Why Do Expats Suffer From Terrible Gut Health In Australia?

If you’re finding this site for the first time, here’s a heads up about my gut health. I’ve been documenting my gut health for a couple of years now since I started getting problems when I moved to Australia.

If you’re finding this site for the first time, here’s a heads up about my gut health. I’ve been documenting my gut health for a couple of years now since I started getting problems when I moved to Australia.

gut-health-problems-in-australia copy-1

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you might remember when I wrote a blog and video diary about when I did The Elemental Diet for 26 days here. This did pretty well on You Tube and I got a lot of emails and support from other people around the world that they were going through something similar.

So, I’m going to give you an update about what’s been happening since I did The Elemental Diet back in October 2017.

More interestingly I’m going to talk about how I’ve recently discovered that there are many expats living in Australia with the exact same condition as me. To me, this is not a co-incidence, so we’ll talk more about it in this post.

If you’re moving to Australia and worried this might happen to you, it probably won’t. The reason I’ve written this article is to help support others going through similar gut issues like me. There could be a million different reasons why we’re all sick with our gut health, but I think there might be more in it.

Let’s recap about why I am bloated

<em>This was taken less than six months apart in 2015<em>

I started getting gut health problems about a year into living in Australia. When I really think about it, I started getting IBS when I was in my early twenties back home in England. But you know, IBS isn’t something I really ever thought about much, like it didn’t take over my life or anything and I knew it came on when I ate a lot of bread.

When I got the gut health problems in Australia, I must admit, I had come back from travelling the world for a year and I had dramatically changed my diet. I spent about 18 months on a new healthy diet where I had cut out processed foods pretty much altogether and lived off a high fruit diet with steamed chicken or fish and steamed veggies for dinner. I felt AMAZING with this lifestyle until I got a stressful job that lead to long work hours and crap eating.

I also got food poisoning at this time, and not long after the severe gut problems started. When I say severe I mean that it literally felt like someone was stabbing me in the stomach and lower back continuously that I had to leave work early many a times. I started to get severe bloating that wouldn’t go away, to the point that I looked heavily pregnant.

When I spent too much money on doctors

<em>I had bought these jeans just a few weeks before this flare up in 2017<em>

I then went to every doctor I could find and eventually spent a lot of money getting a gastroscopy and an endoscopy procedure done in Sydney. The specialist left me in the hospital bed before I even woke up and just told Steve on his way out that I was fine (I know, really?!).

It turned out I had H Pylori, something I might have contracted after spending six months travelling through Africa. He just sent me a prescription to take which I did. To be honest, I left that there and didn’t do anything about it later (something that may well be the root cause of what I have been going through all this time).

After spending an insane amount of money on doctors, scans, naturopaths, different types of herbal pills, intolerance tests (you name it, I did it) I eventually found out I was borderline SIBO.

So I did The Elemental Diet – a liquid based diet for 26 days without eating a single piece of food. I did this as I thought it would be the best possible thing for me to eradicate the problem before we went on our 12 months trip around the world. Turns out it didn’t work.

See the most confronting video I’ve ever made about my experience on The Elemental Diet below.

What happened after I did the Elemental Diet to treat SIBO?

I felt pretty good in Maldives after I left Australia in 2018.

Since I finished the diet, I felt really good although the diet didn’t actually eradicate SIBO. Shortly afterwards, as soon as we left Australia on our trip, I felt instantly better in Maldives and onto other countries.

I took some Doxycycline with me for the just incase moments of flare ups, because the travel doctor we went to see before we left Australia seemed to think it might work for me. Bare in mind Doxycycline is actually an anti-malarial, I then took a small dosage of it when I needed to over the next 12 months which was great. I did become dependant on it and bought loads over the counter in Mexico before we returned to Australia in Feb 2019 for the future just incase moments, something which I have since stopped taking altogether now.

What happens whenever I leave Australia?

Now I’ve had this gut health problem since 2015, I’ve actually realised it’s something to do with the food and/or water in Australia (which is gutting because I’ve always said Australia has the best food in the world!). This is quite a big statement to make but you know how I know? Here’s why…Back in 2016 in Iceland I was completely fine. 

