Have A Symbiotic Relationship With Parasites

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I don’t mean to be a raw meat pusher but I’ve had a whole lot of questions since the last raw meat article – how I stopped being afraid of it, how to start eating it, whether it is really safe, etc. – so I thought I’d offer a little more insight as to why some of us can get away with eating tons of raw meat and never seem to get sick.

Parasitic infestation is not just a numbers game as many like to suggest. Contact with parasites, bacteria, and viruses is common and should not be feared by healthy people.

Where Parasites Are Found

It’s not that in all these years I haven’t encountered a parasite. Who knows how many times I have, really. I’ve eaten pounds upon pounds upon pounds of raw meat and seafood over the years and the chances that I’ve run into some living creature are actually pretty high. Parasites are everywhere. We bump heads with them all the time.

Parasites can infect us through:

  • the bites of blood sucking insects
  • water from streams and even from surface water treatment plants
  • walking barefoot on infected dirt
  • eating improperly washed vegetables which had traveled from farms using fecal contaminated fertilizer
  • shaking someones hand who has bad bathroom hand washing habits
  • eating food from a restaurant where employees had bad hand washing habits

With all the places we come into contact with parasites, it’s a wonder that people blame raw food for all instances of parasitic infection. Raw meat simply isn’t the only contact we have with them.

Some parasites such as the tapeworm Taenia solium infect us through human feces. The worms we eat in undercooked pork are much less of a problem than the eggs we might ingest from contaminated food. Feces contaminated vegetables or restaurant meals can invite the brain eating worm into our bloodstream.

As weird as it might sound this can easily happen – someone is in too much of a hurry to wash his hands after wiping, some microscopic eggs get on his hands, he shakes your hand at lunch, and you lick the butter off your fingers, or maybe he’s a cook who heads back to the kitchen and prepares somebodies sandwich.

This kind of thing isn’t too common in our culture, but it does happen and when it does those eggs get into the blood stream, hatch, and head off to the brain to gorge on yummy brain tissue.

Realizing that parasites, viruses, and bacteria are out there no matter what you eat or what you do is the first step to getting comfortable with eating raw meat.

Parasites Are Only Doing Their Job

Every animal on the planet including grass eating, free roaming cows can get parasites. Even healthy, primitive humans get parasites. It’s a good thing too because parasites help clean up filth. They are like tiny little, ugly garbage men. We need them as much as they need us. The problem isn’t that we come into contact with parasites (and bacteria and viruses) but that we are just so filthy they have a whole lot to feed on when they get here.

And the more we steer clear of parasites and feed our fear of bugs the more of a “problem” they will be.

Parasites and bacteria are an important part of our ecosystem. Nature doesn’t intend for us to run from them (it’s not possible anyway). In fact, the more we try to avoid them, the more trash they’ll have to take out in the end, and that will mean some major symptoms of disease (which most people in this country experience pretty regularly).

With a clean terrain those parasites won’t cause you much pain. If they don’t find a toxic blood supply and dead tissues to feast on, they will simply be flushed out of the body to go find another host.

That is an amazing and kind of scary thought at first. It took me a year or more to really trust the idea but as my body got healthier it started to make sense. If my digestive system is not full of impacted feces, if my cells are healthy, parasites have very little to feed on and what they do feed on will only make me cleaner in the end.

The Symptoms of Parasitic Infestation Are Just Toxins Flushing Out

Aajonus Vonderplanitz, the leader of the raw Primal diet, claims it is this truth about parasites which saved him from cancer. Nasty bugs eat nasty stuff. If we allow them to do their job and clean up the garbage, our health will improve. The problem with parasites is that if we are really unhealthy, we are essentially a playground for them and we will experience, what he calls, detoxification. The dirtier our body, the more severe our symptoms.

