Amoebiasis is an inflammatory condition which affects the intestines. It is caused by the parasite – entamoeba histolytica – a microscopic organism which is ingested through contaminated food and water. Amoebiasis is a common condition in regions where sanitation is poor and the living conditions are unhygienic. The parasite is able to remain in the intestines without triggering any signs. But in some cases it can cause severe symptoms.

Symptoms of Amoebiasis

Amoebiasis can affect individuals of any gender and age, but is more common in children and young adults. It is also more prevalent in developing countries with a large population and sub-standard sanitary conditions. The parasites responsible for amoebiasis infest food and water. Amoebiasis may not always show up in tests, but it does lead to some tell-tale symptoms. If left untreated, the condition could get serious and even become life threatening. The symptoms of amoebiasis range from mild to severe and not all infected persons display them. When the symptoms do occur, they may take different forms such as:

  • Vomiting: This may occur when there is a severe infection of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Diarrhea: Mild infection may cause loose motions. In some cases there may be slight mucus or blood discharge through the stools.
  • Bloody Stools: This is usually indicative of a severe or chronic infection. There may be passage of bloody stools about 10 to 20 times a day.

Some of the other symptoms of amoebiasis include:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Flatulence
  • Tiredness
  • Dehydration
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • Fever
  • The toxic excretions of the parasites may also lead to certain allergic symptoms on the body.

Causes of Amoebiasis

The causes of amoebiasis are as follows:

  • Amoebiasis occurs due to infection by the microorganism, entamoeba histolytica. This is a type of amoeba or single cell parasite which spreads through contaminated food and water. It occurs commonly in underdeveloped regions of the world where there is poor sanitation.
  • Amoebiasis, being a contagious condition, spreads when contaminated food and water is consumed. The organisms pass through the fecal matter of infected individuals. This fecal matter can then contaminate food and water and lead to further spread of the disease. Areas with poor sanitation of drinking water and regions where feces are used as fertilizer are most prone to the spread of amoebiasis.
  • Individuals with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of amoebiasis. Conditions such as cancer, malnutrition and old age can contribute to suppressed immunity. Individuals with AIDS and pregnant women may also be at risk for amoebiasis.

Remedies for Amoebiasis

Amoebiasis is diagnosed with the help of certain blood exams and stool tests. Analysis of the blood may indicate a rise in white blood cells and increased ESR which means that there is inflammation in the body. In case the infection has affected the liver tissue, liver function tests will help to detect impaired function. Treatment for amoebiasis also includes certain medications which help to destroy the parasites. These may lead to some side effects such as nausea and a metallic taste in the mouth. Medications to treat diarrhea may also be prescribed. It is important to drink lots of fluids in order to prevent dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea.

There are also some home remedies for amoebiasis which help in alleviating symptoms of the infection. These include:

  • Margosa Leaves: Combine equal parts of dried margosa leaves and turmeric powder and mix with a few drops of mustard oil. Apply this to the body and let it remain for one hour. Then bathe with lukewarm water. Due to the antibiotic nature of margosa leaves, this natural cure for amoebiasis helps to relieve inflammation.
  • Drumsticks: Extract the juice from about 450 grams of drumstick leaves. Add an equal quantity of sesame seed oil and heat until the water evaporates. Cool the mixture and then store in a clean container. Drink this mixture for a period of two to three weeks. The enzymes present in drumstick leaves will help to destroy the parasites that cause amoebiasis.
  • Sacred Fig or Peepal Tree Bark: In some cases, amoebiasis can spread to the skin. The bark of the sacred fig or peepal tree is known to be an effective natural treatment for amoebiasis. Peel off the bark, wash properly and then dry it in shade. Then grind into a fine powder, strain thoroughly and sprinkle on the skin lesions.
  • Bael: The fruit of the bael tree is known to have some anti-microbial properties. The acids contained in the fruit help to destroy germs in the body. Unripe bael fruits work better due to their higher acid content. Roast an unripe bael fruit over an open fire. Then remove the pulp of the fruit and mix with some sugar to sweeten it. You can even add honey instead of sugar. Eat this twice every day for a few weeks until the symptoms go away.
  • Apricot: The leaves of the apricot contain anti-toxic compounds that help to fight parasitic infections. First wash the leaves and then extract the juice. Apply this to the areas affected by the infection. Apply this once a day before going to bed.
  • Guava: The guava fruit has an acidic effect which helps to curb amoebiasis infection. Take five guava leaves and wash them properly. Dry them under the shade and grind into a paste with a small amount of water. Consume this twice or thrice a day.
  • Papaya Seeds: These are anti-parasitic in nature and help to restrict spread of the organisms that cause amoebiasis. Consume a couple of tablespoons of papaya seeds every week.
  • Black Tea: Black tea without sugar has anti-toxic and anti-parasitic properties. Drinking black tea daily helps to get rid of abdominal parasites.

The homeopathic medicine baptisia is known to be a beneficial remedy for amoebiasis especially in the elderly. Sulphur may also be used to treat amoebiasis especially if there are symptoms such as watery stools and blood discharge. Follow the instructions properly when taking these medicines.

Diet for Amoebiasis

There is no specific diet for amoebiasis, but it is important to ensure proper hygiene and good nutrition. Adding fiber rich foods to the diet is beneficial because it helps to cleanse the intestines where the parasites thrive. Meals should also be high in potassium as it helps to restrict the infection. Bananas are rich in potassium and natural sugar and hence should be part of the daily diet.

Avoid consuming foods rich in refined sugar, caffeinated beverages, processed foods and alcohol as they can worsen the infection and delay healing. Include vegetables such as pumpkin, beetroot and plenty of fresh fruits which contain potassium and fiber. These are also digested easily and hence do not exert strain on the gastrointestinal system. It is also important to improve immunity so that the body is able to fight the infection. Include foods that contain zinc and vitamin C. Other beneficial additions to the diet are natural spices such as olive leaf, oregano and turmeric.  These help to destroy the parasites that infest the stomach and intestines. Raw garlic is anti-parasitic in nature and helps to treat various digestive issues. You can add garlic to food while cooking or even chew on a raw clove of garlic daily. The enzyme bromelain in pineapple aids in digestion and helps to cleanse the system of parasitic organisms. Foods such as flaxseed, pysllium husk and pumpkin seeds are also effective intestinal cleansers.

It is essential to avoid consuming any food or beverage that may be contaminated. Wash food thoroughly before cooking and ensure that they are cooked well before eating.

Suggestions for Amoebiasis

Here are some helpful tips to prevent amoebiasis:

  • Maintain proper personal hygiene and good sanitation at all times. Ensure that you drink only safe and clean water which is not infested by any germs. Chlorination is not completely effective in destroying parasites. It is advisable to filter or boil water before drinking.
  • Make it a habit to wash the hands thoroughly with warm water and soap after going to the toilet and before eating. Take your time while washing the hands as it takes some time to get rid of all germs from the skin. Also wash your hands before preparing or handling any food.
  • Store food in a hygienic manner and prevent exposure to insects and germs.
  • Avoid eating peeled vegetables and fruits from street vendors.
  • Avoid buying or eating street food that is kept uncovered or cooked with dirty water.
  • Always carry drinking water with you while travelling or buy bottled water.
  • Avoid adding ice cubes in your drinks as they may be made with contaminated water.
  • Use only pasteurized milk and dairy products.

Amoebiasis - Frequently asked questions