Back in 2016 I went back to England & Iceland for a visit. Within two days of being back, the bloating, swelling (I’m talking whole body swelling) and pain had completely disappeared that I had lost like two dress sizes. I couldn’t believe it.

The interesting thing is that I started to eat more out of convenience, you know eating those Pret sandwiches and food I wouldn’t be able to touch in Australia without curling over in pain. And I felt fine!

Mind you, I was still cooking veggies and getting the fibre I was eating in Australia too. I say this because most people I’ve spoken to have agreed that when they eat badly, they felt fine whilst away on holidays. When eating healthier in Australia like eating vegetables, they’ve felt worse. I too am the same. I have a feeling the chemicals sprayed on Aussie food might be the cause.

When I returned to Australia after that trip, after four weeks I was back to looking pregnant again.

<em>I got really bad acne from all of the diets I did in 2017<em>

2017 was a really hard year for me. I tried every possible diet to get rid of this bloating that I got really ill, I mean I looked it for sure. I had aged about 20 years and it wasn’t pretty.

I had this feeling that it was the food in Australia and I wanted to desperately move back to England as I just couldn’t go through it anymore. I was at the point where Steve couldn’t even hug me because I was in so much pain all the time so you can imagine I had no idea how I was going to do this around-the-world trip.

<em>I had some bloating here in India but that was about it during the year of travelling to multiple countries <em>

The funny thing is as soon as we left Australia and went to Maldives, I was completely fine. I couldn’t believe it. As time went on I had a few instances where I’d flare up in India from eating so much rice but the main thing is, I wasn’t in anymore pain at all. I

also did a month long yoga course in India with the hope to eradicate it for good, which it didn’t do but it definitely made my back much stronger than it was.

By the time we got back to England in June 2018 when we moved there for six months, I must admit the pain came back at the beginning but within two months, I was fine. I couldn’t believe I was back to normal again.

When we left England and went to Georgia (the country) and Spain, again I was fine. But, when we arrived into Mexico, it started up again within a day or two. So I stayed off the tacos and corn based products as I had a feeling it could be that, or maybe it was the humidity, who knows?! The main thing is, it wasn’t aggressive like in Australia.

What happened when we moved back to Australia in 2019?

<em>On our first day back in Australia Feb 2019 <em>

When we arrived back in Australia in Feb 2019, on the very first day I started eating and drinking Australian food and water, the pain, the swelling and the bloating all came back straight away, but only when I started eating and drinking (I still had water from Mexico for the first night back when we arrived back late).

<em>Not long after we came back to Australia my stomach was like the above on most days <em>

I hadn’t even been obsessing about whether it might come back, it just did out of the blue. Within a week of being back in Australia I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes I wore in Mexico.

I had to go back onto Doxycycline to help with the pain and I realised that when I came off it, I actually couldn’t go to the toilet. I was at the point that I had to take Doxy to go to the bloomin toilet (alarm bells ringing!). I can admit that I have been off Doxy completely for a couple of months now and won’t be resorting to it again now as doing a year on-and-off of antibiotics is not good for anyone. Slowly my body adjusted and what really has helped has been staying off the carbs in Aus for me.

When I found out I wasn’t alone

<em>During a hike in <a href=httpslondonerinsydneycomthings to do in noosa>Noosa<a> when I was about to run a half marathon that weekend with this bloating and swelling you can even see it in my legs <em>

One day on Instagram I decided to talk about my gut problems and I shared a recent photo about my current stomach situation that I asked if anyone else was going through it too. It turns out, I’m not alone, like actually far from it.

I then started to receive message after message from other expats who are experiencing the exact same thing as me that when they sent me their stomach photos, I couldn’t believe it.

<em>Zara told me how she never had bloating before moving to Australia and now her tummy looks like this on a daily basis <em>

I had a message from two French girls who spent a year in Australia and got the same gut health problems within days of coming to Australia and as soon as they returned home, they were fine.

Other women and men emailed me to say they thought it was various things such as bakeries in Australia put more gluten in their bread here, or how one person found it easier if they didn’t eat meat (I’ve found it to be the opposite for me).

Many people started eating better when they moved to Australia and have since got it, and others eat exactly the same in both England and Australia and still have massive flare ups only in Aus.

Many recommended peppermint oil to be a good supplement to take to help with the bloating, something I haven’t personally tried yet even though I mainly drink peppermint tea.

(On a side not I’ve started taking Atrantil over the last few days after watching this video by SIBO Survivor [check out his site, it’s brilliant BTW]. You can buy it on Amazon but I’ll let you know how I get on with it first before you think about buying more pills. @tr_eat_urself has a similar story to me and ate anything and everything in England. When she moved to Australia, she started to eat properly and now has extreme bloating.

When Australia is such an outdoorsy country and you want to go to the beach but have this to deal with, it becomes more mentally concerning for most people. Just as an FYI – I have heard that excessive exercising can make it worse.

I even had Australian people email me to say that they have the same problems in Australia and when they moved to Europe they were fine.Interestingly @poooliinka has had this gut problem since she moved from Poland to England for the last two years, and no one can get to the bottom of what’s going on.

When I mentioned all of this to a new gut-naturopath I went to visit, they just dismissed the idea that there must be something that people can’t tolerate in Aussie food or water. I told them I had at least 50 people email me saying that had the same problems since moving to Australia.

I decided I’m not spending any more money on any naturopath’s going forward, because to me, it’s a bit too obvious there’s something going on whether it’s in the water or the chemicals they spray on food here, I’m not sure what but it’s definitely something.

Mollie’s Story

<em>On the left is Mollies bloated tummy in Australia on the right is her stomach since she moved back to England <em>

I met up with Mollie, a British women who has been living in Sydney. To me this was a huge breakthrough that I was actually meeting someone else in person who has been suffering from the same as well. You’ll know that it’s a very lonely experience that unless others are going through the same, no one will understand what it’s like.

Mollie was at the point where she needed to leave Australia because she just couldn’t go through with having this problem anymore. She had been living in between England and Australia for about 15 years and knew that when she went back to England she was fine. When she read I was fine when I went back too, I think she sort of grabbed hold of the possibility that it wasn’t in her head (as easy as that is to think at the time, I’ve been through it too).

Mollie has kept in touch with me since she moved back to England just over a month ago now and it turns out, her gut health is completely fine. She’s got no gut problems whatsoever as you can see in the photos above.

I was however sent this article by one reader which suggests that it’s normal to have gut problems when you travel the world or move to a new country. They did a study about Asian people moving to America. Obviously I can 100% say that American food is not the best because of all of the corn syrup, palm oil and other preservatives in the food, that it makes you wonder if anything you’re eating is actually real food.

Something in the water in NSW

Interestingly, I remember Mollie telling me that her work colleague had the same as well. But she was from Perth and had moved to Sydney. Was there something going on with Sydney food and water specifically?

<em>Within one week of drinking bottled water the bloating and swelling went down loads<em>

I thought it was the water at one stage as it happens to me straight away. So I did a test and drank only bottled water which didn’t have fluoride in it (you must check the label) for a couple of weeks to see if it had anything to do with it. Within days my jeans that were so tight on me that they became baggy once again.

I know people will argue that fluoride is in your toothpaste but surely that’s not on the same level as drinking at least two litres of water a day? I think you end up thinking about every scenario possible to understand this condition.  I can’t actually believe I took this photo but I was so surprised how much I sweated after a run when I switched from tap water to bottled water. 

I also sweated massively when I tried to go on a run, way more than usual that I think all of the swelling and bloating started to come out of me and my skin started to look clearer.

When I went back to drinking tap water, I must admit nothing really changed. When we can afford it, we will get a a Big Berkey Water Filter from here.

A reader emailed me to say that she had to change all of her taps and even shower in her home with filtered water because Aussie water gives her terrible skin conditions. I have read on the SIBO discussion page (this is a good page to join) that a lot of people with gut problems will only drink from the Big Berkey Water Filter.

What happened when we came to America recently?

<em>On the left in Australia and on the right in America<em>

We’re currently in USA for five weeks for Steve’s job and interestingly when we arrived we both felt back to normal. My swelling and bloating calmed down instantly and I finally didn’t have any problems at all.

