Adventures in Holistic Adult and Child Psychiatry

"One only sees what one looks for, one only looks for what one knows." - Goethe

From Obesity to Autoimmune Disorders: Potential Applications for Faecal Transplant

 

Today I am going to write about a topic that fascinates me, faecal transplant. It first attracted my attention when I heard an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air with Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, a professor at Washington University in St Louis, who is engaged in a project to catalogue the human biome, the microbial communities that live in or on a human body. These microorganisms consist not only of bacteria, but viruses, protozoa, parasites and worms. At this point relatively little is known about the vast variety of these microflora, about the function and role that they play in disease states and in health.

There are 10 times more microbial cells in the body than human cells. This means that we are ten percent human cells and 90 percent microbial, and there are an estimated 100 times more microbial genes than human genes in the human body. Given these numbers, it makes sense to ask, “Who is running the show here?” We often think of disease states when we think about bacteria and other microbes, but actually these microflora perform vital protective functions, which are essential to the preservation of our health, digestion and immunity. The vast majority of these microorganisms are located in our gut.

Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride’s theory behind the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) healing protocol, is based upon the notion that deficient quantities of protective microflora in proportion to harmful species of microflora in the gut, result in a disruption of the integrity of the bowel wall. A damaged bowel allows microorganisms, toxins and food particles to leak into the body causing inflammation in the body and the brain, which cause many psychiatric, auto-immune, and intestinal maladies.  The aim of her treatment protocol is to restore the predominance of healthy flora through diet, detoxification and targeted supplementation. This is a process which requires a great deal of time and commitment in order to implement it successfully and effect a cure.

In contrast to the time and commitment it takes to heal via the GAPS diet, there has been remarkable immediate results with transplantation of feces via enema from a healthy individual to a person suffering from various disease states. The enema introduces healthy microflora into the bowel, most commonly via an enema consisting of saline mixed with stool from a healthy donor. What has been most thoroughly studied is the 95% immediate cure in patients infected with antibiotic resistant strains of Clostridium difficile, a bacteria, which in some individuals causes chronic debilitating severe diarrhea, and which can be lethal.

There have also been reports of cures for some cases of ulcerative colitis, chronic constipation, Parkinson’s disease and various auto-immune conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Diabetes Type 1 and Chronic Fatigue with faecal transplant. Some chronic fatigue patients regain their energy and mental clarity dramatically.

A procedure based on similar principles has been used in veterinary medicine on animals for centuries. Livestock farmers treat indigestion following a change in diet in grazing animals, such as cows, by feeding rumen fluid that has been sucked out of a healthy cow’s stomach to the sick animal.

One of the most fascinating potential uses of faecal transplant is in the treatment of obesity. It has been shown that the gut flora of obese and lean individuals is markedly different. Microflora of obese individuals release nutrients in food that remain undigested in lean individuals. Lean mice who receive transplanted feces from obese mice, cause the lean mice to put on weight!

Tonight when I mentioned to my teenage children what I was writing about, they all deemed it disgusting and did not want to hear about it. I don’t think its gross. We do marrow transplants for people who cannot produce blood cells, we do heart and liver transplants, why not transplants of microorganisms for those of us with deficient or pathologic indigenous gut flora?

The procedure is apparently still in the experimental stage, and there is caution and concern about introducing disease from one individual to another. Right now it is only being done routinely to treat antibiotic resistant Clostridium Difficile. I would be interested in trying it myself to treat my chronic constipation, if it became readily available. GAPS is working for me, better than anything has in the past, but it is a very slow incremental process. This procedure has the potential for immediate vast improvement. That sounds very good. It is minimally invasive, relatively inexpensive, and intuitively makes enormous sense. I believe it holds huge promise, and that we are going to be hearing much more about it in the future.

 

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32 Comments


  1. TTMacDonald, 8 months ago Reply

    Introducing healthy flora is not a new concept, but there is a ‘disgusting’ connotation to feces in general, and the associated means of delivery. Could the healthy stool be cultured, added to saline and then administered to help alleviate the ‘disgusting’ perception?


