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9 June 2023

We made our boss do a poo test for our podcast

And now he has to decide what to do about his parasite.

We still can’t really believe he agreed to this. But in the interest of bringing attention to the growing number of health tests you can order online, our CEO Jon Duffy agreed to send off a poo sample to find out about the health of his gut.

Even more, we can’t believe he let us read his results before he did and break the news of what was happening inside him on the latest episode of our Consume This podcast.

It started with a survey. We asked people if they’d tried one of the DIY health kits, and one in 10 said they had. That surprised us as they can be very expensive. The one we got for Jon cost $300.

If you want to know the nitty-gritty of what happened between the test kit arriving in the mail and us getting the results back, you can hear Jon go into a lot of detail about that on the podcast – but we’ll spare you the details in this article. It does involve this quote from Jon though:

“The interesting thing was that particular morning I got up, and I was like … don't need to go. So I had to have quite a large breakfast because it was very specific about what days of the week I had to do it.”

This is how it went down when his podcast co-host Sophie Richardson revealed the results:

Sophie: Um, oh dear. You've got one parasite.

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Sophie: It's a dientamoeba fragilis.

Jon: Ooh.

Sophie: Which is a bacteria that can be present in the gut for months or years and can be misdiagnosed as IBS. That doesn't sound good.

Image of Jon
Jon Duffy

Because we’re not completely cruel, we had one of the most qualified people in New Zealand to talk about Jon’s microbiome ready to answer his questions. Gastroenterologist Dr Richard Gearry is the academic head of Otago University’s Department of Medicine, a medical director of the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation and a trustee of the Gut Foundation.

Dr Gearry explained Jon’s “wee friend” was a parasite that could live inside us without causing problems – but it could also cause problems. Treatment, he said, was “quite complicated antibiotic therapy, which in its own right could cause side effects and problems”.

“And if you never knew about this you’d never worry about it and therefore it wouldn’t be a problem,” Dr Gearry said.

When Jon told him he was feeling a bit shocked by the results, Dr Gearry said that’s why he worries about health tests people can do at home.

“You could see how in the wrong hands people could go down mammoth rabbit holes, which they’ll never get out of,” Dr Gearry said.

“And it worries me a little bit that the providers of these services probably don’t really have to deal with that. They can provide the information but then thereafter their default will always be ‘well you need to go to your doctor or you can pay us to see a dietician through our service’.”

After giving Jon some time to process the results, we asked him how he’s feeling about all the information – and whether he plans to get rid of his parasitic pal.

“Well, the general advice seems to be that nothing needs to be done, and that seems like the easiest thing to do. I have to admit, it is alarming to picture a parasite living inside me, but apparently it is very common and most people never have any issues with gut parasites,” he said.

“Getting rid of it sounds like an ordeal involving antibiotics, which could have side effects that are far worse than the zero effects that I am experiencing at the moment living in peaceful symbiosis with my parasite. I guess the next step would be to name it and thereby underscore the level of comfort I feel living alongside it. I think I’ll call it Denis.”

But Jon said he was only able to laugh about Denis because he’d had the advice of a specialist.

“I may not be so relaxed if I was considering my next steps based only on the information provided in the test results. In fact, I’d probably be thinking seriously about a trip to the doctor.”

And as for everyone in the office knowing so much about the state of his gut, Jon said, “yeah it’s a bit odd”.

If you too want to know an uncomfortable amount of information about Jon’s insides, you can listen to the Consume This podcast now.

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Consume This podcast

Consume This unpacks the big issues facing New Zealanders today: from fast fashion and the housing market, to the world of data privacy and more.

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