The People's Perspective on Medicine

How to Improve Digestive Health with a Poop Transplant

A poop transplant that alters the disturbed microbiota of a diseased digestive tract can provide surprising relief from diarrhea, pain and other symptoms.

How do you feel about poop? Most people prefer not to talk about it. That’s why we have so many euphemisms: number two, stool, feces, manure, crap or BM for bowel movement. No wonder you probably never heard of a poop transplant.

Despite our reticence about this essential bodily function, fecal transplants are now a very hot research topic in the field of gastroenterology. Though they don’t call it a poop transplant, scientists are investigating the beneficial effects of moving microbes from healthy individuals into the digestive tracts of patients suffering from a variety of severe chronic conditions.

C Diff Infections Due to Antibiotic Use:

People who receive certain broad-spectrum antibiotics such as clindamycin (Cleocin) sometimes end up with life-threatening diarrhea brought on by bacterial overgrowth from Clostridium difficile. The resulting C. diff colitis can be very hard to treat. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine (Jan. 31, 2013) reported that transplanting healthy donor feces into patients with recurrent C. diff infections was more effective than the standard treatment with an antibiotic like vancomycin.

Over the last decade gastroenterologists have rediscovered the effectiveness of the poop transplant. Doctors consider it an unorthodox treatment approach, although it was actually written up in 1958 in the journal Surgery (Nov. 1958). Denver doctors were faced with a number of patients experiencing life-threatening colitis brought on by antibiotics. They gave their desperate patients donor feces via enema to “re-establish the balance of nature” in the lower GI tract. The patients experienced “immediate and dramatic” improvement. The physicians concluded that “this simple yet rational therapeutic method should be given more extensive clinical evaluation.”

The History of Utilizing Poop Transplant:

It took more than 50 years, but many gastroenterologists are now employing this strategy. Although such microbial transplants may seem like a new concept, Chinese physicians practiced fecal transplantation as far back as the fourth century (PLOS Biology, July 12, 2016). The practice continued at least until the sixteenth century, when the reconstituted “medicine” was known as “yellow soup.” These days, Chinese scientists are contributing to medical understanding of fecal transplantation.

Overcoming the Yuck Factor:

There is a significant “yuck” factor to such a treatment. Perhaps that is why western practitioners have waited so long to explore the benefits of fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), as it is currently termed. (“Poop transplant” sounds somewhat flippant.) Although FMT is used most often for treating C. diff. infections and intractable diarrhea, doctors are also experimenting with its use for inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease (World Journal of Gastroenterology, Nov. 7, 2013) or ulcerative colitis (PLOS One, June 27, 2016). Changing the microbial ecology of the gut seems to be helpful against recurrent C diff infections even when the patients are elderly (Digestive Diseases and Sciences, online July 22, 2016).

A Personal Story:

One visitor to our website related her own story:

“I suffered with C. diff that was not fazed by Flagyl or vancomycin. My insurance company spent thousands of dollars on medications for my C. diff but it came back each time as soon as I stopped using the meds.

“I wound up in the hospital and a gastroenterologist was brought in. He tried more vanco and Flagyl, with the same lack of results. Then he said that since I was 50 and should have a colonscopy screening, he would do a fecal transplant at the same time.

“My husband was the donor and his blood and stool was tested for multiple things to make sure he was not giving me something bad. The day of the colonoscopy transplant came and I never had diarrhea again. Not even a watery stool! I felt it was miraculous and would do it again before I try any medication.”

Readers who are interested in learning more about this topic may be interested in the hour-long interview we conducted in 2014 with Catherine Duff, founder and president of the Fecal Transplant Foundation and Lawrence J. Brandt, MD, Professor of Medicine and Surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Show #935).

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Hi, as a 78 yr old half healthy male bit overweight and a bit lazy…am wondering that a dose of bacteria may put some life back in the old body yet…what effect wouldit have re the fact i take 9mg warfrine daily… thanks folks … 78 and still learning…phil australia

I have heard of more than a few folks that have had miracle cures with the the fecal transplant. I wish I had known about it when my 86 years old mother was hit with it different 6 times after getting clindimycin for a pre-dental procedures and it was on the dentist chair arm for Gods sake. So no matter how your dental surgeon or dentist is offended, either wear surgical gloves or wipe down the handles and seat of the chair before you sit. One of the worst places to get c diff, your friendly neighborhood dentist. My mother might still be alive had her immune system not be compromised with this awful thing. Same goes for MRSA, which is worse than c-diff, because you use the most potent of the antibiotics, vancomycin and another one whose name I can’t remember, MRSA can kill quicker. Destroy you vital organs, and is torture until you finally die.

As per the other reader, I had IBS. Probiotics changed everything for me.

The reason this is not more popular is because it is not chemical in nature that can be patented. If it was patentable, it would have been mainstream years ago with a huge price tag! Remember, Big Pharma , for the most part, makes the rules.

This is an excellent example of how interdependent all of us are as a social group. Our inner ecology is just as important as that of the macro-world. As may already be obvious, gut-flora sharing goes on in families all the time…and that includes what our pets have to offer.

Why do they call it a “transplant”? A transplant implies permanent installation/replacement of an organ, e.g., liver transplant, kidney transplant, etc. This procedure has lasting results but the dwelling of the donation is transient.

Why don’t they call it a “fecal infusion” or something? No wonder people are reluctant to have it done.

When I read that animals were given antibiotics so that they would gain weight, a light bulb went on for me. About 20 years ago, I was treated with a massive amount of broad spectrum antibiotics (IV and oral) for cellulitis and have slowly gained weight ever since. Doing Weight Watchers (low fat diet) actually resulted in more weight gain. I discovered way too late that a low-carb diet helps. Being overweight and alive is better than the alternative but I can’t help wondering if a “transplant” would help. Is there any research on this?

What about people who’ve already had their colon removed due to severe ulcerative colitis? Would the poop transplant help control the 10-12 daily watery diarrhea episodes they’re left with after the surgery?

I developed C Diff as a result of taking the antibiotic Cepro in 2014 and Flagyl and Vancomicin would hide the symptoms for about 3 days and it would come right back. I read about the transplant and decided I could get over the Yuck factor….this C Diff was totally miserable. I thought since I have a twin brother he would be my best donor but my doctor in Burlington, NC has nurses on his staff on a special diet and were checked often to make sure they were in good health. It took one hour and I have never had a problem since. I did panic in the beginning but soon realized that the good bacteria passed on to me was doing it’s job. So happy that this was approved and everyone should take advantage of this miracle procedure if needed.

About 12 years ago I got pneumonia and had to have 3 rounds of anti-biotics to get rid of it. As a result of taking all of those anti-biotics, the good bacteria in my digestive tract was also destroyed and my digestive system was upset. I decided to take pro-biotics to help restore the good bacteria. It worked great and I now periodically take pro-biotics to maintain good health.

There’s another story about WWII. Erwin Rommel’s troops once suffered from bacterial dysentery. Some noted that the Bedouin tribesman treated their own by eating camel poop. General Rommel ordered his men to eat camel poop and the dysentery went away. So now we know that at least some of the German Army (Wehrmacht) ate camel poop.

Would like to know if a celiac gets a FT does the donor also need to be a celiac?

I had C diff once after a hospitalization and antibiotics 25 years ago. I took vancomycin, but still continued to have diarrhea and feel bad. I finally got a bottle of probiotics, the strongest and greatest number of different species of bacteria that I could find. I emptied all the capsules into an empty enema bottle with a few ounces of lukewarm water and gave myself a retention enema, holding it in as long as possible. After that, I was cured.

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