We’ve been eating a mixture of foods, mainly cooking no carb meals but also at the same time eating absolutely rubbish. Honestly, big tubs of Haagan Dazs has been eaten by me daily (I’m not even joking). I’ve even been able to drink alcohol again, something I rarely touch in Australia as I just swell up even more. When I talk about swelling I mean swelling on my whole body that I can’t do my bra up kinda swelling.

We did bring some Aussie gluten free muesli, you know the expensive one from Brookfarm and that instantly bloated us out. We can eat bread that’s the gross sweet cake here in America and be fine, but gluten free muesli from Australia is the worst for our gut health. I have no idea what is going on!

Let’s talk about periods

Also I wanted to discuss the topic of periods. Mine have been irregular since this stomach thing started. I would usually not have one for about three months and then it would come back.

But since we moved back to Australia in February, I didn’t have one for five months. It got worrying so I went to the doctor. They did the tests because they thought I might be going through early menopause, and it turns out I’m not (phewww!).

When they did a scan, they said they could see I was about to have my period but it never came. We noticed I’d have the pre-menstrual moods each month but nothing else would happen.

But, I knew it would come back as soon as I left Australia, and what do you know? After being in America for four weeks, I got it back. It was very light, but at least something is happening which is a good sign as we want to have a family.

Future plans with my gut health

<em>On the left in Australia just before we left and on the right in America<em>

When we go back to Australia on Monday, I’m going to follow this very closely and start by not consuming any water from the tap at all so I can properly see if it’s got anything to do with it.

I’ll only be back in Australia for two weeks before I head over to England for a couple of weeks. This is going to be an interesting experiment to see what happens in both countries with my gut health.

In America I’ve been cooking the same no carb food (usually eggs, avo, mushrooms and tomato for late breakfast and chicken or steak and veggies for dinner) as well as I would do in Australia so I’ll be interested to see what happens when I go back to Australia and cook the exact same foods. More interestingly when I go back to England again it will be a good experiment to see what happens there.

To be honest, everyone is totally different and what might work for me, doesn’t necessarily work for anyone else. Like I know that if I go to South East Asia, the water gives me the runs every single time I go there. For most, I’m assuming, probably won’t have these kind of issues.

I’ve finally set up a Facebook support group

I’ve also finally set up a Facebook Gut Health Support Group you can join here. I plan to do meet ups in the coming months in Sydney, so anyone who has gut issues can come along and we can support each other in person and talk about any breakthroughs you’ve had to get through this bizarre condition.

I’ve written this post to not only share my gut health story but to raise awareness that you are not alone with what you are going through and that it’s not in your head like many might suggest.

I also want to make sure that gut health is talked about more and that expats aren’t leaving their dream of living in Australia because of this. Let’s work together to find out what is going on.

If you have had gut issues in Australia, comment below and make sure you join my new Facebook support group here.

And don’t forget to watch the video below!

Read more about my gut issues here

⇒ What’s wrong with my stomach? I have SIBO >

⇒ My experience on the Elemental Diet to treat SIBO >

⇒  SIBO Update: Did the Elemental Diet work? >

Gut Health in Australia

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  1. Hi

    Interesting to read about your issues.

    I would encourage you to do a experiment of staying away (i.e. not in close vicinity and noy directly in sight) from mobile towers and wifi routers.

    Do share if that makes a difference to you.


    1. Hi I’ve been down this path for a year.
      Look up Abnormal Accommodation reflex or Abdomenphrenic Dyssynergia
      It’s more of a mechanical thing and volume so you have severe distension even from liquid
      I have an article for clinical trial and I’m having results finally by using lower abdominal muscles clenching do diaphragm can’t push out
      I have loads of information if anyone suffering same

  2. Soooooo interesting! I live just south of Sydney in Wollongong (previously I was in Brisbane) and I’ve been struggling with tummy troubles (parasites, SIBO, etc.) for the last couple of years. I’m in Hawaii for a couple of months, and when I arrived here, I swear I instantly lost a couple of kilos. All the body puffiness went away. My tummy has been up and down lately so it’s hard to tell on that front. But this is VERY VERY interesting. I return in a couple of weeks and I will see what happens.

