As a matter of routine, people shudder when they think of feces. The bottom line is that feces of any type, including human feces, are unpleasant. Indeed, exposed feces have the potential for presenting some very real, dangerous health risks. Understanding these realities associated with human waste of this nature, you may be like many, many people and be surprised to learn that there is a recognized procedure known as fecal transplant. Not that the topic will ever come up in the midst of dinner conversation, nor is it likely a typical person will ever seek out this type of procedure, armed with basic information about atypical procedures such as fecal transplants can be beneficial. Thus, we visit with you for a moment about the fecal transplant procedure.

Technical Definition of Fecal Transplant

We certainly understand that the idea of transplanting human poop might seem absurd on first blush. Considering the very basic technical definition of fecal transplant helps illuminate why this type of procedure isn’t laughable in and of itself. At its essence, a fecal transplant is a medical procedure through which the feces of a healthy individual are placed into the colon of a person who is ill. Some doctors have developed a more placid name for the procedure and refer to it as bacteriotherapy.

How Does Bacteriotherapy of a Fecal Transplant Work?

The bottom line (no pun intended), is that a fecal transplant works quite like it sounds. Feces from a healthy individual is placed into the colon of a person who is suffering from certain types of illness or malady. A fecal transplant is based on the premise that if a person has an appropriate level of good bacteria in his or her gut, bad bacteria that is capable of causing illness and disease is kept under control, is held in check. A transplant of stool from a healthy person to an individual who is ill restores a healthy bacteria balance in a person’s digestive system.

How Does the Need for a Fecal Transplant Even Arise?

One of the more common reasons why a person’s good bacteria balance might end up off-kilter is through the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria, with an obvious focus on bad bacteria that has the potential for making you sick. The reality is that antibiotics can also take out good bacteria in the process. This can end up causing a person’s good to bad bacteria in his or her gut to end up out of balance.

Fecal Transplant and Treatment of Diseases

The fecal transplant is a procedure that only fairly recently has started to garner more widespread attention. With that said, some research has been undertaken to ascertain what diseases fecal transplants might be helpful in treating. Thus far, research has indicated that fecal transplants may be useful in combating these diseases and maladies:

  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Cirrhosis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Food allergies
  • Diabetes
  • Diabetic neuropathy

How Is a Fecal Transplant Undertaken?

After reading this presentation on fecal transplants up to this juncture, you may have a fair and understandable question: How is a fecal transplant undertaken?

Prior to the transplant itself, a doctor collects a bowel movement from the stool donor. The feces from the donor is then blended with a saline solution. Once this is done, the mixture is strained through something as ordinary as a coffee filter.

Once this process is completed, a brown liquid is obtained. This liquid is rich in so-called good bacteria.

Prior to actually undergoing a fecal transplant, a patient is restricted from taking any antibiotics for a period of two weeks. Having antibiotics in a person’s system would defeat the purpose of having good bacteria placed into his or her body via a fecal transplant.

The day before the scheduled fecal transplant, a patient is placed on a liquid diet. The individual scheduled for a fecal transplant will also use powerful laxatives prescribed by his or her doctor. (This process is similar to what a person undergoes prior to obtaining a colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer.)

On the day of the fecal transplant itself, a patient is provided with a drug called loperamide. This medication is designed to prevent diarrhea from occurring after the procedure. It is designed to “hold the transplanted feces in place” within your gut to optimize the effectiveness of the procedure.

A fecal transplant typically takes place in a hospital. A patient receiving a fecal transplant is “put under” using anesthesia. The doctor injects the donor fecal liquid containing good bacteria into the patient’s gut. The liquid is injected deep into a patient’s colon using what is known as a colonoscope. As the name of the device indicates, this is the same type of instrument that is used during a colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer. 

Who Can Donate Stool for a Fecal Transplant?

Not everyone can donate stool for a fecal transplant. Potential donors – and their poop – are closely, thoroughly screened. Potential donors and their stool is checked for infections and the presence of drugs that could be passed on to a fecal transplant recipient. A stool donor cannot take antibiotics a month before making a feces donation.

A fecal donor cannot have any of the following:

  • A compromised immune system
  • IBD or inflammatory bowel disease
  • History of illegal drug use, drug abuse, or drug addiction
  • Ever been incarcerated in prison
  • Received a tattoo or body piercing during the previous six months
  • Travel to areas where exposure to certain infections was possible

Can People Do Fecal Transplants on Their Own?

In a word, no – people cannot do fecal transplants on their own. A person could end up with serious health complications if they attempt a so-called do-it-yourself fecal transplant. 

More information about fecal transplants is available from the Fecal Transplant Foundation.