Giardiasis, or beaver fever, is a parasitic infection of the digestive system. It is one of the most common causes of water borne disease. Giardia infection is caused by a microscopic parasite that is found worldwide, especially in areas with poor sanitation and unsafe water. Giardia infections usually clear up within a few weeks. But you may have intestinal problems long after the parasites are gone
Symptoms of giardiasis generally show up one or two weeks after exposure. Common symptoms include:
• diarrhea or greasy stools
• loss of appetite
• bloating and abdominal cramps
• weight loss
• excessive gas
• abdominal pain
Giardiasis is caused by the parasite Giardia intestinalis.
Giardiasis can spread through food or water. It also spreads via surfaces contaminated with Giardia cysts, or hard shells that contain the parasite. Even though parasites need a host (another living thing) to survive, Giardia’s shell enables the parasite to live on its own for extended periods.
People commonly get giardiasis from swallowing the parasite in untreated water. Giardiasis travels in even trace amounts of infected stool (poop) — amounts so small you can’t see it. If you have giardiasis, you can spread it to someone else, even if you have no symptoms.
People can get infected giardiasis through:
• Drinking from untreated water sources (such as lakes, streams or swimming pools).
• Traveling to countries with poor sanitation practices.
• Working closely with young children (such as in a child care center).
• Swallowing the parasite after touching a surface (such as a doorknob or toy) contaminated with tiny amounts of infected feces.
• Having sex, especially anal sex, with an infected person.
Risk factors –
The giardia parasite is a very common intestinal parasite. Although anyone can pick up giardia parasites, some people are especially at risk:
• Children. Giardia infection is far more common in children than it is in adults. Children are more likely to come in contact with feces, especially if they wear diapers, are toilet training or spend time in a child care center. People who live or work with small children also are at higher risk of developing giardia infection.
• People without access to safe drinking water. Giardia infection is rampant wherever sanitation is inadequate or water isn’t safe to drink. You’re at risk if you travel to places where giardia infection is common, especially if you aren’t careful about what you eat and drink. The risk is greatest in rural or wilderness areas.
• People who have anal sex. People who have anal sex or oral-anal sex without using a condom or other protection are at increased risk of giardia infection, as well as sexually transmitted infections.
Giardiasis can lead to complications such as weight loss and dehydration from diarrhea. The infection can also cause lactose intolerance in some people.
Children under 5 years old who have giardiasis are at risk for malnutrition, which can interfere with their physical and mental development.
A doctor will take a stool sample and send it to a lab to check for Giardia cysts.
Sometimes, they will ask for several samples, because a person does not expel cysts every time they use the bathroom.
If the results do not show giardia, but the person has symptoms that seem to suggest giardia, the doctor may carry out further tests.
This may include an endoscopy and possibly a biopsy from the small intestine.
Many people with giardiasis have minor symptoms that go away on their own. You may not need treatment.
If you have more severe parasite symptoms, your provider may prescribe an antibiotic with antiparasitic effect to kill the parasite. Giardia medications include:
Ayurvedic Treatment –
▪︎ Some effective herbs
• Vidanga is of course the star in this situation, famous for its effectiveness against all types of worms and parasites. Due to its hot energy and pungent vipak, Vidanga should be carefully combined in a formula suitable for prakruti and vikruti.
• Turmeric, which has strong anti-parasitical and anti-yeast actions
• Chitrak, which will kindle agni and burn parasite-related ama.
• In a pitta individual one could choose Guduchi to balance pitta and mitigate the hot effect of Vidanga.
• In a kapha person one could use Punarnava, which as well as balancing kapha will have anti-parasitical activity in its own right.
▪︎ Ayurvedic medicines
• Trikatu, which will kindle agni, burn ama and have synergistic anti-parasitical effects.
• Mahasudarshan is very anti-parasitical as well as helping balance tikshnagni and sweet cravings. It is valuable in both pitta and kapha.
• In a vata person we could select Hingvastak as an excellent remedy for vishamagni which is also anti-parasitical.
Herbal formulae for krumi are best given before meals for maximum effect upon the colon.
• Honey may be a good anupan as it is anti-parasitical in its own right. However, when a yeast/Candida overgrowth is suspected, it may be better to use Aloe Vera as the anupan, since any sweet item can exacerbate a yeast overgrowth.
No drug or vaccine can prevent giardia infection. But commonsense precautions can go a long way toward reducing the chances that you’ll become infected or spread the infection to others.
• Wash your hands. This is the simplest and best way to prevent most kinds of infection. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using the toilet or changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food.
• Purify wilderness water. Avoid drinking untreated water from shallow wells, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds and streams unless you filter it or boil it for at least 10 minutes at 158 F (70 C) first.
• Wash produce. Wash any raw fruits and vegetables with safe, uncontaminated water. Peel the fruit before eating it. Avoid eating raw fruits or vegetables if traveling in countries where they may have contact with unsafe water.
• Keep your mouth closed. Try not to swallow water when swimming in pools, lakes or streams.
• Use bottled water. When traveling to parts of the world where the water supply is likely to be unsafe, drink and brush your teeth with bottled water that you open yourself. Don’t use ice.
• Practice safer sex. If you engage in anal sex, use a condom every time. Avoid oral-anal sex unless you’re fully protected.
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