Camping experience triggers upset tummy

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May 7, 2018 - 11:00 PM

To Your Good Health

Dear Dr. Roach: Last summer I went camping and ran out of clean water. I had to boil water and drink it without any treatment tablets. That evening, I had painful cramps in my stomach, and in my upper abdomen, under my ribcage. Since then, my digestion has been horrific. I have constant rank gas and bloating when eating foods I’ve never had a problem with before, even fruits and vegetables. I have been a big eater of probiotic foods, with no digestive disturbances. However, since this incident, any form of probiotic, whether from capsule or natural foods like sauerkraut or kimchi, gives me the worst gas and bloating I’ve ever had.

I had parasite and bacterial stool testing done with my doctor, and I came up clear. I feel like I need antibiotics or something to clear whatever is going on with my digestive system, but am hesitant because I have had four rounds of antibiotics in 2017 from surgeries. I am worried about “beaver fever.” What do you recommend? — A.L.

Answer: There are several infections one can get from drinking unprocessed water while camping. “Beaver fever” is a name for infection from the parasite Giardia lamblia, which is found in water where animals (especially beavers) are found. It’s a reasonable thought — it’s one of the few waterborne infections that can persist for months. However, I think Giardia is unlikely. Symptoms from Giardia normally begin one to two weeks after exposure, and the parasites are killed very rapidly by boiling water.

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