Flushing parasites out of the body with herbs and fasting should not be our strategy either. In the beginning this could be helpful, but the overall strategy is flawed. Our goal should not be to avoid them but rather to clean up our bodies so that they will not be able to make a long term home in us. If they do find us a hospitable host, we may experience symptoms of parasitic infestation. These can include:

  • Bloody stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Foul smelling stools
  • Gas and cramping
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Itching around the anus
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Ravenous appetite

These symptoms, however, are not symptoms of the parasite itself but of the detoxification that the parasite is causing. Absolutely, eliminating the parasite would stop the detox and would make you feel a little better, but it wouldn’t remove the risk of further infestation, i.e. it wouldn’t mean that you are now clean and healthy. Quite the contrary. Such severe symptoms are only evidence of the toxic material your body contains.

“Parasites are not the problem. Parasites live on decaying tissue. Blaming parasites is the same as blaming vultures, crows and worms for the dead and decaying carcass that they find and eat. They eat the dead and decaying creature to prevent the atmosphere from becoming a toxic cesspool.” – From an interview with Aajonus

Cooked Meat Might Just Set Us Up For Disease

Aajonus maintains that we should not eat cooked meat at all because it creates toxicity in the body and sets us up for disease.

It’s an interesting position. He may be right I don’t really know. Our bodies may be best suited for raw food. Every other animal on the planet thrives on it.

And just because we can eat cooked food doesn’t mean we should. And just because cooked food might be responsible for the increasing size of our big smart brains, doesn’t mean big smart are a good thing. Hell, look where we are today. What got us here? The right path? No! We’ve been doing something wrong for milenia. Maybe we started going downhill when we harnessed fire. Maybe not. I don’t know for sure. It’s all interesting theories. Undoubtedly, raw foods heal and raw foods are good for you. Traditional people all over the world eat them, some of them even exclusively. Many people recovering from disease eat them, including myself, and witness a dramatic shift in health. A person should, as usual, try out many things and do what feels right. Personally, I tend to flip back and forth between raw and cooked Paleo diets. I don’t know why really. I’m just following my nose.

Raw Primal Diet Resources

There are quite a few resources these days on the net about raw Paleo dieting. Many of these people have been doing this for even longer than I have. The Raw Paleo Guy, for example, has been eating raw meat for twice as long as I have and he’s been more serious about it than I have been. He offers a wealth of knowledge on his website.

From the RawPaleoGuy “The guru, Aajonus Vonderplanitz’s take on this is that so-called “parasites” are really symbionts which help to clean up dead, toxic matter within the body, and that since cooked-food-eaters have more toxic material in the body, they are  more likely  to suffer from side-effects.

That said, I have come across just two  references to parasites among RPDers (raw Paleo Dieters). These two incidents occurred after the two had been to the tropics, where food can be more easily contaminated. In both cases, the bouts were minor and very temporary, compared to what cooked-food-eaters usually experience.

Last I checked, even the stools of people who eat a lot of cooked-food are full of various unicellular or multicellular parasites, as they exist everywhere in our environment. What rawpalaeodieters find out in the end is that all the things such as bacteria/parasites etc. that they were taught to be afraid of, do in fact contribute to human health. Ultimately the only way one can discover for oneself that that is fact, is to eat raw-meat for long enough, so as to see the results.

If you want further confirmation, you can always ask the raw, paleolithic diet groups on Yahoo and elsewhere. I will admit that, initially, I too was scared of parasites and went in for all sorts of deworming herbal remedies such as wormwood, but I quickly realised there was no danger, so I stopped using such supplements, and have never had cause to regret my decision.”

Additional Raw Paleo Diet Resources:
RawPaleoDiet.com
Interview with Aajonus Vonderplanitz
RawPaleoGuy
Vilhjalmur Stefansson on the Dr. Bass website
Raw Paleo Diet Forum

Disclaimer: Parasites are like vultures. They feed on decaying material. Before eating raw meat inform yourself as best you can about the dangers and the best way to make your body the least hospitable host.

