The possible healing properties of our poop.

 

We are always looking for innovative new treatments, from immunotherapy to gene therapy to novel antibiotics. But what if we had innovative new treatments inside our own body, namely our gut bacteria?  

What if some people’s gut bacteria could be used for treating other people’s diseases?

It has happened in the past.

The past and present use of people’s microbiome (a sophisticated name for bugs in people’s poop).

In the 4th century in China, medical doctor Ge Hong created a new treatment for diarrhea. It was called “yellow soup” and was a broth made with… not lemons, not yellow bell peppers, but the poop of a healthy person.

I can imagine you, reader, grimacing. Yet, this “yellow soup” worked very well in treating diarrhea.

More recently, when people are exposed to long antibiotic treatments, not only are the culprit bugs destroyed, but all their good bacteria are destroyed too. As a result, some people’s guts are colonized by a very-difficult-to-treat bug called Clostridium Difficile (C. Diff.) and despite additional antibiotic treatments, these patients sometimes develop recurrent C. Diff. infections.  

Since no other treatment can kill these recurrent infections all of the time, some physicians try to use healthy people’s poop, sometimes using the sexual partner’s poop to treat the infected person (used as an enema). And—surprise!—the partner’s poop often cures the infected person.

Dr. Jessica Allegreti from Harvard University mentions in Harvard Health Publishing that Fecal Microbiota Transplants (FMT) have a cure rate of 80 to 90 percent with very often only a single treatment in cases of recurrent C. Diff. infections.

How FMTs work their magic isn’t yet explained, but one theory is that “healthy” bugs in our guts may secrete bactericidal compounds that kill C. Diff. Another theory postulates that when healthy bugs are restored through a transplant, they outcompete C. Diff. for nutrients.

But what if FMTs (and the bugs contained in people’s poop) could be used to treat diseases other than C. Diff. infections?

What if FMTs could be used to treat Crohn’s disease or recurrent urinary tract infections? What if FMTs could treat mental illness, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, and even obesity? What if FMTs could work against cancer?

Originally Published on Psychology Today

© Dr. Chris Gilbert, MD, PhD

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