I have known about fecal transplants for years now, but they aren’t used very widely. However, the topic came up in full force at Paleofx this year because the focus of the weekend was the microbiome. If we are 10 times the amount of bacteria than cells, it is pertinent for our bacteria to be balanced, healthy, and happy in order for our body to express health. Studies have shown over and over than when bacterial imbalance occurs, diseases such as recurrent infections, autoimmune disorders, bowel diseases, allergies, or even metabolic issues can develop. When a person is in the middle of a disorder that keeps them feeling like crap, it can be a daunting task to think about all the lifestyle changes that need to happen in addition to a treatment phase of care on top of everyday life. That’s probably the toughest part of what I do: teaching a sick person to change their lifestyle while they feel like crap. There is a quick solution: fecal transplants. Yup, donated poop from a healthy individual into the intestinal tract of a sick individual. This simple transplant has nearly cured diabetes in some, completely recovered patients from E. Coli complications, and reversed autoimmune diseases.
I think there is no question we are realizing just how important it is to take care of our bacterial health. However, in a world of convenience and quick fixes, we don’t have many that address the underlying issues. If the heart of most diseases today has a component of gut bacteria imbalance, aka dysbiosis, then this is surely the wave of the medical future. In some ways, this makes me happy that a treatment will be addressing the cause. In other ways, it is still just a bandaid. If someone develops a disease and gets a fecal transplant to address it, it’s like giving a new liver to an alcoholic without the expectation that he or she quits drinking! If the lifestyle factors that contribute to the imbalance in the first place are not addressed, the same dysbiosis will surely develop. So, once again, lifestyle medicine is crucial to treatment and success.
The other problem I see is if everyone has crappy lifestyles and so many have bacterial balance issues, who is going to donate healthy poop?! Maybe we will get it shipped from other countries. That’s a thought, although it may not have great results due to the fact that your environment and ancestry determine the appropriate bacteria levels that are healthy for you. However, this is a huge issue! If every American has issues from diabetes to debilitating autoimmune diseases, who are the donors!? Maybe this will be my side career. Myself and my healthy friends and former patients will start a poop bank. We have abundant resources if you consider the number of times one defecates in a week. It would go for top dollar! I may be on to something.
Moral of the story is: Bacterial health is crucial to your health. If you have imbalance that is severe or unresponsive to changes implemented by a knowledgeable functional medicine practitioner, a fecal transplant may be worth trying. If you were going to try it, you would need to be responsible about the donor. AND mark my words, this will be the next big thing in medicine, but it will still not make a sick person well for very long if they continue the habits that caused the imbalance in the first place. Would you take my poo? That is the question.
Tips to treat your bacteria with love:
- Stay away from synthetic medication if you can, especially antibiotics (I can help you with this if you don’t know where to start!)
- Eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies, including some tubers (bacteria love to each soluble fiber)
- Cut out processed foods (yes, that means ANYTHING in a package)
- Take a probiotic (I have links to ones I like in the “store” across the top)
- Keep stress low
- Get 8 hours of sleep a night
- Don’t be obsessed with cleanliness; using antibacterial everything kills the good guys
- Buy organic produce and don’t worry too much about having it extra clean (soil organisms actually HELP the gut)
- Don’t use essential oils for ingestion on a regular basis, they act as potent antimicrobials and should be used orally for treatment of pathogenic issues for short durations only!
- Consume bone broth regularly in order to aid in digestion, maintain gut integrity, and create a nice environment for those little bacteria of yours!