Author: Peggy the Primal Parent

The blog owner!

21 Comments

  1. Great insight and great timing. Your explanation fits excellently with what I’ve learned to date about the health of our bodies (and minds). I’ve been Paleo for a while and feel my health still needs a bit more improvement. I am going to look at the additional resources you’ve provided and plan how to start working some raw meat into my diet. Then see how it goes.

    Thanks!

  2. Fascinating! I will be trying some of the grass-fed beef liver that I just received today. May need to swallow it and not chew on it too much. :)

  3. There recently was an outbreak of listeria in the U. S. A – from contaminated melons. And we had an outbreak of EHEC (might ba E. coli in English), actually a very aggressive variation and it was from organic sprouts. That really made me think! When I was pregnant I avoided a lot of food I enjoyed because pregnant women are warned against them: Smoked salmon, eggs with runny yolks (I do not really like them hard boiled), marinated herring, raw and soft cheeses that I used to have in moderation back then, smoked bacon – food wasn´t really fun anymore…I am more relaxed right now as I use to buy organic meat and fish from trusted sources, but I do not know what I am going to do when I am pregnant again (if this might happen…)!

  4. “Such severe symptoms are only evidence of the toxic material your body contains.”

    and “What rawpalaeodieters find out in the end is that all the things such as bacteria/parasites etc. that they were taught to be afraid of, do in fact contribute to human health.”

    had to be restated~!

    I LOVE the message about living in symbiosis with microbials.

    Pat

  5. As you refer to Aajonus Vonderplanitz: I wonder if you know about his recipe book? I have been thinking about buying it but so far I haven´t made a decision…

  6. I am interested in eating raw meat, but I honestly just don’t know how I’m going to stomach it. I can do raw liver the same way you do- ie cut up into tiny bits and swallowed whole.

    But to eat a steak raw, or a chicken breast.. seems so unpalatable. The benefits surely outweight the ‘ick’ factor though, as described above.

    What does one need to do in order to make our body the ‘least hospitable host’? Can I just start eating raw meat now, or should I do any prep work to ensure my body is ‘ready’?

    • I was wondering the same thing. I want to try the raw meat thing, but I still struggle with junk food binge eating. So should I hold off until I’ve been eating clean for a few months?

      • I don’t know if it really needs to be that long. Raw food can help you recover. They can add the nutrition you need to fight addiction and cravings. I wasn’t perfectly healthy when I started eating raw meat. I had been Paleo for a long time but all the cooked meat and vegetables I ate were just building up in my intestines because i wasn’t digesting them properly. I had a big problem with constipation back then. For me, one day I just quit eating cooked meat and veggies. I didn’t do any preparations. (Maybe I should advise being a little less reckless than I can sometimes be.) Anyway, over the years I have had times where I’ve eaten all kinds of things I don’t think are good to eat, but I’ve never stopped eating raw meat, and it’s never made me sick. Of course, I am very much over the transition to the Paleo diet. I eat an almost perfect diet most of the time, whereas beginners probably eat a bit of a less healthy ratio of bad to good food.

        • Hey speaking of parasites. I’m taking a class in microbiology and we got into an interesting discussion on how such things as whip worms are used to ease such auto immune disorders as chrons and hay fever. It seems that in the developed world we are more prone to auto immune problems because we remove ourselves from nature and don’t give our bodies the stimulus they need to orientate and recognize true threats. So, whip worms are being offered as therapy and are working well with a very high rate of long term remission! So some day soon you may be offered a parasite for what ails you.

        • hey just wanted to know.how many diffrent animals raw meat have u tried out so far..and which parts or organs…

  7. Aajonus Vonderplanitz is well know in the raw / whole food community here in LA. He stirred up quite a bit of negative buzz regarding one farm. He also was fundamental to the creation of the most cutting-edge food club in the city. While I have always thought that his ideas are interesting and valuable, there is certainly more to the overall picture.