    • admin, 8 months ago Reply

      That is the method. I believe the stool is put in a blender with saline and then administered as an enema. I am not sure that is less “disgusting”.


  2. Dan Hegerich, 10 months ago Reply

    Dr. Judy,

    You are on the path to restoring health through the laws of nature. We have been duped and conditioned to believe that anything natural is unhealthy and dangerous. That is because corporations find nature a competitor to their unnatural products. They have put on a huge marketing campaign to deceive the people that nature is the problem and they have the solution. Thus we have been domesticated becoming commodities in their profit game of capitalism at the expense of peoples wellbeing.

    The logic you speak of is not only academic sense but also primal instinct! I would also like to see studies done on post cancer patients from medical treatments in order to rehabilitate them properly.

    Dan Hegerich
    Six time Cancer Survivor
    Optimal Life Coach and Holistic Health Consultant


    • admin, 10 months ago Reply

      Thanks for writing. I have seen up close and personally the devastating effect that cancer treatments have had on friends and family. For some cancers the ketogenic diet shows promise, but there is little awareness about it in the conventional cancer treatment centers, and hard to get funding for research because there is no profit to be made. Our for profit health care system creates so many problems and delivers poor misguided care that is very expensive. It’s great that you are able to make use of your own experiences to be of service to others.


  3. Mavis, 1 year ago Reply

    I’m sure you’re likely to get a number of new hits now that Michael Pollan has written his article in The New York Time Magazine, touching on many of these points. Congratulations on being ahead of the curve.


    • admin, 1 year ago Reply

      Thank you for writing. I did not see Pollan’s piece in the Times, I will look for it. How did you find this older post?


  4. Albie Cilliers, 1 year ago Reply

    Hi Dr Judy

    I just found your website searching for possible reports of Type 1 diabetics being cured by fecal transplants. This specific topic has grabbed my attention the last few weeks as well and me too are facinated by the possibilities. My 10 year son was recently diagnosed with Type 1 DM so you can imagine how much research I have done the last few months on the topic and also diet and nutrition !

    Anyway, while reading your post, I was wondering if you are aware of the recent report about synthetic ‘poop” being used to cure 2 patients. This should go a long way to get people around the “uncomfortable” issue of the topic. I have written a post about it myself if you are interested.
    http://sastocks.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/our-human-microbiome/

    Kind regards


    • judytsafrirmd, 1 year ago Reply

      Thank so much for writing. I tried to post a reply on your blog, but think that I may have been unsuccessful. I enjoyed reading your blog post and totally agree with you that making use of the human microbiome is the next frontier of medicine. I thought the information about the ear wax transplant fascinating. So far I only heard about transplanting gut flora. It is also amazing about the synthetic poop.


  5. Grace, 2 years ago Reply

    Hi Judy!

    I loved reading your article! I first heard about fecal transplants from a friend of mine whose relative tried it. She had chronic diarrhea for years and says that she hasn’t had a case of it since the transplant! She can now eat most everything with ease.

    I’ve been having some digestive issues myself. I have not been diagnosed with any major gastrointestinal disorder, no chronic diarrhea or constipation, but i do have unbalanced gut flora, candida overgrowth problems, leaky gut, and many food sensitivities. I have been following the GAPS diet now for about 3 months and have noticed improvement, but yes, it does require a lot of patience and dedication. The die-off symptoms are not fun.

    My question is if you think the fecal transplant would be a good procedure for someone like me who isn’t experiencing any extreme symptoms, but still has unbalanced flora. My thought is that it couldn’t hurt. But what is your opinion?

