Should I perform a DIY Fecal Transplant on myself?
August 29, 2013 12:29 PM   Subscribe

I've been suffering from chronic abdominal pain, diahrea and nausea for about 5 months. I feel that a year and a half use of the antibiotic tetracycline may be responsible for my symptoms. I greatly regret taking tetracycline for so long but I was ignorant to the effects of long term antibiotics, my doctor assured me it was safe, and my parents took it for years for acne problems and they did not experience these side effects. (I wrote all of this in earlier questions but it is still a psychological hindrance to me day to day.) I am thinking of trying a DIY Fecal Transplant which may alleviate my symptoms. This method has already had amazing success with C. Difficile patients and Ulcerative Colitis patients. I have asked a G.I. doctor I'm seeing and he said that this could not be done for my condition currently. I though think it is worth a shot if I can find a donor who is healthy overall, has good digestive health and doesn't smoke and has a limited history of antibiotic use. All doctors seem to suggest is eat more fibre and take tylenol for the pain. I have found this to be unhelpful. Other than that they do not have any ideas as how to ease my pain and stop the other symptoms. I hope that this process will infuse healthy bacteria into my colon and alleviate my symptoms. What do you think about this idea?
posted by Jack V to Health & Fitness (40 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Why on earth would you do any medical procedure on yourself, let alone one that deals with fecal matter and very, very sensitive area? I'm saying this as a person who has literally given herself STITCHES IN HER LEG, DO NOT DO THIS.
posted by banannafish at 12:31 PM on August 29, 2013 [21 favorites]

No. This is a bad idea. This is a thing you should do under the supervision of a doctor and if you have a doctor who says this is not right for your condition, you have a right to a second opinion which I suggest that you get. Your questions show a long history of medical anxiety and concerns about this and other issues. I would wait until your appointment with the social worker that you said you had scheduled and hold off on any major self-medicine until you can get a professional opinion.
posted by jessamyn at 12:32 PM on August 29, 2013 [27 favorites]

Have you read the threads on Healing Well that deal with this? There are a ton of people who do it themselves.
posted by janey47 at 12:33 PM on August 29, 2013

Your doctor says no. He knows your medical history better than anyone here. Why do you think anyone could give any other (informed!) answer?

Get a second opinion from a doctor if you want to pursue this treatment with a doctor. I doubt any layman or medical professional here will say otherwise.
posted by supercres at 12:33 PM on August 29, 2013 [9 favorites]

I think this is a terrible idea. I am not a doctor.

Do you have C. Diff or ulcerative colitis? It sounds like no. Fecal transplant works very well for C. Diff but not particularly well for UC, for starters, so it is far from a miracle cure. It's also not particularly safe when performed at home without proper tests for donors and recipients. I know of far more people (personally, anecdotally) whose symptoms worsened after FMT than those who went into remission (this is with regard to UC).

It sounds like what you really need is a GI who is more interested in giving you a diagnosis and adequate treatment. Have you been diagnosed with anything? Have you had upper and lower scopes, a contrast CT, MRI/MRE? This question needs a lot more info.
posted by telegraph at 12:33 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Well, I guess I was wrong. Please don't listen to anyone other than a doctor who has seen you in person and is familiar with your medical background.
posted by supercres at 12:34 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

All your doctors tell you this is a bad idea, so you are now asking non-medically-qualified strangers on the internets if you should do a DIY poop transplant? What?

posted by elizardbits at 12:37 PM on August 29, 2013 [36 favorites]

Did the GI doctor tell you why it couldn't be done for your condition? S/he might have some insight as to why not, or it could be as simple as s/he doesn't like the procedure, in which case you could look for a new doctor. But no, I wouldn't DIY that.
posted by feets at 12:41 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since you have neither c. difficile nor ulcerative colitis it's not even clear why you think this might help...?
posted by kmennie at 12:45 PM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

It sounds like what you really need is a GI who is more interested in giving you a diagnosis and adequate treatment. Have you been diagnosed with anything? Have you had upper and lower scopes, a contrast CT, MRI/MRE?

This. Have you seen a gastroenterologist? That is the kind of doctor you need. And you want one who is willing to work with you to get a diagnosis. "Welp, I dunno, take some Tylenol" doesn't cut it.

See a gastroenterologist. If necessary, get a referral from your PCP. If you are seeing a gastro doc and they aren't helping, get a second opinion. Fecal transplants have been miracle cures for some, but you really do not want to mess around (ha!) with your digestive tract and other people's poop without professional guidance.

I have lots of sympathy for you, as "welp, I dunno" is not a helpful diagnosis, and chronic illness can be hard to diagnose and cure. Not all doctors are knowledgeable or capable. But you want to find one who is, rather than do a dangerous DIY procedure.

On preview: what Cranberry said. Try eating yogurt and taking probiotics. Go to the Vitamin Shoppe or Whole Foods and get probiotics kept in the refrigerated section, and take some of those every day. I've done this once after a colonoscopy (fun!) and once after a severe bout of stomach flu and the strong probiotics righted my digestive system quickly.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:45 PM on August 29, 2013 [8 favorites]

I though think it is worth a shot if I can find a donor who is healthy overall, has good digestive health and doesn't smoke and has a limited history of antibiotic use

Before we even get to the part for which you need to be a doctor to perform, how are you even going to find a donor and verify them?

