Parasites sure know how to mess with our hormones and body chemistry.

Take tapeworms, for example. These slimy pathogens release substances that imitate our natural hormones, tricking our bodies into producing less of the real deal. And that’s not all – some parasites can even target our hormone-producing organs, like the thyroid and adrenal glands, throwing everything off balance. 

But perhaps the wildest example of parasitic hormone hijinks comes from Toxoplasma gondii. This mischievous little protozoan gets into our systems, it’s been known to greatly affect our behavior by manipulating our hormone levels. In rodents, for instance, it cranks up dopamine to make them more adventurous – which, unfortunately, also makes them more likely to get eaten by a cat and spread the parasite. 

Parasites can cause inflammation in our liver and bile ducts, leading to a surge in hormones such as insulin-like growth factor 1 and estrogen. 

In fact, some research suggests that parasites might even have a role in regulating our immune systems and gut microbiome. By disrupting our body’s natural balance, they can sometimes create a state of equilibrium that helps keep us healthy in the long run. 

Some parasites, such as tapeworms and hookworms, can attach to the lining of the intestines and feed on blood, causing nutrient deficiencies, including B vitamins. These pathogens can also cause inflammation and damage to the intestinal lining, leading to malabsorption of nutrients and they can produce enzymes that break down B vitamins in the body, making them less available for use. The lack of nutrients and B vitamins, and the increase of waste/toxins in our bloodstream can lead to lactic acidosis, the mechanism behind all diseases. (learn more about lactic acidosis on our website). 

Overall, parasites can have a significant impact on the hormonal balance of their hosts, leading to a variety of physiological and behavioral changes. 

If you suspect parasites to be at the root of your symptoms, the first step is to minimize your intake of sugar, dairy, and refined carbohydrates. Supplement your whole food diet with a whole food B vitamin (liver is the best source of B vitamins), and talk to your practitioner about starting to take the steps to support your body.

Dr. Taggy Bensaïd, ND