Thursday, April 05, 2018 by Zoey Sky
Giardiasis is an infection in the small intestine.
The disease is caused by a microscopic parasite called Giardia lamblia (G. lamblia). Giardiasis spreads via contact with infected patients. Individuals can also develop giardiasis by consuming contaminated food or drinking contaminated water.
Pets such as cats and dogs often get giardia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), giardiasis infects people from all over the globe. But the disease often spreads in overcrowded developing countries that have poor sanitary conditions and water quality control.
Known side effects of giardiasis
Sometimes individuals do not experience any side effects even if they are carriers of giardia parasites. The side effects associated with the disease often manifest at least one or two weeks after exposure.
The common symptoms of giardiasis include:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloating accompanied by abdominal cramps
- Diarrhea/greasy stools
- Excessive gas
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Often called “beaver fever,” giardiasis is often considered a camping or backpacking-related disease. However, anyone can develop giardiasis.
Individuals at risk of developing giardiasis may include:
- Backpackers, campers, and hikers who drink unsafe water or those who do not have proper hygiene (e.g. people who don’t wash their hands properly).
- Children in childcare settings, especially those still young enough to be wearing diapers.
- Close contact with patients who already have the disease or individuals who take care of patients with giardiasis.
- International travelers.
- People who ingest water or use ice made from places where Giardia can be found (e.g. untreated or improperly treated water from lakes, streams, or wells).
- People who accidentally swallow water while swimming and playing in bodies of water where Giardia may live (e.g. lakes, ponds, rivers, springs, and streams).
- People exposed to human feces via sexual contact.
Body systems harmed by giardiasis
Giardiasis may cause the following complications:
- Children younger than five years old who have giardiasis may become malnourished. This may interfere with their physical and mental growth.
- Dehydration and weight loss due to diarrhea.
- The disease may cause lactose intolerance in some people.
Food items or nutrients that may prevent giardiasis
The following foods or nutrients can help prevent giardiasis:
- Garlic (Allium sativa) — Garlic cloves are often used as a remedy for various health conditions such as high cholesterol, hypertension, and upper respiratory infections. The herb may inhibit the mobility of G. lamblia and its ability to adhere to human cells. It can also have a direct lethal effect on Giardia by stimulating an enzyme that causes cell degradation. However, garlic may upset the stomach and increase the risk of bleeding.
- Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) — Oregon grape is a North American evergreen shrub that has clusters of purple berries. Its fruits and roots are used to treat chronic constipation, indigestion, poor lymph drainage, and psoriasis. Oregon grape is full of berberine, a yellow alkaloid active against G. lamblia. Take note that this remedy is not recommended for individuals with chronic gastrointestinal problems.
- Pippali Rasayana — Pippali Rasayana is an Indian Ayurvedic formula made up of two herbs: long pepper (Piper longum) and Palash (Butea monosperma). Individually, the herbs are used to treat chronic dysentery, giardiasis, and intestinal worms. Pippali Rasayana helps stimulate the immune response so patients can naturally eliminate the parasite. Use of this remedy must be discontinued if skin rash develops.
Treatments, management plans for giardiasis
Most cases of giardiasis will eventually resolve itself, but a healthcare professional may prescribe medication if the infection is severe or prolonged. Recommended treatments often include antiparasitic drugs instead of letting the patient wait until the disease clears up on its own.
Medications used to treat giardiasis include:
- Metronidazole — An antibiotic, Metronidazole must be taken for five to seven days. It may cause nausea and leave a metallic taste in the mouth.
- Nitazoxanide — A popular option for children, Nitazoxanide is available in liquid form and only needs to be taken for three days.
- Paromomycin — The drug has a lower chance of causing birth defects compared to other antibiotics. However, expectant mothers must wait until after delivery before taking any medication for giardiasis.
- Tinidazole — Tinidazole is just as effective as metronidazole. It can cure giardiasis after a single dose.
Where to learn more
Giardiasis is an infection in the small intestine. The disease is caused by a microscopic parasite called Giardia lamblia (G. lamblia). Giardiasis spreads via contact with infected patients.
Sometimes individuals do not experience any side effects even if they are carriers of giardia parasites. The side effects associated with the disease often manifest at least one or two weeks after exposure. The common symptoms of giardiasis include abdominal pain, bloating accompanied by abdominal cramps, diarrhea/greasy stools, and excessive gas.
Giardiasis may cause complications like dehydration and weight loss (due to diarrhea) and lactose intolerance in some people.
Garlic, Oregon grape, and Pippali Rasayana can help prevent giardiasis.
Medications used to treat giardiasis include Metronidazole, Nitazoxanide, Paromomycin, and Tinidazole.