Byron Bay – Is That a Parasite I Spot?


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.

Further Reading

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

  • Bloating
  • Pain after eating
  • Flatulence
  • 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
  • Depression
  • 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!!!!!!!

Do it.

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.

You can thank me later.

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.

References and Resources

  5. Digestive Health Resource
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  1. Hiya Todd, Just reading on your life trials and tribulations, an interesting one indeed. Thanks btw.
    Just wanted to ask if you are now registered fully as the article was 2017 i believe. Are you giving advise, one to ones etc. It seems you have been on what seems a very similar path to myself and partner.
    We moved to Byron Bay from the UK 3 years ago and in our quest to find a ‘suitable’ abode in the Shire we basically lived in 12 different stops in 3 months! not ideal whilst full time working. Anyhu 2 of these stops were in the hinterland thus tank water. We finally sat still in New Brighton/Ocean Shores area, but this was a new house on town water. After the moving around period we did very much start to feel not right. Researched the obvious infomation,parasites galore in the areas! So we did look into various self tests but decided to get the doctors basic PCR test done. Now this should blasto and giardia in my partner but negative for myself?? same water sources through 13 years of living and travels etc. Strange.
    Fast forward 3 years we still feel not right and are now looking into the various and more accurate tests available to us. It would be great to have a meet up chat with somebody who has been through this and beat it down! We are actually coming back to Byron next week for 5 weeks after just being away for the last 18 months in Europe on travels. We are thinking of nailing this this time round.
    So any advice, if not yourself, of local practitioners in regards to the test kits being locally available and or depending on the results some remedy knowledge would be much appreciated. Happy to pay the $380 if its worth it.
    Your Deep living project looks an interesting set up btw, good work!

  2. Hey Kevin. Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your story. Sorry to hear you have been having gut issues too. It seems to be common up this way!

    The best way forward would be to send me an email ( and we can go from there. I’m still a few months off from being licensed to practice but currently have a waiting list on the go. Lots of ideas regarding advanced gut testing but that would mainly be in regards to your symptoms and history too.


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