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Sushi Warning as Patient Found With Live Worms Writhing in Gut

If you experience a tingling sensation while eating raw fish or squid it may be worms crawling through your mouth and down your throat. This may sound like a far-fetched scene from a horror movie, but is in fact a real health concern that has grown increasingly common. The revolting scenario above describes how one becomes infested with the parasitic disease Anisakiasis. 

CNN reports that Anisakiasis was originally rare outside of Japan and Spain. The parasites that cause Anisakiasis are found in raw fish. These worms invade the human digestive tract and can survive for weeks. 

Although the larvae die when reaching adulthood, serious health issues may linger for months. These symptoms include fever, extreme gastrointestinal distress, allergic responses, bowel obstructions, digestive bleeding, inflammation, rashes, respiratory issues and even anaphylaxis. 

Cases of this illness may be increasing but sushi is still widely regarded a healthy food choice. At face value, raw fish and vegetables certainly have more nutritional value than many popular dining options.  

Delving more deeply into the issue reveals a more nuanced picture of sushi and the dangers it can pose to your health. Parasitic worms crawling down your throat may be the stuff that nightmares are made of, but mercury contamination is also a serious concern when consuming raw fish. 

Most major waterways in the world are contaminated with mercury, heavy metals and chemicals like dioxins, PCBs and other agricultural chemicals that wind up in the environment. Fish has always been the best source for the animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, but as levels of pollution have increased, this health treasure of a food has become less and less viable as a primary source of beneficial fats.

This is particularly true for tuna, which tends to be a higher mercury fish. One study from the U.S. Geological Survey found that ALL tuna tested contained fairly high amounts of mercury. The contamination may be even worse in restaurants, again confirming that eating restaurant tuna is a risky proposition.

Then there is the fact that raw fish is often accompanied by items that are less than healthful. According to Andrea Donsky of Naturally Savvy, sushi restaurants make wide use of artificial colors, flavors, monosodium glutamate, genetically engineered ingredients and even high-fructose corn syrup. 

If you love sushi, and want to enjoy it without adding unnecessary health risks, try making it at home. You can purchase a whole, low-mercury fish, such as wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon, and use natural versions of ginger and wasabi for condiments. If this sounds daunting, there are many tutorials available online on how to make your own sushi simply at home.

If you want to eat out, search around for a higher-end restaurant that makes its own dishes, like seaweed salad, and will be upfront about disclosing ingredients. Steer clear of tuna due to its mercury content in favor of lower mercury wild-caught salmon, and consider bringing your own natural versions of wasabi or pickled ginger (available in some health food stores) from home. You can also try some of the all-vegetable options and forgo the seafood entirely, if you're in doubt about its variety or purity.
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