Trans-POO-sions

I haven’t spoken about poo in a while, have I? So, here’s a new use for poo…

WHAT? you say – there is only one use for poo and that’s to go down a toilet. WRONG!

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Faecal Microbiota transplantation has been viewed by many doctors as the crack-pot end of medicine but a recent study has suggested it might have a use.

What I’m talking about is a healthy person, with no nasty infections, donating their poo to have it mushed up with saline and then inserted via a tube into the intestine of the recipient. The idea is that medications like antibiotics kill off the natural bacteria in our bowels and that the usual probiotics containing lactobacillus may not replace the full range of natural organisms we need for health.

To explain the process simply, stool is put in a blender with saline (salt water), and poured into a syringe. The sick patient is then given the freshly homogenised human stool via a colonoscopy, which is done through the rectum.

The transplants are currently used to treat gut bacterial conditions such as colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Clostridium difficile, or C. diff – an infection which causes diarrhoea so severe that it kills thousands of people every year.

Tests are also being done in Europe to look at what else FMT can be used for – it is thought to be effective in treating metabolic issues, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and neurological conditions including Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinsons.

“Contrary to popular belief, stool has no waste in it – it’s a mass of good bacteria,” says Professor Borody, director of the Centre for Digestive Diseases , who does one to six transplants a week in his Five Dock clinic.

“The incoming bacteria are capable of killing bad bacteria and recolonising your gut, restoring your body’s balance and leading to a resolution of your symptoms.”

While it might sound gross, the results speak for themselves. Prof Borody has had people flying in from as far afield as Paris to undergo stool transplants in his surgery.

Many of his patients are C. diff sufferers who have been plagued with recurrent diarrhoea for years, but are cured within days.

So if FMT is so successful, why isn’t it more widely available?

“Some people just can’t get past the ick factor,” says Prof Borody. “It’s similar to any new theory or practice when it’s introduced – is very hard to get old dogs to learn new tricks. Little interest has been shown within the pharmaceutical industry. Young doctors are very much on board with FMT, it’s the old farts who are holding us back.”

Some enterprising individuals have taken up doing the job of doing it on their own by recruiting stool from their spouse or family. Some have had surprisingly good results as far as combating Crohn’s or Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms (but all the links I found in regards to this had been deleted – so, perhaps you might not want to try this one alone.)

And It All Comes Back to the Poo!

***This is NOT dinnertime reading! Do NOT read if you are easily offended, nauseous, or just don’t like to talk about bowel movements***

Isn’t it funny, we all go to the toilet, but we don’t like to talk about it, particularly number twos.

Today, I had a ‘normal’ bowel movement – but what is considered to be a ‘normal’ bowel movement?

A bowel movement should be soft and easy to pass, though some people may have harder or softer stools than others. In general, stool should be brown or golden brown, be formed, have a texture similar to peanut butter, and have a size and shape similar to a sausage. In many cases, a stool that varies a bit from this description is no cause for alarm, especially if it is an isolated incident.

It seems that most of us, especially those with IBS issues, never have a ‘normal’ bowel movement. In fact, our ‘normal’ is more likely to be those ‘really difficult to push out rabbit droppings type,’ or the ‘rush to the closest toilet explosion,’ or even the ‘my ass is dribbling type.’

Most of us who live with FM also have IBS. FM and IBS are co-diagnosed in up to 70% of FM patients. IBS (also known as irritable colon, spastic colon, mucous colitis, or spastic colitis) is a disorder of the bowel, or large intestine. It is characterized by severe abdominal pain and cramping, changes in bowel movements, and a variety of other symptoms.

It has been estimated that as many as two-thirds of all IBS patients have FM, and as many as 70% of FM patients may also have IBS. These statistics differ greatly from the corresponding rates in the general population, where only 10%-15% of individuals are estimated to have IBS. It is unknown if the two conditions are related symptomatically or causally, or if their frequent co-occurrence is merely a coincidence.

Adding pain killers to the mix can be frustrating and painful.

Now, the ‘really difficult to push out rabbit droppings type’ tends to be a constipation. Constipation means different things to different people. For many people, it simply means infrequent stools. For others, however, constipation means hard stools, difficulty passing stools (straining), or a sense of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement. This is called fecal impaction, a condition in which stool hardens in the rectum and prevents the passage of any stool.  According to reports in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, constipation or infrequent stools occur in 30% of FM sufferers.

Constipation also can alternate with diarrhoea. Diarrhoea is an increase in the frequency of bowel movements, an increase in the looseness of stool or both. It is caused by increased secretion of fluid into the intestine, reduced absorption of fluid from the intestine or rapid passage of stool through the intestine. This is the other two types of (what I refer to as) our ‘normal.’

My point to all this crap (Ha! Ha! Lol!) is that I get used to the IBS stuff: I have cramps, I take Buscopan; I have diarrhoea for too long, I take Immodium; and, if I’m constipated, greasy fish and chips seems to do the trick. But when I have a ‘normal’ poo, it feels like it is dragging all my insides out with it. It’s tiring and it’s physically draining. It leaves my body feeling empty (but not in a good way!).

So, is this what ‘normal’ feels like?

Further Reading: