In his October 9th New York Times Op-ed, Moises Velasquez-Manoff asks the question:
“Why [aren’t] doctors [working] harder to prevent [the collateral damage of antibiotics], not with store-bought probiotics, but with ‘microbial restoration’?”
The microbial restoration he’s referring to is the process of using your own stool (autologous fecal transplant) to recolonize your gut when you need it; usually after your microbes have been depleted by antibiotics, anti-bacterial cleansers, birth control pills, steroids, NSAIDs, acid-blocking drugs, alcohol, chemotherapy, a sub optimal diet, or any of the myriad of threats to your microbiome that are so prevalent these days.
But is banking your own stool really a fix for microbial depletion and a plausible way to achieve better health?
The quick answer is it depends.
The Western lifestyle is inundated with microbial disruptors – can we continue to indulge in our over-medicated, high-sugar, low-fiber, super-sanitized practices and simply thaw our stool when we’re feeling out of whack or showing signs of microbial discord? Probably not.
Microbes have short lifespans, some just a few minutes. To successfully keep the “good” microbes alive long enough to restore microbial balance, we need to nourish them (and ourselves!) with a high-fiber, plant-based diet and steer clear of microbial disruptors. Using stool as a quick fix, and continuing a lifestyle that encourages microbial depletion will make your fecal transplant null and void. Boosting your autologous transplanted microbes by optimizing your diet and environmental milieu will help to ensure that they stick around long enough to reproduce and recolonize your gut.
Research on the efficacy of fecal transplants (autologous or from a donor) for microbial restoration and as a treatment for disease is still in its infancy, but as Vasquez-Manoff points out, restoring the microbiome with “microbes we already carry…may be one way to prevent infections and some percentage of lifelong, chronic diseases…”
Be on the lookout – as stool banking and fecal transplant research evolves, you just might find me saying, “Live Dirty, Eat Clean, and Freeze Your Stool!”
By: Dr. Robynne Chutkan