    Grace


    • judytsafrirmd, 2 years ago Reply

      Hi Grace, thanks for writing and I am glad you enjoyed the post. I truly wish that faecal transplant was more widely and readily available. As far as I can tell, it is only offered for cases of intractable cases of Clostridium Difficil, but I suspect that it has much wider applicability. I don’t think you would be likely to be able to have the procedure even if you wanted to have it. It is not available to people with the symptoms you describe. I think it’s a pity, because my guess is that it would be very effective. But of course, there is not much motive to do research about it, because there is little profit to be made. There are no expensive drugs to be developed. You can research a home version. I know I read about it.


  6. Gianna, 2 years ago Reply

    hello…you’re the go to gal when I get info on fecal transplants now :-)

    thought I’d share in case you hadn’t seen it:

    Gut Microbiota Transplantation May Prevent Development of Diabetes and Fatty Liver Disease
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419091026.htm

    best to you!


    • judytsafrirmd, 2 years ago Reply

      Thank you, Gianna. This is fascinating. Thank you for thinking of me!


  7. Kevin Krenitsky M.D., 2 years ago Reply

    Anyone with any intestinal ailment besides an active infection or Inflammatory Bowel Disease should ask a good alternative practitioner about daily coffee enema’s. Once routine care and a part of the Merc manual they are very helpful and therapeutic especially for those with constipation. Also they are very detoxyfying to the liver.

    Ask Dr Nick Gonsales in NYC wo uses these regulary for all his patients sick and well..


    • judytsafrirmd, 2 years ago Reply

      Hi Dr. Krenitsky.
      Thanks so much for taking the time to write. In the GAPS practitioners training in September, Dr. Natasha spent close to an hour talking in detail about the health benefits of coffee enemas for adults. (They should not be given to children) She was very much impressed with their value.


  8. Gianna, 2 years ago Reply

    Hi…maybe you’ve seen this…couldn’t help but think of you!

    “Fecal Transplants: The Straight Poop
    Journalist and author Maryn McKenna talks about fecal transplants, which have proven to be exceptionally effective at restoring a healthy intestinal microbiome and curing C. diff infections, but which remain in regulatory limbo.”

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=fecal-transplants-the-straight-poop-12-01-31

    I’ve not listened to it yet as I am traveling…have saved it for later.


    • judytsafrirmd, 2 years ago Reply

      Gianna,
      Thank you for alerting me to this. I will definitely listen! I am so happy that this issue is getting more press.


  9. Alexandra, 2 years ago Reply

    I wonder if some infants will be best candidates, fresh supply of microorganisms from their parents, no antibiotics or drugs yet; nor poor diet, nor parasites…
    It seems a good cheap “first course of action” rather than last and it is frustrating it is not truly available yet.


    • judytsafrirmd, 2 years ago Reply

      Hi Alexandra. Thanks for writing. It makes sense what you say about infants being unspoiled. I like that word. And I totally agree about it being frustrating that the procedure is not readily available. I would be eager to try it myself. I also have patients who are so ill, and I believe it would reduce their suffering quickly, and not in the slow incremental way my recommendations help. That being said, it would likely be necessary to take good care of yourself in terms of nutrition and lifestyle after the procedure, lest the benefit be lost.


      • Gianna, 2 years ago Reply

        ah…according to Natasha McBride, author of GAPS diet, infants inherit the quality of gut microbes from their parents. That’s why small children do well on GAPS to straighten out the poor gut health they are born with.


        • judytsafrirmd, 2 years ago Reply

          Absolutely!


  10. Ruth @ Ruth's Real Food, 2 years ago Reply

    I find this fascinating too. I wonder if it will ever become mainstream.


    • judytsafrirmd, 2 years ago Reply

      Hi Ruth. Thanks for writing. The whole thing makes so much intuitive sense to me.


  11. Betsy MacMichael, 2 years ago Reply

    I wonder about how one defines “a healthy individual” (the prospective donor of faeces) in this context. Is it based upon their weight? Their type and frequency of defecation? how often and from what they are sick? I consider my digestion pretty healthy, but it varies from day to day some, dependent upon diet, and other factors. Interesting article.


