IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Got a Parasite From Soaking in a Spa Bath

I had basically moved my entire life into the bathroom — that was my new home. I was receiving mail there.
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Bryce Gruber
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I had basically moved my entire life into the bathroom — that was my new home. I was receiving mail there.

I was never one of those I-can’t-survive-life-happily-unless-I-lose-my-post-baby-muffin-top girls. I have three kids, and sometime after the first one, you let go of having any damns to give about the exact fit of denim on your tush. 

There is a tiny piece of me, however, that lived forever in the last pre-pregnancy moment I had where I felt like my body did exactly everything it was supposed to — that lumps and bumps were kept to a strict minimum within my body type, and dresses fit in a way that nature intended. I push this little dream to the back of my head, though, knowing that it’s as distant as Handisnacks and Hi-C tasting fabulous when paired.

Anyway, I'm the editor of a lifestyle website, and a few weeks ago, a body wash brand I really, really like invited me to a spa in New York City that featured thermal bath treatments. I was pretty excited because I had seen endless photos and social media uploads from friends outlining how truly perfect the experience of soaking in dimly lit warm pools beneath Manhattan streets was. I mean, it sounds pretty great right? 

I spent a few hours that evening drifting from one tub to another — some cold, some warm, one hot, and all the while only seeing other humans from afar. There were other people there, but the space was vast and the lights so low that I sort of lost awareness of other humans in my relative personal space as I let my body float away stresses and daily BS. In fact, I left there feeling perfect. Physically perfect. Mentally perfect. Emotionally perfect. 

I carried on with life floating on a cloud, until about a week later when I woke in the middle of the night with a serious belly rumbling. I have never in my life been woken from a deep sleep because of a bathroom issue. I have literally slept through several hurricanes, and at one point took a major nap during hard labor with my first child. 

Speaking of children, here I am with my son last April.

Speaking of children, here I am with my son last April.

My eyes were heavy but just open enough to run to the bathroom, where my I found my sphincter had actually been possessed by the very same spirit who is responsible for Niagara Falls. I won’t tell you more about that first bathroom trip, but I will tell you that I wondered if I had somehow gotten pregnant in my intestines. That’s how intense the cramps were. 

About an hour later, I crawled back to bed. By the time I woke in the morning, it was more of the same. By later the next afternoon, I had basically moved my entire life into the bathroom — that was my new home. I was receiving mail there. 

I had finally gotten the bright idea to call a doctor, who made me run through every single morsel of food I’d eaten, place I’d been, vitamin I’d taken, etc. A few minutes into the chat, we had backtracked far enough to cover the spa I had been to. He chuckled and wanted to know why I didn’t tell him that first. Because I didn’t think the place I went to feel healthy was the place that would do me in, doc.

Apparently, NYC is a hotbed during winter months for a nasty little parasite called Giardia, resulting in a totally disgusting parasitic condition called Giardasis. It is commonly found south of the border, in the islands, and a variety of Eastern countries, but when everyone in NYC heads for warmer weather over Christmas break, they tend to bring it back with them. It can live undetected in someone’s butthole for months at a time, just waiting for them to share a pool with another gracious host. Oh, and chlorine usually can’t kill it. 

Symptoms in my case (and most others) included a deluge of diarrhea, horrendous burps that make you wonder if you’ve gotten rotten eggs in your stomach, cramps that make your worst period seem super-casual, and a tiredness that reminds you of waking up for an early flight. A lot of people puke like wild, too, but I was lucky enough to not have that symptom, and my spiritual side thinks the universe knew I puked enough in the making of my kids.

Since NYC tap water is considered extremely high-quality and tested several times a day for parasites, we knew it wasn’t our tap water. And since I hadn’t been sharing any drinking glasses with any foreign travelers the week before (it takes about one week to incubate before exploding in your digestive tract), we knew it likely wasn’t food-borne. 

This was, by the good name of science, an attack on my asshole by a totally lovely spa. They always say the worst attacks are the ones you don’t see coming, and frankly, I believe it more than ever.

The good doc suggested I start immediately cleansing with five to eight cups of lemon water a day (there’s something about lemon juice that kills this little bug on contact), pure oregano oil capsules (they also can’t live or reproduce in the presence of oregano oil), and fresh, raw garlic. Since I’m allergic to most of the antibiotics used to treat Giardasis, I went wild with lemon water and oregano oil (the raw garlic was harder — I could hardly eat) and noticed mega improvements within three days.

By the time I went back to wearing actual clothes (you know, not the same pair of sweatpants over and over), I noticed a significant difference in the waistband of just about everything I owned. I’m not a regular scale-goer; I own a scale, but it’s actually tucked under a dresser and was most frequently used during my pregnancies so I could monitor if I was swelling or not. On this day, I was able to notice that these little Giardia bugs had made me drop about eight pounds.

If my butthole could talk, it would say, "Not worth it."

If my butthole could talk, it would say, "Not worth it."

As angry as I was that I had missed so much work, I started to calculate: If I had gone to a single one-hour yoga or fitness class every single day for about 60 days to lose that same eight pounds, I would’ve likely lost the same amount of money, and only a little less time. 

I’m sort of hoping Aire Ancient Baths will add "extreme rapid weight loss" to their spa menu, because I’m betting there are a ton of crazy bitches in Tribeca who’d pay handsomely for such a service.

For now, though, it’s free.