This is a story about camels, their milk, and my bowel moments.
What could possibly be more interesting and attractive?
As a reporter on Sunday Night, I’m encouraged to get involved in the story as much as possible.
In the case of camel milk – all I had to do was drink some, right? Well, drink and document the effects, which has been a little tricky.
See, I’m one of those people who repeatedly test negative to allergies and intolerances.
According to multiple tests, I should be able to digest the main culprits: wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts.
Yet I’m embarrassed to say, my stomach tells me otherwise.
For the past 10 years, I’ve had a sensitive and weak constitution. I get cramps, sharp pain, bloating followed by the bathroom dramas.
It’s humiliating and frustrating.
Sometimes there’s a pattern. Most times, there’s not.
My doctor strongly believes I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I’ve been asked to have a colonoscopy and urged to try a food elimination diet but make every excuse under the sun to dodge both.
I like so many Australians, just watch what I eat, and put up with the symptoms.
So never in my wildest dreams did I imagine turning to camel milk to help the symptoms.
To me, the whole concept was plain weird.
Who wants to drink milk that comes from a camel?
They spit, they kick, they smell, they grunt and a whiff of their bad breath is enough to make you pass out.
I figured there was no point to investigating the health benefits of camel milk if I wasn’t drinking it myself.
For the past two months I traveled through the Middle East and outback Australia, investigating if the benefits of camel’s milk were fad or fact.
I spoke to many families who drink it to treat their child’s autism or asthma.
One man I spoke to suffers from Common Variable Immune Deficiency and swears by it being a staple in his diet.
The list doesn’t end there. The science behind the milk – known as ‘white gold’ - shows it can also help treat diabetes, cholesterol, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, hepatitis and leaky gut.
Nearly everyone I met told me it has helped.
It sounded too good to be true. Annoyingly, some were even calling it a ‘super food’.
I was comfortably skeptical.
And that’s when I was given a challenge.
Tucked away among the hills in Perth is Australia’s only camel dairy farmer.
At 70, Chris O’Hora is hilariously inappropriate, very generous but incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about camel milk.
Chris O’Hora sells his camel milk raw, unpasteurized, which scientists say is better for you.
Under Australian law, selling raw milk also happens to be illegal. Chris covers his milk bottles with stickers saying “not fit for human consumption” so it’s my choice whether to drink it or not.
I chose yes. I’d been to Chris’ farm; saw the camels, where they lived, the milking process and hygiene standards so I felt very confident about drinking his milk.
That farm was cleaner than my kitchen.
Also, camels unlike cows naturally carry lower levels of dangerous bacteria that force us to pasteurize bovine milk. Despite this, Chris insists testing his milk every single day. I saw this and was more than confident about what I was about to do.
The crew and I travelled to his farm after weeks of trying to find someone in Australia who milks camels daily.
It’s a rare hobby and business.
Australia has the largest population of wild camels in the world but that doesn’t mean they line up and stand still to be milked.
Catching them in the wild is difficult and expensive. Once you have one, they yield around four times less than a cow.
It also costs $25 a litre.
I told Chris about my ‘funny tummy’ and he challenged me to drink a glass of raw camel milk for four weeks to see if it made a difference.
So every morning, I drank one glass. Sometimes two.
My first impression was that I wasn’t hungry. There were some days I skipped and even forgot about breakfast. It stole my appetite.
At this point, I wasn’t seeing a difference to my digestion. Things remained inconsistent, which was consistent for me.
I increased my amount to two glasses a day and that’s when it got interesting.
Call it the ‘unexpected detox’, which required me to stay close to the toilet up to three times a day.
It flushed out everything in my system (okay, so I was drinking way too much!).
Perhaps the biggest score was that I instantly had a flat stomach.
It was as if I’d been secretly doing up to 300 sit-ups a day and overnight I’d gained a washboard effect.
Something had to give. This flat stomach was going hand in hand with a lot of time spent in the bathroom. It was too much.
That’s when I lowered my dosage, stopped running to the toilet, and began to feel normal again.
Actually I felt great.
After a month, my stomach symptoms didn’t stop entirely, but they weren’t as severe. Very little cramping, and the bloating disappeared.
I did feel better which made me more conscious of my eating habits and portion size.
I’m not sure that camel milk is the great elixir to everyone’s gut problems and I’m not convinced that it’ll cure my IBS but it’s definitely had a positive affect.
It won’t feature on my weekly shopping list but I think I will keep drinking camel milk when I can. The biggest issue here in Australia is getting it.
Until it floods the supermarket shelves, the only way I can buy it is by flying it from Chris’ farm in Perth.
For me, I believe it’s worth it.
*Yes, I paid for every drop of camel milk.
PJ’s investigation airs tonight at 6.30pm on Seven