    • judytsafrirmd, 2 years ago Reply

      Hi Betsy. Thanks for writing and your thought provoking comment. I am not sure what they do mean by healthy, but what I assume would be someone of normal weight, without auto-immune issues, with regular digestion and bowel movements most of the time, and who usually feels energetic and well. But that is a guess. Your question caused me think about what that meant. Thanks.


    • Turnip, 1 year ago Reply

      Well Betsey there is a big study underway called the Human Bionome Project. Bigger than the Human Genome Project. The data from this study is being managed by NIH. Basically researchers from around the world have signed up for this. The study is to determine what strains of good bacteria healthy humans have throughout their bodies. They first had to agreed on what is a healthy human. Can you image that discussion? They then had to decide what parts of the body they would sample from. Then within those various areas which strains of bacteria they would run complete dna analysis. Last I heard they were still tyring to decide which strains to focus on. This is not easy since we have so many strains all over. One strain of bacteria has a much more complex dna code than an entire human being’s dna. I am sure they will be picking a lot of these strains to break down and it will take some time. Hopefully they will have the new Intel processors developed for dna sequencing that were to come out this year which will bring the cost down to only 1k for running a dna for a human which is amazing since they last processor could do it for about 200K. This also means many researchers now can afford to run dna tests on lots more humans and other stuff. This study is what stellar researchers are watching since all roads for so many illnesses lead to healthy bacteria. Once they can figure out what strains we actually should have for health then they can actually make a probiotic that will work and maybe by pass an enema transplant. Right now they sell tons of probiotics with all sorts of strains based on best guess. Hopefully this study will also provide us info on how much we need to of these strains. Right now they are just guess with probiotics.


      • admin, 1 year ago Reply

        Thanks for taking the time to write this informative useful comment. I am aware of the Human Biome project and think its very very exciting, and truly the leading edge of where medical understanding will head in the future. I believe that its going to result in a huge leap in understanding when we know more about the human biome.


  12. Gianna, 2 years ago Reply

    I agree, this is fascinating, I too have been following such news. I’m glad that even though chronically ill I’ve found GAPS and can do that. I have learned to be wary of radical procedures and this strikes me as one.

    That said, perhaps we’ll find that it is completely safe, and yes, I think that would be great, as you’re quite right, GAPS is difficult and it takes a long time, both. Not everyone finds the inner strength and faith to do it.


    • judytsafrirmd, 2 years ago Reply

      Hi Gianna.
      Thanks for writing. I am totally not a procedures enthusiastic person usually. Its just that this particular procedure, administered via enema, using the flora from a healthy donor, does not seem to me in any way radical. It feels very natural. As I mentioned in my post, analogous procedures have a traditional safe history in veterinary medicine.
      If a person were to have this procedure, be cured, and then return to the Standard American diet, stress filled life style, antibiotics and hormone exposure, and toxic environment, it seems likely that there would a regression to the previous state.
      It will be really interesting to watch what the future holds in terms of this treatment.
      And, yes, I agree, that it is the rare person in this culture who is able to follow the GAPS protocol.


      • Gianna, 2 years ago Reply

        those are all good points, yes…
        I guess it seems radical to put another persons waste…that’s all…if there is anything not healthy…but they do that every day with blood!!


        • judytsafrirmd, 2 years ago Reply

          You are right, and terrible diseases can be transmitted via blood transfusions as well. So caution and experience are totally needed.


  13. Lysa, 2 years ago Reply

    Dr. Judy this is a very interesting topic!! I have never heard of this!!

    Yes it does sound a bit disgusting but who ever thought we’d be injecting botulism into our faces and butt fat into our lips!!
    I have been slowly implementing the Gaps diet into my own lifestyle, and I prefer trying Gaps before trying this!!! Thanks for the post!!


    • judytsafrirmd, 2 years ago Reply

      That is a totally interesting analogy about the botulism. Very appropos! It’s funny, I don’t feel disgusted by the idea of fecal transplant. It seems very natural to me. But I think my reaction in not typical.


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