by: Dr. Craig A. Maxwell
When you visit the bathroom, what goes into the toilet isn’t meant to come back out. It’s meant to be flushed, right? Not necessarily. Thanks to emerging and promising scientific studies, your poop may soon be a prescription! Fecal transplants are exactly what they sound like. They take poop from a healthy person and place it inside a recipient with a diseased gut.
There is talk about stool banks in the near future, just as we have blood banks!
Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is not new. The first successful FMT was done in 1958. Until now, however, it hadn’t been widely discussed in the mainstream medical community. Recently, this formerly-taboo procedure has caught the attention of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are now conducting studies so it can be approved as a common medical therapy. It was designated as an investigational new drug (IND) for treatment of disease, including Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections, by the FDA in May, 2013.*
If you can get past the “ick” factor, fecal transplants have been one of the most successful therapies for those with C. diff infection. It has also been used with much success in the treatment of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
I can’t help but feel that something has once again been “adopted” by mainstream medicine from those of us who have practiced integrative and preventive medicine for many years. It was recognized long ago by integrative physicians that probiotics, now referred to in the studies as microbiota, were of great importance in the prevention, treatment and cure of many cases of inflammatory bowel disease and infections.
Fecal Transplants Cure 95% of Chronic C. Diff Infections
For the past 50 years, scientific tests have proven the effectiveness of fecal microbiota transplantation. They have been especially beneficial in the eradication of Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection. C. difficile is present in the intestinal tract of about 3% of the population. In healthy individuals, this bacterium goes completely unnoticed. However, excessive antibiotic usage can have a negative effect on the balance of good bacteria, causing C. diff to overpopulate in your gut.
Symptoms of a C. diff overgrowth include sudden onset of watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and distinctive foul stool odor, due to the bacteria’s release of toxins which attack the colon wall. These symptoms are especially indicative of C. diff if a round of antibiotics was recently given. In addition to excessive antibiotic use, chemotherapy drugs can also cause C. diff bacteria to overgrow.
Hospitals and nursing homes are rampant with this germ, so it is easy for someone with a compromised immune system to go into a facility without a C. diff infection and develop one while there. This is often due to the ingestion of C. diff spores, which can survive for long periods of time.
The overgrowth of C. difficile can be likened to the overgrowth of candida in the gut and vaginal tract. In a healthy person, candida yeast stays at acceptable levels. Excessive antibiotic use alters this healthy gut flora, causing candida to grow out of control. It’s the same with C. diff.
Critical C. diff infections can cause such severe diarrhea, weight loss, and malnourishment, that steps must be taken to keep the patient alive. This is where fecal transplantation comes in. In clinical trials, patients who received a fecal transplant from a healthy donor experienced a 95% cure rate of C. diff infection. Many C. diff infections have become resistant to the usual treatments: vancomycin and Flagyl.
The first dose showed immediate improvement and relief of symptoms with total cure experienced within a few weeks.
Fecal Microbiota Transplantation May Heal Inflammatory Bowel Disease
If you’re an inflammatory bowel disease sufferer, fecal transplant therapy may work where other treatments have failed. Conventional treatments for inflammatory bowel disease often include a combination of antibiotics to fight infection and steroids or other medications to treat inflammation.
Though it may help with symptoms in the short term, I believe this is one of the worst possible ways to treat inflammatory bowel disease.
The antibiotics completely deplete what’s left of your healthy gut bacteria (and if you have IBD, it’s not much to begin with) and the steroids lower your immune resistance, leaving you open to further infection. This type of treatment can be a vicious cycle that causes dependence, but won’t offer a cure.
Fecal transplant therapy doesn’t deplete your healthy bacteria; it gives you the healthy bacteria your diseased gut desperately needs to heal. It is one of the strongest probiotic sources on the planet and, depending on how it is administered, almost completely side-effect free.
Painful digestive conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome all have two critical components in common: Low gut bacteria and chronic inflammation. Fecal transplant therapy helps address both of these conditions at once and in a much shorter period of time.
More Health Benefits Associated with Fecal Transplant
A balance of healthy gut bacteria means fast improvement of digestion.
Reversal of Nutrient Deficiencies
Nutritional deficiencies have become a widespread epidemic due to poor diet, excessive antibiotic use, and low gut bacteria. When you have a healthy amount of gut flora, you can better absorb nutrients from every food you eat. This goes a long way in improving your overall health and vitality.
