When we think of a GI (gastrointestinal) infection or symptom, we obviously connect it with digestive upset such as bloating, gas, pain, diarrhea and/or constipation, heartburn, and other types of symptoms of that nature. While these symptoms can definitely signify a GI infection, the interesting (and sometimes deceiving) part is that often, we experience no glaring digestive symptoms, but instead experience fatigue, mood changes, hormonal imbalances and weight gain.
And the trickiest part is, these are symptoms we are much less likely to link to any sort of GI infection, therefore never uncovering the underlying problem.
What is a GI infection?
First and foremost, let’s take a closer look at what a GI infection could entail. One example is a bacterial infection, such as helicobacter pylori, which is quite common. Another cause could be a viral infection, which is often easier to pin point as it is acute. Parasitic infections are quite common, and are not just obtained overseas, but are easily contracted right here at home. Lastly, a GI infection could take the form of a fungal infection, such as candida.
Parasites are especially tough to pinpoint, particularly if we haven’t traveled overseas and are therefore probably not considering this very real possibility. Pair that with the fact that symptoms might not be GI in nature, and a parasitic infection can go on for months (or even years), without us making the connection. Parasitic infections can be contracted via pets or food and water anywhere, and testing with your doctor often comes back clean even when you do, in fact, have a parasite.
How Do I Know If I Have A Parasite:
The only sure way to know is to work with a qualified practitioner. Ideally this will be an integrative medicine practitioner such as a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) or Functional Medicine Practitioner. These types of providers typically use labs that offer very thorough and affordable GI screening. If you suffer from the following symptoms, testing should be considered:
- Chronic digestive symptoms such as described above (indigestion, heartburn, bloating, gas, IBS, etc)
- Constant sugar cravings
- Mood changes such as anxiety, depression and increased irritability
- Unexplained weight gain or an inability to lose weight despite diet and exercise
- Increased food allergies and/or sensitivities
- Female hormone imbalances (irregular periods, extreme PMS, infertility, etc.)
- Achy joints
What Do Parasites Have To Do With Weight Gain?
When a GI infection is present (not only parasites, but also bacterial, viral or fungal infections), damage has been (and is being) done to the lining of our intestinal tract. This means that we are not able to properly digest and absorb the nutrients in our foods, which has a negative impact on our tissues and organs. When undigested particles are allowed to pass through the gut lining into the blood stream, this causes an immune response and increased inflammation, which can lead to a host of symptoms (such as those listed above).
In terms of weight gain or weight loss resistance, we must remember the cortisol connection (read here for more information about cortisol imbalances and adrenal fatigue). If we suffer from a chronic GI infection, this triggers inflammation, which sends a message to our body that we are under stress. Cortisol is our primary stress hormone that is released in this instance, and it is also a fat storage hormone. So, when we overproduce cortisol, losing weight becomes quite difficult, if not impossible. Due to the location of our adrenal glands (which produce and release cortisol), we often gain weight especially around our mid-section.
What To Do About It
Again, if a GI infection is suspected, a thorough screening with a high quality lab is strongly recommended, and the guidance of a qualified practitioner to help interpret your results and come up with a treatment plan (some of which will need to use prescription medications, others that can successfully be eliminated with herbs and supplements).
Another key component to healing the gut is to cut out all inflammatory foods, and locate any potential food intolerances. Check out this article on uncovering hidden food allergies to learn more.
Remember, if you have any of the chronic symptoms discussed in this article, but are at a loss for their cause, consider a GI infection. This might just be the answer you’ve been looking for.