Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Intestinal Saga, Part 1: Dabbling in Parasites

Giardia Plush Doll
Wow.  It's been a really long time since I've posted a blog entry.  I'd like to have some extravagant reason as to why, but the truth of the matter is that I've simply been inspired in other directions for the past several months.  My own physical health progress has been at a standstill this whole time until quite recently.  As some of you may know, I have had long-standing digestive problems that possibly came about after many episodes of backcountry parasitic infections beginning almost 8 years ago (which also was the time I began experimenting with vegetarianism).  My digestive problems usually manifest in the form of a slowed down transit time, hard stools and bloating, along with infrequent sharp pains in my intestines (my apologies if anybody is disturbed by my blunt description).  These symptoms have greatly affected my body and my mental state in negative ways: poor sleep, sudden fatigue, coming and going depression, muscle tension, pain, and the like.  When I began eating well again and adding certain supplements to my diet, I was able to lessen or eliminate many of these issues.  I thought I would delve a little deeper into my health history and describe what kinds of changes I made along the way get well again, dietary or otherwise, with the intention of possibly guiding some of you folks out there in blogger land to better health and also receiving feedback from anybody who wants to offer me some other directions I might be able to take to further improve my situation.

Hmm.  Where to begin?  I guess I should probably go back as far as I can remember, and that would be my childhood years.  The major body disturbances I recall from this time, let's say around age 8 and for several years after, were TMJ syndrome and frequent headaches.  I would grind my teeth at night and wake up with a sore jaw quite often.  The headaches seemed to arise at random moments throughout the day, but I remember them being excruciating.  Besides that, as far as I know, everything ran smoothly (if you know what I mean).  It's debatable whether or not the aforementioned problems were from digestion, but later -- in the midst of my health transformation, around age 23 --  I would discover some connections that surprised me.  More on that later. (See the three part post on my own personal health profile for more on my physical transformation and dietary history.)

Now on to high school.  This was when I first started to notice bloating in my lower abdomen.  I've been an avid athlete all my life and high school was the most active time of my life.  Lifting weights 6 days a week; running 3 miles every other day; swimming laps and doing sprints; and practicing on baseball and soccer teams on top of all of that.  Pretty active, right?  Well despite all of that, I still had this perceptible "belly" on me.  At the time, I attributed it to fat, but I'm fairly certain now that it was just bloating -- I was pretty ripped in every other regard.  So what caused the bloating?  I don't know for certain.  My educated guess based upon later experimentation is that it was brought up by some kind of milk and/or gluten intolerance.  Another primary physical issue of that time in my life was lower back pain.  This was why I absolutely abhorred doing any kind of physical labor that involved bending over and lifting.  Again, I now believe I have answers as to why that was happening.  We'll get to these epiphanies in the chronological order that I discovered them.

Okay, post high school -- my time of spiritual journeying and reconnecting with nature.  Here's where the "fun" begins.  Parasites.  Wonderfully horrible parasites.  My first episode happened after going on a survival trip with my friend and mentor, Vince Pinto (who owns and operates a nature school, called Raven's Way Wild Journeys).  We hiked into a stream in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona with minimal gear, including a complete lack of water purification.  Vince drank from this stream on several occasions with no problem, so I was confident that I would do just fine, as well.  Along the stream, there were cow patties literally every couple of feet.  This meant that the water was likely contaminated.  Welcome to the wild, wild West, where cattle have more rights in nature than humans.  Cow excrement aside, Vince and I found a pristine place up stream which we assumed would be safe to drink.  36 hours later, instead of camping in the desert, I was camped beside a toilet.  Giardia.  Vince, on the other hand, was fine.  Unlike him, I was underweight and underfed at the time, so I attribute my susceptibility to the little buggers -- and his resistance to them -- to that.

Part 2 of "My Intestinal Saga" coming soon.

If, for some odd reason, you are absolutely enamored with how cute and cuddly the giardia microbe above is, you can get your very own plush doll at Giant Microbes.


Paleo Phil said...

Vinny also reports eating a mostly-raw Paleo diet (, as you may know. Multiple longtime raw meat eaters report being able to handle consuming parasites and bacteria better than Standard American dieters, so this could also be a factor.

Ryan Koch @ Health Matters to Me said...

Hi Paleo Phil,

Vinny Pinto -- I haven't read his stuff for a while. It's funny he has the same name as my friend, Vince, who I mention in the above entry. Last time I got into Vinny's writings was when I was extensively researching EM (Effective Microorganisms) for gut health and building soil. He's a pretty interesting character.

But to address your comment on parasites being handled differently by folks on different diets, I definitely believe this is a factor. Weak guts come from lowered immunity which can arise from poor diet. It still fascinates me to hear of raw meat eaters intentionally consuming parasite-ridden meat to "cleanse" their bodies. Not sure if I'm willing to take the risk these days (tried raw, rotten meat for a short stint a while back), but fascinating nonetheless. A nourished body can withstand a hell of a lot.

Lisa Sargese said...

I AM enamored with the giardia plush toy! lol

I've added you to my blog roll. Found you in the comments on 180 Degree Health.

Will be reading more of your stuff now!

Ryan Koch @ Health Matters to Me said...


I agree. I've never seen giardia look so cute! Thanks for reading.

trix said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
trix said...

Welcome back. I've missed your posts. I'll follow this one with interest since I've always been plagued with a sluggish system.

Sauce said...


It looks like mine is not the only mind you read regarding the cutest giardia i've ever seen.

I'm looking forward to your continuations... keep it up!


Ryan Koch @ Health Matters to Me said...


Thanks. Good to be back. I hope you can find a lot to relate to in my story.


Thanks for dropping by. Always nice when the Sauce comes around. :-)

Anonymous said...

Have you heard about the Hulda Clark zapper for parasites?

You can get information at Curezone and on the Clark home site:

Ryan Koch @ Health Matters to Me said...


The Zapper? Sounds pretty intense! I've not heard of this but will check it out. I'm not too enamored with the whole "parasite cleanse" school of thought. I've always figured a healthy body should be able to handle the effects of parasites, so I tend to focus more on nutrition.

Thanks for the info!