thing about tapeworms is that their symptoms are not obvious and people can live with a tapeworm for weeks or even months.  One obvious symptom that is commonly linked to it is the excessive craving for salty foods.  The prolonged hosting of Tapeworms could cause some health complications allergies, vitamin deficiency anemia, and neurological problems.


How to prevent tapeworms?

  • Properly cook your meet.  Use a meat thermometer.  Cook whole meats and fish to at least 63° Celsius/145° Fahrenheit and let rest for at least three minutes.  Cook ground meat to at least 71° Celsius/160° Fahrenheit.
  • Be proactive when it comes to hygiene.  Wash your hands often and do the dishes well.


5.    Toxoplasma gondii

Toxoplasma targets the person who has a poor immune system.  Healthy adults rarely get infected with it, but pregnant women and children often become its host.

Its major source is contaminated food especially;

  • Raw or undercooked pork, lamb, and venison meat
  • Seafood especially shellfish (oysters, clams, or mussels)
  • Unwashed fruits and vegetables

Other sources are dust, dairy, dirty cat litter boxes, and outdoor places where cat feces can be found.

This parasite causes Toxoplasmosis infection in infants and pregnant women.  Its symptoms are fever, swallow glands, and muscle aches.  If a person has a weakened immune system, this parasite can severely impact the lungs and brain.


How to prevent Toxoplasma gondii?

  • Use a food thermometer and cook your food properly
  • Thoroughly wash cutting boards, dishes, and utensils with hot soapy water
  • Peel and wash vegetable


Hair Analysis and foodborne parasites

While we aren’t directly testing for parasites, your mineral nutrients can be very low if you have a serious mineral deficiency.  They are literally sucking the life out of your body.  This will reflect in your Hair Mineral Analysis and varying symptoms pointing right to a parasitic infection.


Final words on foodborne parasites

Did you notice something? Undercooked, raw food and your hygiene are the common factors in getting infected with parasites.

They say “a pinch of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  No matter whether you are a busy mom, a hustling dad, or a successful entrepreneur…health is your REAL wealth.  If you are not healthy, you can’t do anything personally or professionally to your full potential.

One thing that I want you to take away from this blog is to take care of your food and hygiene practices.  It matters a lot!


If you want to discuss natural health solutions to knocking down parasite populations or keeping them under control, LET’S CHAT!


Further Reading and Sources

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