Decreased Food and Environmental Allergies
Scientific research has made a direct connection to healthy gut flora and the development of food and environmental allergies. According to a study published by the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, infants with low intestinal microbial diversity during the first month of life had increased risk for developing atopic eczema.
Stable Mental Health
The American Psychological Association published a study explaining the strong connection between gut health and brain health. These findings have lead experts to believe that probiotic therapy may become a common complementary treatment for a variety of mental health disorders.
Common FMT Delivery Methods
Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) has a few delivery methods to choose from. There is the at-home do-it-yourself procedure and some medical delivery methods to look into.
The preferred method of at-home fecal transplant therapy is the do-it-yourself enema. Parents of children with inflammatory bowel disease have been quietly implementing this method to treat their children where antibiotic and steroid treatments have failed.
Adult to adult transplants, usually spouse to spouse, have been gaining more widespread use.
Here is the procedure:
The healthy donor uses a stool softener if needed. When the urge strikes, they have a bowel movement in a clean plastic container. Using a measuring cup, the stool is scooped out and placed in a dedicated blender.
Enough saline solution is added to further soften the stool and make it easier to mix. It is then blended on a ‘pulse’ setting and strained into another clean plastic container. This mixture is poured into a well-rinsed empty enema bottle. The air is squeezed out to avoid receiver discomfort and then administered.
The receiver lies down on his or her left side and the enema is administered. The receiver lays down for a couple of hours to allow the probiotic content to thoroughly absorb into the intestines.
For critical conditions, this method has been done 5 days per week. As symptoms subside, dosage has been scaled back to once of twice per week.
For an informative video describing FMT at home in detail, click here.
While I cannot endorse the do-it-yourself method, by all accounts it has worked for many. It is mentioned here for informational purposes only, as I believe most folks do not know such a home treatment exists.
Since fecal transplant therapy hasn’t yet hit the mainstream, it can be difficult to find a practicing physician or clinic that will use this method.
Now that it has been classified as an investigational new drug, only physicians who sign up and qualify for the study may treat patients with fecal transplant therapy.
With the new ruling from the FDA requiring clinical trials, it will become more difficult to find a physician able to do the procedure. This is likely to force more patients to try the home therapy out of desperation.
The following delivery methods are used by physicians:
FMT by colonoscopy delivers a concentrated dose of fecal matter deep into the colon and intestines, ensuring maximum absorption. However, in the case of perforated, ulcerated or otherwise damaged intestines, the colonoscopy method might not be the most effective. FMT by colonoscopy may cause tears and fissures in the intestines, worsening infection.
The nasogastric tube is the most popular medical method of administering FMT. It ensures safe delivery into the terminal ileum through a tube that slips through nasal cavity and down the throat. The Mayo Clinic has been successfully using nasogastric tube delivery of FMT since 2011 with impressive and even life-changing results!
Another method of delivery in development is by FMT capsules. These capsules usually contain frozen stool samples that can ingested like any other natural supplement. This is where many patients draw the line. They just aren’t able to get past the “ick” factor.
It is very important to note that no matter what method you use, it is imperative you know your health status. This goes doubly if you’re doing it at home. Physicians will automatically test the donor for infections like HIV and hepatitis. It is crucial you get a thorough clinical work-up before donating your stool.
Effective Treatment of Digestive Disease Means Right Diagnosis
The first step in treating any type of digestive disease is figuring out exactly what type it is and what’s causing it. For my patients with chronic digestive distress, I always recommend completing a Doctor’s Data Comprehensive Stool Analysis x 3 DD Kit. This kit evaluates for parasitic infection, leaky gut syndrome, and candida while measuring dysbiotic (bad) bacteria, digestive enzymes, digestion capability, and even a count of all probiotics (the good guys!).
How to Improve Your Gut Bacteria without Ingesting Poop
If the thought of fecal transplant therapy is too disgusting for you, you’re not alone. It’s not for everyone. As one patient put it to me, “I’d only do that if it meant my life”. For some, it does mean their life. However, there are a few ways to restore your healthy gut bacteria without FMT.
Over the years, I have successfully treated many patients with C. diff infections and inflammatory bowel disease using the following natural, non-invasive methods:
No matter what type of chronic digestive condition you’re living with, diet can make or break any therapy you try. If your diet consists of mostly processed foods like fast food, microwavable meals, snack cakes, and canned foods, you’re only making your digestive problems worse. For all my patients, I recommend moving away from these food-like-products and investing in your health with a whole-food diet.
Whole foods such as organic produce, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, meat, poultry, fish, and healthy fats (coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, walnuts) will do wonders for boosting your immune system and healing your ravaged gut. Avoiding gluten is important, and absolutely necessary in the treatment of celiac disease.
I also recommend eating more fermented foods such as organic yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and organic non-GMO soy. These foods help repopulate your digestive system with the healthy gut bacteria that’s so critical for gastrointestinal health.
If you’re a soda drinker, taper off them immediately. The synthetic sweeteners, sugars, and additives in soft drinks deplete your healthy gut bacteria faster than you can put it in.
Chronic digestive disorders don’t need antibiotics, they need probiotics. So for my patients with inflammatory bowel disease, I recommend a good-quality full-strength probiotic.
Superior Probiotic Formulas
Diamond Nutritional’s Ultra Probiotic Formula is unlike other probiotics you’ve tried. Each packet of Ultra Probiotic Formula contains 225 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) complete with six different probiotic strains to populate your gut fast to boost your immune system and relieve gastrointestinal discomfort.
These strains include lactobacillus plantarum, lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium lactis, lactobacillus salivarius, lactobacillus casei, and bifidobacterium bifidum.
After one month of using this formula, my patients with gastrointestinal disorders often notice marked improvement and even complete reversal of their symptoms. After this initial high dosage of probiotics, I switch my patients to Diamond Nutritional’s Probiotic Formula. It contains 22 million colony forming units to help maintain the health of the colon, 2 million of which are actually a patient-friendly yeast known as Saccharomyces Boulardii. This wonderful yeast was discovered in lychee and mangosteen fruit in 1923. It has been shown to fight C. diff and other pathogenic bacteria in numerous medical studies. When added to probiotics, its potentiates them, allowing them to work better.
Diamond Nutritional’s Foundation Vitamins
Nutrient deficiencies are very common in people with chronic gastrointestinal problems. That’s why even if you eat a healthy diet, you still might not be getting the essential nutrients you need to enjoy optimum immune health. If you’re already taking a multivitamin, you may want to consider stopping it. Many store-bought vitamins aren’t healthy for you because they contain additives and sweeteners that make them difficult for your body to absorb.
Try Diamond Nutritional’s Foundation Vitamins instead.
Foundation’s nutrients include:
Vitamin A – 7,500 IU
Vitamin C – 500 mg
Vitamin D3 – 500 IU
Vitamin E – 100 IU
Vitamin K – 50 mcg
Thiamine – 25 mg
Riboflavin – 25 mg
Niacin – 25 mg
Vitamin B6 – 38 mg
Folic Acid – 400 mcg
Vitamin B12 – 500 mcg
Biotin – 200 mcg
Panthothenic Acid – 150 mg
Calcium – 100 mg
Iodine – 113 mcg
Magnesium – 200 mg
Zinc – 10 mg
Selenium – 100 mcg
Copper – 1 mg
Manganese – 2.5 mg
Chromium – 200 mcg
Molybdenum – 25 mcg
Potassium – 50 mg
Choline Bitartrate USP – 50 mg
Inositol – 50 mg
Mixed Tocopherols – 50 mg
Lipoic Acid – 25 mg
N-Acetyl-Cysteine USP – 25 mg
Rutin – 25 mg
Lutein – 3 mg
Boron – 1.5 mg
Lycopene – 1 mg
Vanadyl Sulfate Hydrate – 1 mg
No matter how long you’ve been suffering with an inflammatory bowel condition or C. diff infection, there is a solution. Fecal transplant therapy may be strong on the gross-out factor but it is a good treatment option for a life threatening C. Diff infection.
There are different levels of C.Diff infection, and in my experience, most can be treated through recolonizing the colon with the right high dose probiotic formula and diet change which include probiotics.
You don’t have to suffer any longer. Whether poop is your prescription or you prefer the supplement route, probiotics are where it’s at!
* As of this writing, on June 17, 2013, the FDA is reconsidering its position on the IND requirement for FMT. This comes as a result of feedback from concerned physicians and scientists that FMT is not appropriate for study under the FDA’s investigational new drug application regulations (21 CFR Part 312).