The dangers of homemade fecal transplants

2023-11-29 23:00:00

On social networks, testimonies of fecal transplants carried out at home are increasing. While fecal transplantation remains a particularly interesting treatment, doing it at home carries significant risks, such as the transmission of bacteria, hepatitis or HIV, or even perforation of the rectum.

Grafting, or fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), is all the rage in “poop” (“poop” in English, Editor’s note). Consisting of taking the stools of a healthy person to transplant them into the intestines of a recipient, with the idea of ​​improving or “repopulating” their microbiota with good bacteria, this natural practice helps to treat — with a 90% success rate — recurrent infections Clostridium difficile, a bacteria that causes stomach aches and chronic diarrhea. New research on the microbiota indicates that it may also be promising against other medical problems such as inflammatory bowel disease, depression and obesity. It is with this hope that more and more people are trying it at home. A practice which, as you will see, is not without risks.

“DIY” fecal transplant: testimonials that give hope on social networks

Following the publication of high-profile testimonies in recent months, videos are multiplying on social networks to explain how to prepare feces for fecal transplant and self-administer it. Like the testimony of Saffron Cassidy in his documentary released in September 2023 “Designer Shit, a microbiome love story” (“Designer Shit, a microbiome love story” (“ Shitty stylist, a love story of the microbiota », Editor’s note), who explains how she put an end to fifteen years of ulcerative colitis (an autoimmune inflammatory bowel disease) by self-administering “homemade” fecal transplants with her partner’s excrement.

On Reddit or TikTok, certain testimonies showing donated fecal matter capsules or donor syringes filled with excrement have millions of views and suggest that the phenomenon of “DIY fecal transplants” (Do It Yourself) yourself”, that is to say “homemade”) is gaining momentum.

One of the only studies published about DIY fecal transplants (a 2020 American study with low level of evidence, conducted by online questionnaire on 84 people) watch that they would lead few side effects (12% of cases) and mostly harmless (mainly fever and abdominal pain) and a high success rate (82% saw an improvement in their condition). However, this study was only carried out on a very small sample of people, via the Internet and without a comparison group, which means that these figures are not representative of the real risks. Indeed, Even if the risks are low, they can go so far as to threaten your life.

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Fecal transplant in a medical setting: the only way to verify that the donor is truly healthy

Usually carried out in a medical setting, fecal transplantation consists of mixing the donor’s fecal microbiota with water to administer it to the recipient then transplanting it via the anus, the nose (via a probe) or the mouth under the capsule form). Previously, the medical team checks the donor’s stools and blood to avoid transmitting harmful bacteria or viruses to the receiver. In addition to biological examinations, she will ensure that the donor has no history of cancer, digestive problems, chronic pain or autoimmune diseases, that he has not taken antibiotics or traveled to certain regions of the world in the previous three months and has no family history of inflammatory bowel disease. On average, less than 5% of donors are accepted following these tests.

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By practicing fecal transplant at home you do not carry out this type of verification and take risks, such as transmission of bacteria, fungi or, more seriously, viruses such as Epstein-Barr, HIV or hepatitis.

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Obesity, colon perforation: little-known long-term risks, even in medical settings

So, even if these testimonies bring hope and may make you want to, self-administering excrement samples from your family or close friends is not a recommended practice. Indeed, the practice of fecal transplantation is still relatively new, even when carried out in a medical setting, there can be undesirable effects. For example, a 2015 study reports the case of a woman who was successfully cured of an infection Clostridium difficile, but who ended up becoming obese after receiving a stool sample from his daughtercertainly in good health, but also overweight.

Man develops menopausal symptoms after homemade fecal transplant using mother’s stool

Homemade fecal transplants: be careful

Another example relates the case of a thirty-year-old man suffering from severe Crohn’s disease since 2006 who, for more than four years (at a daily rate at the beginning, then more spaced out), performed “home fecal transplants”. » from his mother’s stools after they were tested for possible infections or pathologies.

Despite his caution, and a considerable improvement in his intestinal symptoms, man unexpectedly started developing the same menopausal symptoms as his mother (sweating, hot flashes, mood swings), certainly due to the presence of hormones in the stools in question. Although this case is anecdotal, it illustrates the complexity of the human microbiota and the number of parameters that are difficult to control, especially when these transplants are carried out outside the medical setting.

Finally, other complications can also arise from a lack of hygiene during preparation or by causing damage, such as perforation, rectum or colon when attempting anal administration (risks which exist even when these acts are carried out by seasoned and trained professionals).

Also, avoid gambling with your health and, if you think that a fecal transplant could benefit you, instead contact a specialist to carry it out.

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Under no circumstances can the information and advice offered on the Alternative Santé site replace a consultation or diagnosis made by a doctor or health professional, the only ones able to adequately assess your state of health.

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