It may sound like a bunch of BS, but two researchers have unlocked clues about medieval famine by recovering centuries-old, petrified poop from a castle latrine.
In a recent study published in the International Journal of Paleopathology, doctors Piers D. Mitchell and Evilena Anastasiou of the archaeology and anthropology department at the University of Cambridge in the UK explained how they discovered and analyzed preserved feces in the Frankish castle of Saranda Kolones on the island of Cyprus.
About Roundworm Infections
The castle was built in 1191 and was only used by the crusading armies of King Richard I of England for 30 years before being destroyed by an earthquake. Researchers took samples from the castle latrine, suspended them in water to make a solution, and then passed the solution through small strainers.
They discovered roundworm and whipworm eggs in the poo samples, bringing to light the poor hygienic conditions the crusaders experienced. Past research shows that crusaders faced malnutrition during times of siege and famine, and the new discovery tells us why: Parasites competed with the crusaders for their bodies’ own nutrients.
Mitchell said his ancient data mining is important because learning about human health and disease in medieval times helps us understand what life was like back then. “Showing the kind of diseases crusaders suffered with helps us to understand why so many of them died on crusade expeditions from malnutrition and infectious disease,” he told Healthline.
About Whipworm Infections
In modern times, roundworm and whipworm infections can be treated with medications and generally are not fatal. But in medieval times, when coupled with malnutrition on long journeys, the parasites did many of the crusaders in. In fact, 15 to 20 percent of crusaders died of either malnutrition or infectious disease while on expedition, aided by an abundance of intestinal creepy-crawlies.
“Once hatched in the human intestines, the immature roundworms undergo an incredible migration, with the first stage larvae penetrating the blood vessels and appearing as second stage larvae in the liver within six hours after the initial infection,” the study authors wrote. “In the liver, the larvae develop into their third stage and they then migrate to the heart and lungs. Eight to 10 days after the original infection, the larvae burrow their way from the heart and lungs back to the small intestine, where they reach maturity. The mature female then starts to lay about 200,000 eggs per day.”
Female whipworms can release 2,000 to 10,000 eggs per day, the researchers added.
Mitchell hopes that by studying the composition of these ancient parasites modern-day researchers can develop more effective medications to treat this type of infestation.
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“When we study ancient parasites it has the potential to help us understand how parasites may change in the future,” Mitchell said. “For example, if we look at the DNA in past parasites and compare with modern parasites, it can help us to work out in what way they are evolving over time, and so how they may look in the future. This is important, as there is no point making drugs that act on parts of a parasite that are in the process of changing.”
“Some types of parasites have been present in humans right from the start of our evolution,” Mitchell added. “These we inherited from other primates in Africa. However, some parasites only started to infect humans when our ancestors left Africa and migrated around the planet, and this brought them into contact with new parasite species.”
As for the “ick factor” involved in this type of hands-on research, Mitchell said it was really no big deal. “Once hundreds of years have passed, there is no nasty smell,” he said. “It just looks like soil.”
Parasitic infections in the gastro-intestinal tract are common. Eighty percent of North Americans harbour one or more parasites. It is so wide-spread because of international travel, immigration, contamination of the water and food supply, use of daycare centres, household pets, antibiotic use and chemical contamination. Giardia and pinworms are the two most common intestinal parasites.
Intestinal parasites cause illness by competing with the host for nutrients and secreting waste products that cause allergic and autoimmune reactions.
Parasitic infections in the digestive tract can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms look similar to other abdominal illnesses. Common symptoms include appetite changes, abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea and stool changes. Dehydration may occur due to the diarrhea. If the infection is long-term weight loss, malnourishment and chronic digestive problems manifest.
Conventional treatment involves the use of anti-parasitic medication. This usually takes care of the current infection. However, the body becomes susceptible to subsequent infections if friendly bacteria are not replaced.
Good hygiene is important to prevent parasitic infections. Wash your hands, with soap, before eating and wash your hands frequently when preparing food. Wash your hands after using the toilet. Always cook foods fully and use a fork thermometer for checking the temperature inside of cuts of meat. The most contaminated foods are commercial pork products followed by beef, chicken, lamb and fish. Wash fruits and vegetables with 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar in one gallon of water and soak for 15 minutes.
What you can do to prevent parasites:
– WASH YOUR HANDS AFTER TOUCHING YOUR PET
– COOK MEAT WELL
– AFTER PREPARING RAW MEAT IN THE KITCHEN, ENSURE THAT EVERYTHING IS CLEANED WELL, INCLUDING YOUR HANDS
– DO A GOOD PARASITE CLEANSE EVERY YEAR OR EVERY SIX MONTHS
– ENSURE THE PURITY OF YOUR DRINKING WATER
The best way to prevent parasitic infections is to have a healthy immune system and good digestive environment. Take extra precautions while traveling and camping. Ensure that the water supply is safe or use water bottles with built-in filtration systems.
Avoid foods that stimulate parasite growth such as gluten containing grains, dairy products, eggs, artificial sweeteners, food additives, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, soft drinks, peanuts and cashews. Eat foods that are high in carotenes like sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, squash, kale and cantaloupe.
Eat foods that are high in antioxidants and vitamin C like citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries, melons and brussel sprouts. Rice products and blueberries help to stop diarrhea.
Well-cooked lamb, poultry and fish are high in protein and help to heal the intestine. Foods that kill parasites are garlic, raw pumpkin seeds, fresh coconut, papaya and papaya seeds.
Parasites undergo larval and adult phases that coordinate with the moon cycle. The most effective time to start treatment is a few days before the full moon. Ensure that the treatment continues through several cycles in order to make sure all of the organisms are destroyed.
The following list of supplements can be used for preventing and treating parasites. They are best taken at the first signs of an infection. Adult doses are given. (CLICK SUPPLEMENT NAME FOR PRODUCTS).
GREENS SUPPLEMENT OR SPIRULINA
Helps to detoxify the body from the toxins that parasites produce. Also contains nutrients the body may need in cases of parasitic infection. Improves energy.
BLACK WALNUT, WORMWOOD COMBINATION & CLOVES
Recommended by Dr. Hulda Clarke for parasite cleansing. Available in a kit.
Proven to fight parasites and candida
PROBIOTICS / ACIDOPHILUS
Helps to replenish good bacteria in the body to prevent re-infection. Enhances the immune system. An essential after antibiotic use.
Helps to repair damage to the intestinal lining that parasites can cause.
Kills parasites and prevents infection. Can be used during travel as a preventative.
GRAPEFRUIT SEED EXTRACT
Kills parasites and prevents infection. Can be used during travel as a preventative.
Inhibits parasitic reproduction. Absorbs toxic by-products of the parasites.
DIGESTIVE ENZYMES WITH HCL
Acid kills parasites and enzymes digest them. Do not use HCl if you have ulcers or hyperacidity.
Other supplements and food to fight parasites: Multivitamins, aerobic oxygen, fibre, Swedish bitters, glutamine, barberry root, black walnut husk, cloves, milk thistle, pumpkin seed and wormwood.
Muscadine grapes are one of most potent fruits with a unique polyphenol profile that offers a number of health benefits. Unlike other grapes, muscadine grapes boast superior concentrations of ellagitanins that, when combined with other muscadine grape polyphenols, yield immense antioxidant power.
A natural antioxidant compound found in some plants, seeds, and fruits, including grapes and grape-derived products such as red wine. Resveratrol is a polyphenol that has been found to potentially improve health and well-being in laboratory studies from around the globe.
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