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Giardia Lamblia – the parasite that causes India travellers abdominal pain

When I returned to Germany in 2011 after my one-year voluntary stay, I immediately took a stool test.. For weeks I had stomach cramps, I had a bloating belly and felt filled all the time and several times a day I had to go to the toilet. No symptoms that force you to stay in bed, but unpleasant enough to get checked once, moreover, I got weaker and weaker. A week later, I promptly received a letter from the health board: I had tested positive for the parasite Giardia Lamblia. This parasite is subject to reporting in Germany and it must be treated.

Giardiasis is pretty much the most common bowel disease among Indian travelers, although the symptoms can be quite different: Some don’t notice anything at all and carry the parasite as a carrier. Others, like me, just feel uncomfortable, constantly have building pain, it bloats and wobbles, and not a few times a day it goes to the bathroom and one does not necessarily has diarrhea.

Fresh travelers with a spared intestine often are hit the hardest: Here is a nasty diarrhea at the start!

The parasite is transmitted fecal-orally. That means, from the stool to the mouth. A handshake, contaminated water or uncooked fruit or vegetables are enough and you become the host of the Gardia. Since many sufferers often do not notice the parasite infestation, they become carriers of the disease.

Fruits and vegetables before eating either peeling or cooking

Giardia Lamblia is found all over the world, but especially in India, where the hygienic situation is not yet very good and there are often no proper toilets. Especially during the monsoon season, the risk of infection is increased. In some areas, 30% of the population is affected. They have developed a kind of resistance to the parasites and do not even notice the infection.

Even with us “untrained” it can happen, that we do not notice the parasite with a good intestinal flora and it disappears again on its own. But normally only taking antibiotics helps. Otherwise, a chronic irritable bowel syndrom may occur.

Since nutrients cannot be absorbed completely, there is constant exhaustion and weight loss.

But a trip to India does not necessarily mean that you return home with Giardia as a souvenir. If you follow some standard rules, you don’t have to worry about an infection.

You should always use a sanitizer for your hands after going to the toilet and before meals.

Unpeeled or uncooked fruit or vegetables should be avoided. This includes, above all, the salad in restaurants.

Also pay attention to street snacks. Even if the snack is deep-fried, it is sufficient if the stand seller touches them with unwashed hands.

Care should also be paid to drinking water: drink only packaged or filtered water. Otherwise, boil the water and always ask in restaurants if the fresh juices have been stretched with water or not.

The teeth should be brushed with mineral water during the travel period and while greeting do not shake hands, but bring the hands together in front of the chest in the namaste.

This is how a healthy journey should succeed.

But anyone who recognizes the symptoms in themselves and has just traveled to India or another country should give a stool sample. Otherwise, Giardia can cause more damage than necessary and you also might get some food intolerances.