"Within one linear centimetre of your lower colon there lives and works more bacteria (about 100 billion) than all humans who have ever been born. Yet many people continue to assert that it is we who are in charge of the world."
Neil deGrasse Tyson
As children we grow up believing that poop is bad; that it’s a nasty, embarrassing by-product of our food. It smells foul so we shun it and call it ‘waste’. Poop and fart jokes are the mainstay of schoolyard humour and generate a ready snigger among adults. We are warned from a young age that poop is full of germs that apparently have no function other than to contaminate areas where they aren’t allowed and make us sick. However this is not the full story.
The truth is that we rely on poop for much more than digestion of our food. Healthy poop is as essential as blood and bone marrow to good health. There are over 500 bacteria and 30,000 subspecies growing in our gut contributing in different ways to our health, including our mental health. Amazingly the gut produces every class of neurotransmitter that is found in the brain including 95% of the body’s serotonin. Not only does serotonin control mood, but many other bodily functions including the movement of food through the gut.
All living creatures including human beings rely on a microbiome, a community of ‘good’ bacteria living in harmony with us keeping us healthy. These bacteria live on the skin, mucus membranes and in the gut. When the intestinal microbiome becomes unbalanced through anti-biotics or illness it is called intestinal dysbiosis . Dysbiosis can lead to debilitating physical and mental symptoms and a vicious cycle of ill health perpetuated by inflammation, malnutrition and the development of auto-immune conditions. The exact nature of the illness will depend on the predisposition, lifestyle and genetics of the individual.
The intestinal microbiota has been linked to a number of diseases. The Possibilities of FMT are best summed up by FMT Pioneers Professor Thomas Borody and Associate Professor Alex Khoruts:
Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) has been utilized sporadically for over 50 years. In the past few years, Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) epidemics in the USA and Europe have resulted in the increased use of FMT, given its high efficacy in eradicating CDI and associated symptoms. As more patients request treatment and more clinics incorporate FMT into their treatment repertoire, reports of applications outside of CDI are emerging, paving the way for the use of FMT in several idiopathic conditions. Interest in this therapy has largely been driven by new research into the gut microbiota, which is now beginning to be appreciated as a microbial human organ with important roles in immunity and energy metabolism.
This new paradigm raises the possibility that many diseases result, at least partially, from microbiota-related dysfunction. This understanding invites the investigation of FMT for several disorders, including IBD, IBS, the metabolic syndrome, neurodevelopmental disorders, autoimmune diseases and allergic diseases, among others. The field of microbiota-related disorders is currently in its infancy; it certainly is an exciting time in the burgeoning science of FMT and we expect to see new and previously unexpected applications in the near future. Well-designed and well-executed randomized trials are now needed to further define these microbiota-related conditions.
Extract from a medical journal in 1914:
The control of man’s diet is readily accomplished, but mastery over his intestinal bacterial flora is not…the innumerable examples of autointoxication that one sees in his daily walks in life is proof thereof. They are the cases that present…malaise, total lack of ambition so that every effort in life is a burden, mental depression often bordering upon melancholia, frequent attacks of indefinite abdominal pains due to flatulency, sudden attacks of acute diarrhea alternating with periods of constipation…A battle royal must be fought and when this first great struggle ends in victory for the Bacillus bulgaricus it must be kept on the field of battle forever at guard…
Bond Stow, M.D., on autointoxication and Lactobacillus bulgaricus – Medical Record Journal of Medicine and Surgery, 1914