Fecal Transplant : Is This The Latest Gut Health Trend?

fecal-transplant-trend

We always love to get the conversation going on taboo subjects, so today we’re gonna talk about feces, aka poop, fecal matter, stool…whatever name you call it. It’s personal and indicative of our diet and the state of our health, so we’re getting down n’ dirty and we aren’t afraid to talk about it.  We knew very little about fecal transplantation until we started the research for this article, and we’re sure you have lots of questions, so here goes….

What Is A Fecal Transplant?

At this point, you’re probably asking yourself what the heck is a fecal transplant and why would anyone want to be at the receiving end (no pun intended) of this type of procedure?  It’s referred to as FMT (fecal microbiota transplant) and involves the process of a medical professional taking stool (aka poop) from a healthy person and transplanting the fecal bacteria to an unhealthy person.  Of course, the healthy person’s poop is taken and tested to make sure it’s exactly that…healthy.  It’s then mixed with a saline solution, strained, and then inserted by enema, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, and even orally with fecal tablets. The results can take up to a few days, or as little as a few hours.  For those brave and adventurous souls among us that decide they want to try a DIY fecal transplant at home, we stumbled upon this site. Proceed with caution.

Who’s The Donor?

So who would be an ideal candidate that would be the donor?  First choice is preferably a family member with a healthy gut since research shows that individuals who interact (especially couples) share similar microbiota on their skin more so than people outside their household.  The research suggests that this interaction can be significant with the belief that our stomach flora is also similar. In addition, results also showed that when we are “genetically” related our microbiota is similar.  We gathered from this that transplanting fecal matter from one person to another involves the fact that they believe donor and recipient should have a similar gut microbiota.  Thought we’d also pass along this interesting fact: This same research found that “dog ownership significantly increased the shared skin microbiota in cohabiting adults”.  I’m not sure if and why that’s of any importance but you can read about it
here.

Why Do It?

There can be various reasons for an unhealthy gut, but the most common reason is continual antibiotic use which causes the good bacteria in our gut to become depleted.  In cases where particularly bad bacteria referred to as “C. diff” clostridium difficile) takes over the colon in excessive numbers, you can end up with recurring and debilitating diarrhea that can bring on accompanying abdominal pain, loss of appetite, blood in the stool and fever.  All of this, in addition to dehydration from diarrhea, can become life-threatening if left untreated, especially for those who don’t have a strong immune system to begin with. The goal is to restore the good bacteria that’s depleted so that it can do it’s job of keeping our gut healthy and keeping the bad bacteria like the dangerous C. diff in check.    Fighting this C. diff bacteria is what FMT is all about.

Does It Work?

The entire purpose of a fecal transplant is to restore the good bacteria that’s depleted so that it can do it’s job of keeping our gut healthy, and keeping the bad bacteria like the dangerous C. diff in check.  By reintroducing the two major bacteria groups; bacteroidetes and firmicutes, the balance of good and bad gut bacteria can be restored and will achieve the desired effect. It’s shown that patients who suffer chronic C. diff and the inflammatory bowel diseases IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and UC (ulcerative colitis) can benefit from a fecal transplant, according to Linda Lee, Director of John Hopkins Integrative Medicine.  And in a study conducted at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, success was achieved in a study of eight patients using up to two transplants. Another published abstract concluded that in 275 cases there was an 89% cure rate.

Additionally, a study conducted at Montefiore Medical Center in New York concluded fecal transplant resulted in a 92% cure rate. Dr. Lawrence Brandt of Montefiore Medical had this to say: “Fecal transplantation is safe, and the long-term consequences of fecal transplantation are unknown, and any risk is a projected risk, not based on any fact.” .

The Future of FMT

The medical practice of FMT is not new, but there’s more awareness of it as numbers show more people are getting C. diff. Proponents of FMT tout it as highly effective and inexpensive as compared to other medical alternatives. The downside is that it’s not yet covered by the majority of insurance companies, probably due to its experimental nature. Since it’s just starting to be recognized, there are no long-term trials and there are some in the medical community that think FDA regulation is needed for safety There was a documented case of weight gain after a transplant. But yet other clinical studies believe that fecal transplants may help with weight loss.  

As more awareness is given to this treatment and if continuing research is done proving its efficacy, then it will become more mainstream and recognized by more physicians in the medical field, as more and more doctors come forward with stories of patients getting cured using this therapy.

Check out The Fecal Transplant Foundation as a source for the latest news, articles, research and education.

NOTE: Our team at BalancedBabe.com personally makes sure we’re consuming foods that contain both prebiotics and probiotics such as onions, leeks, bananas, blueberries, cruciferous veggies and fermented foods like tempeh and miso. This article is for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your medical practitioner to help make an informed decision based on your own health history.

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