Cyclosporiasis (an infection with a gut parasite called Cyclospora cayetanensis) used to be considered a rare disease, but it is becoming ever more common. There have been over 30 documented outbreaks of cyclosporiasis since 1990 in the United States alone, the most recent of which was in the summer of 2018.
C. cayetanensis is a type of single-celled organism called a protozoa, similar to a bacterium. It can get into your intestines via contaminated foodand infect the walls of your intestines, leading to really unpleasant digestive symptoms.
Symptoms of cyclosporiasis include:
- abdominal bloating
As unpleasant as these symptoms can be, when your body gets rid of the infection and they resolve on their own (as happens in most cases), they aren’t particularly serious. Sometimes, however, cyclospora infections may become chronic and lead to more serious conditions, such as:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Bowel cancer
- Autoimmune conditions (e.g. Guillain-Barre syndrome)
If you develop a chronic cyclospora infection, you will almost certainly need antibiotics (co-trimoxazole or trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole are typically the antibiotics prescribed).
Antibiotics are also probably a good idea if you:
- have HIV or AIDS, a congenital immune deficiency or are on immunosuppressant drugs
- have diabetes
- have cancer
- are malnourished
- are struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction
- are over the age of 70
- are under the age of 10
If you don’t fall into any of these categories, it’s highly likely that your body will be able to fight of the cyclospora all on its own, with time. Of course, that doesn’t make the symptoms any more fun while you’ve got them.
Luckily, there are a handful of natural treatments that can help you manage your symptoms while you wait for your immune system to do it’s thing!
Prevent dehydration (from the diarrhea) by:
- sipping on a liter of water with half a teaspoon of salt and six teaspoons of sugar dissolved in it
- drinking some simple fruit juice and nibble on salted crackers throughout the day
Ease stomach cramps by:
- resting a hot water bottle on your abdomen
- rubbing magnesium oil on your abdomen
Keep comfortable with a fever by:
- taking a cool (but not cold) shower
- laying a cool rag over your eyes and forehead
Reduce nausea and diarrhea by:
- drinking ginger, chamomile or peppermint tea
- taking a liquid probiotic supplement
Of course, the best option of all is to never get a cyclospora infection at all. Your best bets for preventing a cyclospora infection altogether are:
- washing produce well before you eat it
- Keeping your immune system healthy with plenty of whole plant foods, vitamin D, exercise, sleep and probiotics