We all know the dangers of pathogenic and parasitic invasions on our bodies' well-being, but what about their effects on weight? While some pathogens can cause neurological and skin disorders, others can camp out in your gut, causing many symptoms.
Our digestive systems are responsible for adequately absorbing and eliminating the food we consume, so what happens when this process is interrupted by the presence of specific pathogens? Read on to find out more.
Parasites are tiny organisms capable of living in or on another organism, getting their food at the expense of the host. Parasites can be spread in several ways, including contaminated water, food, soil, or insect bites. While they're known more commonly in the tropics and subtropics, they can certainly be found in developed countries, with three main types causing diseases: protozoa, helminths, and ectoparasites (1).
Parasites are also a type of pathogen, alongside many others, such as viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Pathogens cause disease upon entering the body. They do this by avoiding the host body's immune response while using up its resources to replicate before spreading to a new host. While they can be transmitted in various ways depending on the type, pathogens are primarily spread through skin contact, airborne particles, and bodily fluids (2).
Like parasites, all pathogens can make us sick once inside our bodies, causing a variety of illnesses and diseases. The most common results of pathogen invasion are digestive disturbances, caused by contaminated food or water (3). Another form of parasites that can cause digestive discomfort is gut worms. These worms may eat the host's food before the body has digested it, resulting in malnourishment. As you can imagine, this can affect the weight of the host in several ways.
Because parasites and pathogens can come in various strains with different symptoms, they can cause a range of problems, from digestive discomfort to effects on weight.
The bacteria found in your gut microbiome have influences on your metabolism, which could influence weight gain. These bacteria achieve this by controlling how different foods are digested within your body. An example of this is the absorption of dietary fats in the intestines, which influences how much fat is stored within the body (4).
In addition to this, gut bacteria can also play a big part in inflammation, a risk factor for weight gain. Certain bacteria in the microbiome produce chemicals like lipopolysaccharide and cause inflammation, contributing to insulin resistance and overall weight gain. On the other hand, other "beneficial" gut bacteria can positively affect the body by stabilizing weight and lowering inflammation rate. An example of such bacteria is bifidobacteria (5).
So how can you maintain this balance in bacteria within your body? By continually encouraging the growth of good bacteria and eliminating any harmful bacteria that may enter your digestive tract. An excellent example of how to do this is after an invasion of a toxic bacteria strain. Food poisoning caused by bacterial contamination can result in diarrhea and vomiting, affecting the delicate gut microbiome. Taking antibiotics will further strip all good and bad bacteria, so replenishing your gut with beneficial bacteria with probiotics may be a good idea. As always, check with your healthcare practitioner before starting any new supplements.
While unexplained weight loss or weight gain is one of the more apparent symptoms of a parasite or pathogen infection, there can be many others. These signs and symptoms can range from mild to very severe, especially if left untreated. Here are several to look out for:
The presence of parasites and pathogens is highly prevalent in our environment and can be detrimental once invasion into a host organism occurs. While pathogen invasion symptoms can vary, a common one to look out for is a sudden and unexplainable change in weight.
Different types of pathogens can have numerous impacts on weight, leading to excess loss or gain. This can be a good piece of information to consider, especially if you're currently dieting and exercising with no visible changes. Instead of getting frustrated- be your own health detective or work with a holistic health expert. Dig deeper - there is always a reason for stubborn health efforts.