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Digestive Problems and the Miracle of Poop

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One Man’s Crap is Another Man’s Cure

Okay, funny heading aside, digestive problems are no laughing matter.  From Irritable Bowel Syndrome to Ulcerative Colitis, digestive problems can be a serious hindrance to an individual’s ability to live a joyful life.  I have the greatest empathy for those who suffer from IBS, Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis as my father suffered for years, as well as one of my closest friends.  The impact these conditions can have on one’s activities of daily living can be profound, any cure would be welcome, even accepting a friend’s poop.  A recent NYT’s columnist described her stool donation and how it changed her friend’s life who suffered from Ulcerative Colitis, a devastating condition characterized by stomach pain, intestinal cramps and bloody diarrhea.

Fecal Microbiota Transplant

The columnist’s friend was left with two options–go on powerful immunosuppressant drugs or have a colectomy.  The drugs might not be effective, and could possibly raise the risk of lymphoma or other fatal infections and the surgery may leave the individual with tissue that would become ulcerative in time regardless of the procedure.  But what about another option…one that involved placing the stool of your friend inside your body?  Might sound disgusting, but Gene, the columnist’s friend, decided to give it a go.

Stool as a Cure?

Using stool as a cure is not a new phenomenon.  In 16th century China, during the Ming Dynasty, fermented fecal matter was used a digestive cure.  In the 17th century, German physician Cristian Franz Paullini compiled a stool recipe book for treating digestive ailments, and fecal transplants have been used in sick horses in the U.S. for many years.  Finally, in 1958, Dr. Ben Eiseman pioneered fecal transfers as a last-ditch effort to treat digestive problems in humans.

A Hitch in the Story, But a Happy Ending

Although Gene’s columnist friend was willing to donate her stool, he encountered several hitches.  First, there are very few doctors willing to perform fecal transplants.  Then the Food and Drug Administration decided in April that it would classify human stool as a therapeutic drug that could only be used in FDA approved-clinical studies.   Sadly, Gene’s only option was a doctor in Florida who still performed fecal transfers, but Gene was too sick to travel by that time.  Nevertheless, the doctor was able to help Gene perform the transfer at home using a blender, his friend’s poop, and several other household items.  Although it has taken several treatments (starting at twice daily), Gene is finally feeling better and was able to travel to Florida recently to see the doctor in person.  His Ulcerative Colitis is much better–he is down to one ulcer and was able to return to work.  Who knew the miracles of poop?

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    Excellent article and greatly appreciated! Thank you! #cdiff