Health horror story: Eating probiotic yoghurt fed the parasites in my gut.

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No one likes to think of themselves as a host for any one of the number of parasites that plague humans – leeches, nits, worms or even tiny amoeba you can’t see – but recently I found out I’m playing innkeeper to at least two of the nasty blighters.

Several years ago I took an overseas trip with a stopover in Asia. On the way back I skipped the stopover and opted for a gruelling 38-hour door-to-door fligth from London, just to save some precious holiday time. In retrospect this was a mistake; the lack of sleep paired with recycled bacteria on the flight from other people lowered my immune system terribly, and within a week I was feeling the sickest I’d ever felt, unable to do much but groan from the sofa with flu-like symptoms and fever.

Kelly Doust.

My GP thought it was likely I’d been exposed to swine flu on my trip, and told me it wasn’t worth taking Tamiflu now I’d already caught the virus. Miserable and feeling awful, I went home and tried to rest and sleep it off, but nothing seemed to work.

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Now, I’m not one for taking antibiotics unless I really need them, and my diet is pretty good, but after six weeks of feeling like death with little respite (some days were worse than others, but overall I felt the same) I was chronically fatigued and starting to feel desperate.

Back at the GP, I was prescribed one course of antibiotics, then another, as the symptoms only seemed to change for a few days at a time – infection revolving from throat to sinuses to chest – before coming back, terrible as ever. I couldn’t exercise without feeling a wreck, and couldn’t concentrate on work. I was finding it hard to look after myself, let alone my two-year-old daughter. It was clear the drugs weren’t working.

Antibiotics weren't curing Kelly's illnesses.


Finally, I took some advice from a friend and went to visit her ACNEM doctor (the Australian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine). An ACNEM doctor tries to solve health complaints with a mixture of science and supplements, and will try everything before putting you on prescription medication.

Dr Janet Kim at N-Plus Clinic took blood and urine tests, quickly finding that I had alarmingly low levels of iron and other essential vitamins such as zinc and vitamin D. Prescribing me a course of iron injections, vitamin C infusions and a fistful of supplements to take morning and night, she sent me on my way.

Months passed and I did start to feel better, slowly building up the energy for sport, work and other activities again which most of my friends took for granted. By the time I felt almost normal again, a year had passed since I’d first fallen ill.

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Kelly at the height of her illness.

I kept taking the supplements my doctor had prescribed, until I read a book called Live Longer, Live Younger by Dr Rajendra Sharma. I decided to go back to Dr Kim just to check in and make sure I was doing everything I could to be as healthy as possible.

Running the same tests again, Dr Kim was floored to find my readings come back the same as when I was at my worst; in fact, they were even more alarming than before, despite the fact I felt relatively okay. “I’m thinking it’s either your hormones or your gut,” she said. “Which do you want me to test first?”


Some instinct told me my gut was the problem, so I went with it. The results were back within weeks; not only one, but two parasites appeared to be thriving in my gut, as well as tests showing an overproduction of acidophilus from all the yoghurt I thought I was sensibly eating.

This was only feeding the parasites, I was told. I’ve now been prescribed three courses of antibiotics and three courses of probiotics to kill the bad bacteria and repopulate my gut with the right sort for optimum health. Apparently parasites are incredibly common, but many of us don’t realise we’re walking around with them inside us, assuming health issues can be attributed to something else. Dr Kim thinks I could even have been harbouring them since I lived in Hong Kong 15 years ago; one strain is very common in Asia.

I thought I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome following Swine Flu and chronic anaemia, but it’s likely the parasites have been the cause all along. Leaching all essential nutrients and iron, I’ve suffered from low energy and persistent colds and flu for years – the point is, when you’re low, you’re susceptible to anything. Allowed to thrive unchecked, gut parasites (really just a word for bad bacteria that feeds on healthy gut flora, rather than the other way around) can cause major problems such as Leaky Gut and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and even present with diseases such as bowel cancer.

I was horrified to find out I was living with these nasty organisms inside me but also relieved – with the bad ones banished and good ones left behind, perfect health seems around the corner. I can’t imagine how good I’ll feel then.