Protozoa, Nematodes, and The Internet

Portrait of Hookworm by Marlana Eck

In 2010 a chronic illness made me rethink my life choices. Allopathic medicine offered no solace.

“Take this pill. In clinical trials it works 50% of the time” wasn’t enough for me. There was only one drug option for me as well (in generic and name brand): imagine the doctor saying “One pill! One pill to rule them all!” As with most pharmaceuticals, there would also be side effects that were worse than the actual illness. In this case, the pills would gradually tax my liver. I was 23 at the time, and I didn’t see how a medicine that damaged a vital organ was worth the risk.

So began my journey to self-discovery, osteopathic & homeopathic research. This will not be a piece about diet and biopolitics. I’ve already written that piece.

One of the things that stood out about homeopathy is they emphasized the impact of parasitic organisms. A lot of illnesses, mental and physical, begin in the gut. Notice all the recent emphasis on maintaining good gut bacteria in the face of regular antibiotic use (and conditions of commercial meat products). The state of the gut can play a huge role in the condition of the blood (which effects the skin), brain, and colon. If those parts of the body break down you’ve got some big issues. According to homeopathic medicine, parasites can play a huge role in the breakdown of the body’s immunity over time leading to chronic issues.

I started addressing my overall health with diet, herbal supplements, and vitamins. As someone who was already an avid exerciser, that would only help me to be sure my blood and lymphatic fluid was properly circulating, allowing for essential oxygen to permeate my body’s organs.

A few of the online homeopaths who offered advice suggested doing a parasite cleanse. I’d need alkaline water with a high PH (9.5 is ideal), raw vegan food (fresh fruits and vegetables), and other nourishing substances parasitic organisms didn’t like:

  • cayenne pepper
  • pumpkin seeds
  • cloves
  • apple cider vinegar
  • garlic
  • wormwood
  • coconut oil

In addition I would need to fast every so often. Fasting cleanses the body, purifies the blood and lymphatic fluid (in addition to light exercise), and I am always surprised, with how often people have used fasting throughout history to rid the body of toxic buildup, how little it is put to use.

People have commented in various forums how they have seen some of these parasites leaving the body (via their toilet). That seems melodramatic, but I’m not denying it may have happened to some people. Since they are so small, in most cases, you mostly just feel different after a while.

Because I eat a vegan diet, I am less susceptible to parasites, but not immune.

I remember when I was first reading about how these creatures could be inside my body, sucking my blood, eating my partially digested food, exploring, latched onto an intestinal wall hanging out. One night in particular I remember I couldn’t sleep reading about parasites, which was accompanied by the occasional alarming picture. I called up a friend and asked if they could buy me a cheap bottle of wine so I could fall asleep. [I don’t generally advise using this method because it works against building up the good gut bacteria and alcohol also toxifies the blood].

But what I’ve been thinking about lately is parasitism as praxis. In terms of our daily activities across the decades, we can see ways where parasitism has been practiced. Marxism is mostly based on the concept of parasitism, and I’d studied parasitism years before I studied Marx. Labor is the real value in that scenario, and those who benefit off of labor receive that value when we are dealing with unequal labor practices.

In our human bodies, we are constantly turning over new cells, our body labors for our spirit to continue occupying our material realm. When parasites enter, they expect to benefit from this labor. The excrement of parasites alone, if you have enough of them, can make you ill. The idea that a hanger-on might be excreting inside of my body without my consent is chilling.

There is also information which represents parasites as a symbiosis. The argument is we need parasites to digest food, so in that sense they are beneficial. However, when the body is overrun with creatures which do not originate within the body, the body cannot perform properly and this can cause a slew of health problems.

When housewives stay home and take care of domestic labor without payment some would call this a symbiosis, and that would be dependent on the situation. The husband makes all the money, therefore has all the power, and if the wife has never entered the job market she has less leverage if she decides to work in the future, or the marriage breaks down and she’s forced to leave. This is a lot of pressure to be considered a symbiotic relationship. If the wife is treated well, recognized for domestic labor, maybe the couple decides on compensation (which, first the labor would have to be acknowledged) would this be a better symbiosis? I recognize I am being incredibly heteronormative as well, but I thought it interesting to draw from past debates. Both of my grandmothers also lived this reality.

There will always be questions of labor, domestic or otherwise, and how they relate to parasitism. In my intentionally vague straw man scenario above some would fault the wife. “She’s living with ‘free’ food and shelter.” This undermines the labor position. In this argument there is no labor on the wife’s part. Since it is immaterial, it doesn’t exist.

Many of us labor on the internet each day. Lindy West recently deleted her Twitter account saying she did not wish to put forth her free labor for a site that refused to silence hate speech.

We are seeing this idea more and more: how much is someone allowed to say before they are overstepping, before their presence feeds on the pain and suffering of others?

In dealing with parasites, I’ve adopted a no nonsense policy where I will fast immediately when I spot symptoms. Not everyone is willing/able to do this. My fear of parasitic organisms does not exist in a vacuum: I’m concerned with living a long life with great quality, and I wish to have less symptomatic chronic illness or eradicate it completely (though allopathic medicine tells me this is impossible).

When we learn a practice or person is harmful, up to what point is it/are they allowed to co-exist with us?


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2 thoughts on “Protozoa, Nematodes, and The Internet

  1. Wes Bishop February 20, 2017 / 7:58 pm

    Great piece, Marlana. Interesting ideas. Quick question– have you ever read anything on social reproduction theory? It is a concept in Marxism that looks at the way capitalism as a whole is parasitic. Specifically it asks where new value is created, if we subscribe to the idea that labor is the source of value. What it finds is that housework, historically done by unpaid women, serves as the way that the working class is replenished and physically recreated. Therefore, the private sphere is an ourside, but connected circuit of production which feeds capitalism in its closed circuit of markets, labor, etc. Lose Vogel’s book on women, feminism, and Marxism does a good job explaining this, as does Lebowitz’s book on Marx’s Capital Volume One. All interesting stuff on how parasites, production, and cycles of existence relate.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. marlana eck February 20, 2017 / 8:02 pm

    I will have to check out those texts you’ve mentioned, Wes. They will be a welcome addition to the other texts I’ve read. Great suggestions, thank you!


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