Most people in the West believe that parasites are only a problem for people in Biafra, or other places where you can't buy antibacterial soap on bulk special from Costco. But surprise!
Parasites are actually a huge problem for many people in the more 'civilised' bits of the world too, just usually, they are so under the radar for most people, they have no idea what's really causing them their fatigue, stomach issues, hormonal imbalances, and potentially a huge range of other health issues, too.
Like everything I write about on the JEMI blog, a proper grasp of what's really causing the problem is more than half the solution, so first, let's dive into the human gut, and see what' really going on in there.
Deep breath: Parasites are potentially everywhere
The first thing to tell you is that even with all the pesticides and antibacterial products flying around, our food is still covered in microscopic stuff that could theoretically turn into a full-blown parasite, when it grows up.
Pesticides only stop stuff being eaten by insects in the field, it doesn't stop them laying their tiny eggs all over the place at any other point in the harvest-to-table process.
And you could also go all anal and start trying to peel everything that moves, but that's still not going to eliminate the problem of all the parasite eggs you might be picking up from tying your shoes, not checking every single one of your rice grains and flax seeds, and shucking back that handful of peanuts at the shul Kiddush.
(OCD people, calm down: I'm about to tell you the good news.)
Short version of the long story: microscopic parasite eggs are potentially all over the place, and can't really be avoided (although they can definitely be minimised with good hygiene habits mandated by halacha, like washing your hands after going to the toilet and after touching your shoes, and checking your grains for insect infestation.)
So then, why does one person get a full-blown attach of parasites (aka intestinal worms) while another person doesn't?
It all comes down to two things:
1) God decided to make it happen
2) Some people's gut and intestinal flora is in a bad way, and can't kill the critters off, the way God designed it to do.
To get an idea of why God might send someone parasites, let me paraphrase an email someone recently sent me about their own experience with parasites:
"I had a horrible, draining relationship with a friend that was completely depleting my emotional energy. At the same time I decided to close that relationship down, a huge amount of the intestinal parasites I'd been battling for months left my body en masse."
Dramatic as that particular example might be, God is always sending us hints about what we need to change or work on via our environment, experiences and health, and parasites are no exception.
If you're being sucked-dry internally, chances are there's at least a couple of external 'parasites' doing exactly thing to you on the relationship front, and this article can help you work out what's really going on.
So that's some of the spiritual and emotional aspects of 'why parasites' covered, but what about the physical elements?
What makes one person physically prone to parasites, while another person can blaze through life never once hampered or concerned by rope worms, liver flukes or other nasty things?
God-willing, we'll find out in the next post.