    For example, the case for “detox” is over simplifying the matter. This is the argument used for anything in the alternative health community. Reaction to fermented foods? Detox. Chelation reaction? Detox. A so-called “detox” reaction can push the inflammatory envelope past repair. Leaving an individual in a worse state than when he or she began. Sometimes the damage is irreparable, which is serious business when it comes to life or quality of life.

    Parasites can be deadly. And, at the same time, healthy critters out in the thick of nature are crawling with parasites. So what does this mean? It means that jumping on one bandwagon is never a good idea.

    I recommend you read Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer. It’s a fun read.

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  10. Hey Peggy. I know this site isn’t about OCD but I googled my fear of raw meat bacteria and I somehow found this site. It is kind of helping me out reading about how people can eat meat raw and not get sick. I was thinking if they can eat it raw then it’s okay if I am around people who don’t wash there hands after handling raw meat and it’s not that serious. But then I am not sure. Is it only grass fed organic meat? And do you have to eat the paleo diet and eat raw meat only? Or is all meat okay..the germs won’t harm me or my kids if I don’t bleach everything ? Please help explain this to me if you can.

    • Hi there. I wonder if it’s really OCD or if it’s just that you’ve been taught to fear bacteria… I used to be super OCD about meat bacteria too. But you hear on the news that you’ve got to be so careful or you’ll get sick. The belief is that if you touch bacteria, you will get ill. But it’s not quite so simple. If you touch bacteria, and you have a low immune system, and you don’t eat a nutrient dense diet, and you eat lots of refined foods, and you don’t eat healthy fermented foods, and you are a clean freak, you might get sick.

      You definitely don’t have to eat a Paleo diet to have a healthy immune system but you do have to forego the junk food and make sure that you get all the nutrients that you need each day to optimally function. You should include fermented foods like kombucha and kim chi or something like that to make sure that you’ve got the good bugs that will fight the bad bugs.

      You also need to have sufficient stomach acid. So that means that your sugar and carb intake cannot be high and you can’t be taking many prescription meds. You need to look after your health in a big way in order to avoid getting sick from meat but you should be doing that anyway. :)

  11. Thanks for getting back to me so soon. So if I haven’t become sick so far my body should be able to fight any bacteria off from meat? I mean since I have been around people who prepare meat and don’t wash their hands.

  12. Hi Peggy,

    I’m wondering if I’ve actually been infected with some sort of parasite. I’ve been primal for a few months now, feeling so great, having great bowel movements, when out of nowhere, diarrhea set in. I’ve now had it for almost 2 weeks.

    My questions: when we’re experiencing detox symptoms to this degree, what do you think is the best approach? My instinct is telling me to just let your body deal with it … give your body what it needs and it will do what it needs to.

    Also, when you were getting well, did you experience bouts of intense detoxing?

    I so miss my normal bowel movements! There is nothing like them.

    Thanks for your advice,
    Lisa

    • Hi Lisa,

      Two weeks is quite a while. You may want to have a doctor check your stool. You could fast or do a juice fast. The only time I’ve ever had intense diarrhea has been when I’ve eaten certain foods that cause it in me. I didn’t realize, for example, some years ago that bacon will give me diarrhea if I eat more than a few slices. Fructose gives me diarrhea if I eat too much of it, which I didn’t used to know, and several years ago I was doing fresh squeezed fruit juices. And another time I was trying to load up on my magnesium (long ago) and suffered diarrhea from that. At the time I thought all of these things were some kind of “detox’ but they were just a reaction to the food itself. There are so many things that can cause diarrhea. I haven’t the slightest idea what is causing yours. If you are infected with a parasite, you may also be sick, feverish.

      A lot of times when health-minded people have sudden changes in the energy levels or bowel movements it’s because they have actually made some change in their diet (in attempt to get even healthier) and they don’t realize what they’ve done.

      If you’re really worried, though, or can’t figure out the cause you should see a doctor.