Byron Bay, the land of rolling green hills, beautiful white sand beaches, warm ocean water… and parasites.
Yup I said it, parasites.
Unfortunately this is the elephant in the room that no one seems to be talking about, much less addressing. To me it’s serious enough to be considered a health concern.
For the most part I would say that Byron shire’s town water is average. About as good as any industrially chlorinated town water can be.
The real problems, caused by little creatures, occur as soon as you leave town and head just slightly off the beaten track as any quality traveller or amateur explorer would.
Unfortunately tank water (generally the main water source for out of town residents) is a literal breeding ground for many parasites including Blastocystis hominis, Dientamoeba fragilis and Giardia duodenalis (aka intestinalis + lamblia) to name a few.
- Blastocystis hominis – A Protozoan Gut Parasite
- Dientamoeba fragilis – A Most Unusual Protozoan Parasite
Symptoms of Parasites
There are a whole range of symptoms associated with parasitic infection. Some, like brain fog, difficulty concentrating and even depression don’t seem related to the gut.
They can include
- Pain after eating
- Loose stools or constipation (or a combination of both, alternating)
- Fatigue (this is a big one!)
- Insomnia (also waking up at night repeatedly)
- Grinding your teeth while sleeping
- Brain fog
The list goes on and on and on.
Our digestive tract (GIT) is involved in many bodily functions. Improper function can lead to a whole range of disease states downstream.
To best explain this important point I would take nutrient absorption and assimilation. In a state of poor digestion this vital process would be impaired. Even if you are eating the most nutrient dense, primal, paleo, organic, yummy, bone broth laden diet you could still run the risk of nutrient depletion (and the range of disease states associated with it) if your digestion was seriously impaired.
So What Are The Options?
Many long term residents of the Byron shire know this and have taken steps to properly filter their water. Some I know have even gone the extra step and have drilled a bore so that they completely avoid the risk of infection.
The all to frequent problem occurs when the tank water filter hasn’t been replaced at the proper time or even installed in the first place!
With Byron Bay’s beautiful sub-tropical climate bugs get brewing and soon enough some unlucky soul has serious digestive troubles on their hands!
You may think that I’m being slightly over dramatic here but I can think of scores of people in the area that have contracted one or even many of these nasty little critters.
Don’t Drink From Unfiltered Tank Water
Currently I am on town water. There are pros and cons to this.
One major pro is that I don’t have to worry so much that my town water is contaminated with any microbes. Many parasites and bacterial infections are passed on via the faecal-oral route.
Birds, bats, possums and rodents co-inhabit many rural dwellings. Unfortunately their faeces can wind up on your roof (generally the catchment for your water tanks. This is a common route of infection in the Byron Bay area and Australia wide.
If I am visiting a friend on tank water, generally I’ll bring my own spring water from home. My friends think I’m a bit bizarre anyway, so one more eccentric habit won’t hurt!
Invest in a suitable water filter
I recommend this option to anyone living on tank water. In the Byron Hinterlands this approach is very common.
The water filter will vary depending on your needs and the quality of your water. If you are looking to remove bacterial and parasitic microbes from your tank water the Big Blue filter comes highly recommended.
There is a Northern NSW agent located in Byron Bay that I have found very helpful on the subject of filtering parasites and other nasty microbes out of your tank water. Don’t worry if you aren’t a Byron local, there are other reliable suppliers of the same/similar products.
Clean Your Tank and Change Your Filter!
Apparently this was my downfall. I lost 3+ years to bad health, terrible digestion, loose stools, iron anaemia, fatigue, depression….honestly the list goes on and on….
I lost it all because my landlord at the time didn’t bother to change her water tank filters!
She even knew that the water was contaminated and failed to inform us until we had been living there for TWO WEEKS!
I’ve spent years being quite upset about that small factoid but in the end it brought me to my passion so who can hold a grudge?
Anyway, rant over. CHANGE YOUR WATER FILTERS!!!!!! I feel like I need to add a few more exclamation marks!!!!!!!
Put it in your phone’s calendar and CHANGE THEM!!! On time! Or better yet, before they are due. It is a very small price to pay for your health and vitality.
Also I recommend looking into getting your water tank professionally cleaned. Talk to a few local tank cleaners. Get their advice and work out the frequency that it needs to be done.
Anyone Passing Through
To travellers and to new arrivals to Byron Bay I would advise caution.
Avoid drinking tank water when off the beaten track. Seriously don’t risk it. Bring water with you.
If you have been drinking tank water and are experiencing any IBS like symptoms then I would recommend getting the proper functional tests done.
The best place to start here at Fully Functional is our Digestive Health Resource.
It will walk you through some top articles and get you up to speed on the Functional Medicine approach to healing your gut, improving your digestion and get your health back on track!
Now I want to hear from you. Do you have any relevant experiences to share? Add a comment below.