  3. Reading this has been a kinda affirmation of everything I’ve been thinking. My friend became gluten intolerant whilst traveling here, then so did I, then another friend, then my partner, then a work colleague. Recently I’ve developed a lot of symptoms similar to Sibo & histamine intolerance (which I’m still being tested for) which seems like an escalation of the severity digestive woes, but all that being said. I was wondering whether the was any link to moving here and, well, there’s many people who are finding the same! Recently I went to the UK for two weeks and felt fine with gluten when I was there, so I got a bit overconfident and hammered the bready delights, fast food, cakes, etc and after a week I felt terrible but there was definitely a big difference and I wonder whether it would have remained problem free if I had stuck to a normal diet.

    Have you found any further reprieve or solutions to your problems?

    I went on a cross between an elimination diet and a histamine diet for 3 weeks and I lost 4kg. I feel better than I’ve felt in years and my stomach is super flat. Like washboard flat as opposed to massively bloated like I doubled a pillow under my t-shirt. But if I sightly step out of line with my histamine diet, I get covered in itchy hives, sometimes my face swells out, so perhaps there is a path through the darkness but it will require a lot more research.

    Your page is an indispensible asset to many and potentially a key in realising what’s going on.

    Together we can all make sense of things!
    Thank you!

  4. Thanks Ricky for your update too. The more we talk about what’s going on, the more we can unlock the key to this bizarre condition! That’s so incredible you know so many other people who have a problem with their diet in Australia as well. It’s definitely NOT a co-incidence at all.

  5. Facing almost the same. Been in many countries across the globe but never had gut problem and big tummy. Recently my father visited me in sydnet and stayed for 6months and having same pregnant shaped tummy. Will try to stay away from Tap water.

  6. Same Same SAME! I AM NOT CRAZY!

    This mimics my own journey, one which has taken me to the depths of despair and back since moving down under in 2015. Beyond the bloat it devastated my health entirely. I’m currently on month 4 of an Australia sabbatical.

    Quit drinking the tap water, quit drinking alcohol, quit eating anything but meat and avos at one point. I pinpointed mould to be the problem, mould and underlying subconscious psychological issues from my childhood, but returning to Europe seemed to clear up the issues so I was laughing and happy again.

    Look at mould… keen for a meet up when I return to Sydney later this year.


    1. Hi Chris, It’s fair to say you are not alone in this journey. There are so many people who are suffering from this in Australia, it’s beyond a co-incidence. I at one point literally lived off almond butter. Going on these crazy diets makes it a whole lot worse. I now just try to stay off processed sugar and carbs and it’s not too bad. I still have a lot of swelling but it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be and when I leave the country I am back to normal again. I have considered mould to be the problem for sure. Australian housing is so terrible, they need to up their game with health & safety in this country. Join our Facebook group and I’ll suggest a meet up in December. Best of luck!

  7. Ohmygod this is me!!! Except that I’m in Asia not Australia. But every other detail is my story too! So helpful to know I’m not going mad (after also spending heaps of cash chasing a diagnosis and cure)

  8. I have just travelled to Sydney from US two days ago, thought the bloating in my stomach and the feeling of bloating in my body was from the flight, but two days later I still felt exactly the same as i did on the plane in high altitude. I thought did I gain a lot of weight over the New York winter when I put on my summer clothes here, or had too much salt, but I now realize I am experiencing what you ate describing! Thank you for writing your experience!

  9. Oh my gosh yes.
    I’ve travelled to over 70 countries, most of which I have lived in extremely poor areas and yet – had NO issue with my guts.
    Back in Australia – I’m gluten and lactose intolerant. I have a bloated belly most days and yet (like others here too), each time I travel overseas – after a few weeks overseas my guts are far better off.
    interestingly I eat a mostly organic food and low fodmap diet in Oz and swear that the food I have in Australia is some of the cleanest, freshest and best in the world. It doesn’t make sense and yet – this is what I’ve observed.
    I’ve just done a month of Atrantil and am feeling a fair bit better – not 100% fixed but definitely a fair bit better. I should add though that I’ve also started taking Chinese herbal medicines. I am so over all of my clothes being maternity wear! Huge hugs to all. xo

  10. Hi has anyone tried antrantil the same is happening to me I’m not an expat but my tummy looks like yours all week and I don’t eat bad and everyone says nothing wrong ? Where can I get the tablets in Australia please ?

