Fecal transplant - a miracle cure?

Fecal transplant – a miracle cure?

It is perhaps the logical response to the effect of your gut on your mental health – a fecal transplant from a healthy donor. If you’re squeamish about the idea of using other peoples’ poo then probably best to give this blog a miss.

What is a fecal transplant?

It’s the ingestion or assimilation of a healthy person’s stool in order to cure a disease or condition.

The idea itself has a long history. Back in Ming dynasty China the physician Le Shizhen prescribed ‘yellow soup’ (fermented faeces) for the relief abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and constipation. It’s not restricted to humans either. In the 17th century fecal transplants (termed ‘transfaunation’) were used by vets to treat horses and cattle that had chronic stomach problems, or were simply off their feed.

It was ‘rediscovered’ again by the medical establishment in 1958 and interest and experimentation took off in earnest from 1998.

What conditions can be treated by fecal transplant?

The research into fecal transplant has looked at two main areas – metabolic syndrome and recurrent clostridium difficile (c. diff) infection.

Metabolic syndrome is a condition that compromises peoples’ normal ability to lower their blood sugar by producing insulin. A team in the Netherlands experimented with giving fecal transplants from donors with a healthy BMI and giving them to obese people. Although the recipients didn’t significantly reduce their weight they did show increased sensitivity to insulin, becoming better able to cope with sugar in their diet.

The NHS have also researched the effect of fecal transplants on people who have recurrent or chronic c. diff infection in their gut. The results have been encouraging, and have been endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as an option for c. diff treatment.

There is also ongoing research into fecal transplants and other conditions like Crohn’s disease, diabetes and HIV. Given the link between gut health and mood fecal transplant is also being investigated as a potential treatment for depression or anxiety.

I must stress that at the time of writing these are still in the realms of research. There are individuals and organisations who claim, and even offer, fecal transplants as a cure for a whole range of conditions such as anxiety or autism. There isn’t the evidence to support this.

How do people get a fecal transplant?

If you meet the criteria you may be offered this as a treatment for recurrent c. diff infection, or as part of a clinical trial.

Many people however seek fecal transplant privately. They will mix the donor’s stool with saline in a blender, and then administer it to themselves as an enema.

The lack of evidence for many of the claims around fecal transplant, and the risks around self-administration, are why I am not posting links to any advice sites or providers.

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