Parasites in Raw Seafood

I got the courage to start eating raw foods – not from the above video, that’s just really cool stuff that Asians do – but from reading Weston Price, Aajonus Vonderplanitz, and seeing all the sushi restaurants in my neighborhood. The two figures both advocate that raw food is easier to assimilate, that it contains more nutrients and enzymes, and that it can be particularly healing for those in need of a healing diet. Well, years ago I did need a healing diet so I tried it.  I started out a little trepidatious but Aajonus’ book assuaged my fear of pathogens as did the wisdom of tradition.

Fermentation Protects From Potential Pathogens

Traditionally, people have eaten raw animal foods along with fermented foods such as traditionally prepared soy sauce, vinegar, fermented dairy, fermented vegetables, or any of the thousands of raw  traditional fermented foods. The beneficial organisms they contain help kill off the pathogens, if they happen to be present. That coupled with an ancestral diet will generally keep us free of food borne illness.

We should not fear pathogens. We should simply be stronger than them.

I turned my head to fear, then, and followed a new path to health. I consumed raw dairy and a few different fermented raw juices which I made at home. But the most important thing I did to avoid illness from raw meats and seafood was to avoid modern foods, so as to keep my internal terrain undesirable to invaders.

Kids Can Eat Raw Meat Too

My daughter, who was one at the time, joined me on the raw food journey. I had started her on solids at about 7 months following a grain free Weston Price style diet but she was getting constipated, so I decided to try something new with her too.

Raw meats did wonders for her digestion and as a baby she never put up a fight; she loved raw food. Some of her favorites were raw scallops, raw pink shrimp, and raw liver (she also had a lot of raw dairy back when we lived in California). Now her favorite is raw ground beef. For her I always froze the raw foods first because baby’s immune systems are not as strong as adult’s.

At this point we’ve been eating raw meats and seafoods (and never ever washing our hands or counters after touching raw meats) for 4.5 years.

In all these years my daughter has never shown any sign of infestation.

Types of Pathogens in Seafood

Not that the pathogens matter a whole lot as long as you take proper nutritional precautions but I’m not going to lie to you, seafoods often carry parasites. Most of them aren’t too harmful, though. Our bodies usually get rid of them with diarrhea (if they manage to survive our stomach acid).

Clams and oysters can cause hepatitis if taken from polluted waters. Salt water fish can cause anisakis simplex which is a parasitic roundworm. Salmon can carry a tapeworm called diphyllobothrium. Fresh water fish such as carp, pike, and whitefish can all carry parasites. Mackerel and squid are highly susceptible to anisakis (this is why sushi restaurants serve mackerel soaked in vinegar which kills the parasite and they always freeze the squid which also kills the parasite). Cod is also often high in anisakis.

In scallops there are two types of vibrio. The vulnificus strain is quite rare and can infect you through an open wound. Although, those infected by this strain usually have weakened immune systems to begin with. The other strain of vibrio is also found in oysters which most of us eat without flinching. The virus is self-limiting so it usually is killed by fever and diarrhea within a few days.

Most seafood out there can harbor some kind of parasite which can potentially harm us!

The media gets a hold of a few fatal instances, which are incredibly rare in proportion to the number of people who don’t get ill eating seafood, and suddenly we should all be afraid even though the chances of this happening to us are worse than the chances of getting food poisoined at an American restaurant (no raw food there but it happens all the time).

Fear of Pathogens Since Going Primal

Terrain matters more than the million possible offenders on the planet. Are you still protecting yourself from germs or do you trust your body will take care of you? Do you still fear getting sick from bacteria and viruses and avoid people that are sick, or are you confident you’re not going to get that cold and flu that’s going around?

Maybe I’m wrong about all this and I hope I don’t kill any dearest readers or their children. It could happen, though. Any one of us could get sick from something we eat (but there is actually more instance of food poisoning from cooked food than from raw). For a person eating a Paleo diet, however, our chances are slim. Disease needs a nice feeding ground and we’re not it.

We have strong stomach acid levels that will kill just about anything on contact, and we have a strong and massive army of bacteria to protect us from invaders.

Of course every single piece of sea food is not contaminated and a parasite can’t infect you if you don’t eat it, but in 4.5 years between my daughter and I (and many friends and family who followed right behind me in this) one of us must have eaten a parasite – think of the odds – and we’re fine.

It’s not the pathogen; it’s the terrain.