  11. I’m the same, I’ve had ibs from young progressively became worse at this age, sibo diagnosis only thing that works for me is mintec! Keeps things at bay & helps you eat a sort of normal diet.
    I’m like you no
    More spending money on things that don’t work but actually made me worse with diets & herbs by naturopaths etc..
    over it! I agree with mold issue
    Lived in a house for 6 years & we were all sick, we moved out to our home we built feeling much better & don’t have the chronic fatigue we had, but still not the best have to manage it & both kids are the same.

    1. Glad you found something that works Georgie! I’ve been on a load of herbs for the last 6 months or so. Although I feel better, the bloat never goes. I wish I could live normally again!

  12. It puts me right off moving to Australia this story. I was so happy to find your blog. Off to the Australian Embassy today to lodge my passport application and I read this. I already suffer with IBS. This is very worrying.

    1. Hi Nikki! Not everyone suffers with this, hopefully you’ll be OK! If you suffer with IBS, you probably already don’t eat gluten, so just stick with what works for you 🙂 Best of luck with the move!

  13. Hello,
    I lived in Melbourne and I had terrible issue with my gut. I was also eating very healthy at this time and I could not understand. it was very annoying on a daily basis and my gut could not handle alcohol at all not even one glass. I never had this issue before. I could not understand. From the day I moved to Canada I felt instantly better and I never had such a healthy gut since I leave I the rocky mountains for 2 years.
    Later as I was still a member of groups of travelers in Australia I found a publication of a few people that were reporting this issue with water. Regarding my experience I think this might have been the cause for me! I don’t see anything else that could have such a quick and radical impact on the gut… your article is very interesting and confirm this. I hope more people hear about it so things like this can be prevented!

    1. Hi Stephanie, thanks for letting us know you’ve been through something similar too! The weird thing is, I’m now living at a place with tank water aka rain water and not town water. I am still suffering from gut problems now and still trying to work my way through it. Will write an update soon about it! Glad to hear you’re feeling much better now, that’s amazing!

  14. Since it seems to affect foreigners vs locals it may be some difference in the microbes in the food and that are involved in food production. Likely it would affect the water supply, as well.
    This would seem to be the case especially if you have tried eliminating various classes of food to no avail (sounds like you did that).

    1. I think you might be right about the microbes, since I wanted to post about that here as well.

      Though I think it is even bigger than just food microbes. I think the microbes in different places of the world are different and not just in the food but also in the water, in the air, in the ground, everywhere.

      If you live in a place where the microbes are somehow not compatible with your own microbes, you can get health issues.

      This might be more common to experience in a part of the world where you did not grow up, though that can also happen.

      This is also why different people experience this in different parts of the world. Not just in Australia. This can happen anywhere.

  15. Hi Annie,
    Thank you for posting your trials and tribulations online for the world to see, it’s not easy to do, especially when you just want to curl up into a ball and die so kudos to you my friend!!
    I’m an expat having lived in Australia for the better part of 34 years.I moved here when I was 20 and straight away the weight began to creep on, even though my diet remained for the most part the same. I have lost weight almost instantly when traveling to other countries, only to put it back on again upon returning to Australia. I think by far the worst part of this for me is that I developed an autoimmune disease when I was 29, which absolutely crippled me. However when I returned to the UK some 4 years after it started it went into full remission without the help of medication. Sadly upon returning to OZ it returned with a vengeance and has been with me ever since. I don’t know what is going on over her but something is?! Chemicals sprayed on crops, quite possibly?? Parasites in our tap water due to the state of our ever ageing and poorly maintained fresh water systems also a possibly….We live in Brisbane and a few months ago my daughter had a blocked drain, the council came out to fix it and told Nat’ that the pipes that our “ fresh” tap water flow through are so old and poorly maintained he simply will not drink tap water anymore. He urged Nat to buy a countertop water filter ( she has) and to use this for all drinking and cooking purposes. So I also urge you to invest in a really good one if you have not already done so and never drink tap water again. Best of luck Annie, you’re a real star. ???

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