Entamoeba histolytica is a single-celled protozoan parasite belonging to the Sarcodina’s group, which primarily includes amoeba characterized by their ability to move using shape-shifting temporary structures called pseudopodia. This parasite is present worldwide, but is more prevalent in developing countries. In fact, the majority of cases in developed countries usually occur in immigrants or travelers returning from regions where this parasite is more common. The number of cases worldwide each year is estimated at 50 million, with 40,000 to 70,000 resulting deaths. It was previously thought that Entamoeba histolytica was even more widespread than that in the human population, but many fecal samples containing the non-pathogenic Entamoeba dispar were falsely identified as Entamoeba histolytica. This confusion stems from the fact that these two parasites are indistinguishable under a microscope. Entamoeba dispar is ten times more common than Entamoeba histolytica. However, effective laboratory tests to distinguish between those parasites are not yet widely available.
Causes of Entamoeba histolytica
Entamoeba histolytica is an intestinal parasite, with the parasite’s cysts present in the feces of infected people. It is mainly transmitted by ingestion of the cysts through fecal-oral contact, usually through food or drink contaminated with feces from an infected person, and is more common in developing countries with poor sanitary conditions. It is also possible to acquire Entamoeba histolytica through contact between the mouth and contaminated hands or surfaces. To a lesser extent, some sexual practices involving oral-anal contact are also favorable to the transmission of this parasite when one of the partners is infected.
Signs and Symptoms of Entamoeba histolytica
The majority of infections from Entamoeba histolytica remain asymptomatic, meaning these affected people can be a source of new infections, as the parasite’s cysts can be found in their feces. In fact, only 10% to 20% of the infected people will develop the disease with varying severity of symptoms. The correct medical term for a symptomatic infection with Entamoeba histolytica is amoebiasis.
Most often, the infection remains mild and includes some tolerable gastrointestinal symptoms, such as intermittent phases of loose stool and constipation, stomach cramps, and flatulence. However, this milder infection can eventually become chronic with intermittent symptomatic phases mimicking inflammatory bowel diseases (IBS).
Amoebic dysentery or invasive intestinal amoebiasis is a more severe and potentially life-threatening form of the disease symptomized by bloody diarrhea that often contains mucus, severe stomach pain and high fever. Amoebic dysentery can present with episodes of severe symptoms, alternating with relapses involving milder symptoms such as recurrent cramps and loose stool. People suffering from amoebic dysentery are also susceptible to weight loss and anemia.
In very rare circumstances, the parasite invades other parts of the body, usually the liver, where it can create an abscess. This form of the disease is called invasive extra-intestinal amoebiasis. The primary symptoms of liver abscess are moderate to severe pain in the liver, which is situated in the right part of the body between the bottom of the breast and the last rib. Sometimes reflective pain in the right shoulder can also be observed. Liver abscess is also known to cause non-specific symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, fever, sweats, chills, weakness and weight loss. However, jaundice, a symptom usually associated with liver malfunction, is not a common symptom of liver abscess.
Best diet for Entamoeba histolytica
The following diet tips are valid for all cases where excessive diarrhea and vomiting are present, whatever the cause, as these conditions can cause dehydration, a potentially life-threatening situation. Additionally, some necessary minerals are also lost with the water expelled during this process. Oral rehydration solutions are available over-the-counter in every drugstore, but homemade preparations can also be used. The standard method is to dissolve 6 teaspoons of sugar and a half teaspoon of salt in one litre of clean water. Boil the water first, then let it cool before adding the ingredients to assure you have the cleanest water possible. Be sure to put the correct amounts of sugar and salt in the mix, as too much of either ingredient can make the situation worse. Potassium levels also have to be restored, as this mineral is lost with the water. Eating foods high in potassium, such as bananas can help to rebuild healthy potassium levels.
While symptoms are still present, it is best to avoid foods that irritate the stomach, such as fatty and processed food, spicy or acidic food, and beverages such as alcohol, coffee, tea and soft drinks. The best diet for any gastrointestinal imbalance is always fresh foods, such as fruits, vegetables and unprocessed meat or vegetable protein. However, if you are experiencing severe symptoms, it can be difficult to eat normally. In that case, listen to your body and eat only small amounts of fresh, unprocessed foods that appeal to you.
Best Natural treatment for Entamoeba histolytica?
There is much preliminary scientific evidence in favor of natural treatments against Entamoeba histolytica. As a matter of fact, a study suggests that dried papaya seeds are effective in clearing the parasite from the bodies of asymptomatic human subjects.
Furthermore, in vitro studies suggest that extracts from several different trees, leaves, flowers or roots are shown to be effective against Entamoeba histolytica. These products include greater galangal (Alpinia galanga), hop-headed Barleria (Barleria lupulina), fingerroot (Boesenbergia pandurata), goatbush (Castela texana), betel leaf (Piper betle), Thai long pepper (Piper chaba), Lakeview jasmine (Murraya paniculata), a specific species of brambles from the rose family growing in Southern Mexico and Central America (Rubus liebmannii), pink blossom tree (Virgilia oroboides), African teak (Chlorophora excelsa) and bitter ginger (Zingiber zerumbet). However, clinical studies involving human subjects are still needed to assess the real healing power of these compounds.
While natural treatment may be suitable for mild gastrointestinal symptoms caused by Entamoeba histolytica, people experiencing more severe forms of the disease, such as amoebic dysentery or extra-intestinal amoebiasis, should see a qualified healthcare provider to receive proper treatment, as these forms of the disease can be life-threatening if left untreated.
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