Medical donors of any sort go through extensive medical screens that you can't just order like a hamburger at a diner. I assume you're not about to have your potential donor go to a doctor and tell them they need a screen for an unlicensed, back-room fecal transplant, right?
posted by griphus at 12:45 PM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

How will you test the donor stool for infectious diseases?
posted by Houstonian at 12:46 PM on August 29, 2013 [15 favorites]

Many people who take antibiotics for extended periods benefit from eating yogurt. That is a lot safer than fecal ingestion.
posted by Cranberry at 12:46 PM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you have a recurrent C. difficile infection — that's not clear from your question — and you can line up a sympathetic donor (i.e., someone else — not DIY, since you'd be reinfecting yourself and making yourself sicker) and a GI specialist who is amenable, you may want to pursue this option.

It is a medical technique that seems to work for many C. diff-infected people here in the US and abroad, who have symptoms like yours that are not treatable with heavy-duty and expensive antibiotics.

I've been a donor for a family member. After being tested for parasites and blood-bourne diseases like hepatitis and HIV, it was easy — two cups of coffee did the trick on my end.

My "donation" was processed by hospital lab and then administered while said relative was under twilight anesthesia for a colonoscopy. It was basically a tube up the butt, sample administered into the colon, and then removed.

It worked for this person, who had recurrent C. diff. It might work for you, depending on your situation. However, DIY is out of the question if you have an infection — as mentioned, you'd reinfect yourself and make yourself sicker in the bargain. You need to have this done by a trained doctor, and you need another donor with a clean sample, collected and administered in a manner that won't sicken or kill you.

Whatever is ailing you, it sounds like you need to find a better GI specialist, at the very least, if your symptoms are not clearing up.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:48 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ok, so this is a pretty new procedure and many doctors are not likely to support it. Just cause your doctors say no doesn't mean the procedure wont help you. The solution is not to do it yourself, but to find a doctor that has performed the procedure before and consult with them. This might be hard or even impossible for you, but as folks above have pointed out it can also be pretty dangerous to perform a non-trivial medical procedure on your own.
posted by cubby at 12:48 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ask for another opinion if you really want to. But in reality, try eating some Activia, or going to the health food store and buying acidophilus supplements. You can easily reintroduce healthy flora through your diet.

The only reason fecal transplants are so successful in C. Diff patients is that the C. Diff has moved in and taken over the gut, and it takes a very concentrated dose of healthy bacteria to restore balance. This is not your case. You probably have very little bacteria, rather than an imbalance - so reintroduce naturally through diet and you'll be fine.

Also - donor stool is heavily screened, then goes through a number of very specific procedures in the lab to isolate the bacteria that will be reintroduced. There's not really any fecal matter that goes into the recipient anyway, just a slurry of bacteria basically. So there's no way you could even attempt this on your own without real lab equipment and the know-how to do it properly.

Yogurt FTW here.
posted by trivia genius at 12:49 PM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Regarding donors, I understand that people have used the feces of their partner or that of an infant.

I haven't done this myself, but I wouldn't rule it out. I understand your thought process, i.e., that your tetracycline use has disturbed the bacterial environment in your intestines, and I understand why you think FT could help, but have you tried probiotics yet? I would do that first. I'm a big fan of Renewlife 80 billion but you might also consider Florastor or another s.boulardii probiotic.
posted by janey47 at 12:50 PM on August 29, 2013

Also where precisely do you intend to solicit potential donors? In person? Online? Via a newspaper ad? How will you know if their samples are healthy or not? Do you intend to simply take their word for it? Will you have samples tested?

Also also, for everyone who is telling the OP to see a gastroenterologist, please note that the OP mentions "I have asked a G.I. doctor I'm seeing and he said that this could not be done for my condition currently". That is a gastroenterologist.
posted by elizardbits at 12:55 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hmm. Now I wouldn't recommend doing this yourself, but what a lot of commenters here don't realize I think is that this procedure sort of has a "cult following" as a DIY thing, and there's tons of posts about it and even a .org website dedicated to doing it.(which looks a bit sketch and DIY itself, but anyways)

There is definitely a track record of people doing this themselves. Whether that makes this a better or worse idea I'm not really qualified to say, but Jack didn't just come up with this idea as some hair-brained thing in a vacuum. And every post I've come across on it when it shows up on sites I regularly read notes that lots of doctors are very dismissive of it and some seem to even see it as woo.

I, personally would still say find another doctor. But you're definitely not the first or even the 100th person to have this idea.
posted by emptythought at 12:59 PM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

First off -- yes, please make sure you're seeing a well-respected gastroenterologist. I've never had a doc prescribe Tylenol for my digestive tract pain. Please, please, PLEASE don't do any sort of DIY fecal transplant (or any other sort of procedure on yourself) without seeing a doctor. Have you been diagnosed with any sort of digestive disease or disorder?

I second all those suggesting yogurt or kefir. I also think introducing fermented foods (sauerkraut, kombucha, real sourdough bread, kimchi) can help get your gut flora back to the state it's supposed to be in.
posted by singinginmychains at 1:00 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

[folks, please just answer the question]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:03 PM on August 29, 2013

(I wrote all of this in earlier questions but it is still a psychological hindrance to me day to day.)

In your prior posts you talk about being advised by professionals who know you to treat your anxiety and to take probiotics to repopulate your gut flora. Comments in those threads from non-professionals who don't know you suggest the same things.

Are you treating your anxiety and taking probiotics?
posted by headnsouth at 1:08 PM on August 29, 2013 [8 favorites]

When I had to have a very strong course of multiple antibiotics (both IV and oral), my doctor actually prescribed probiotics for me to take. This probiotic was granules that were to be kept refrigerated and sprinkled in cold juice or food.

For this reason I suspect that probiotics would help you, but you do want to get the really strong stuff that is kept refrigerated, as well as yogurt, kefir, and other fermented foods. Antibiotics kill "good" bacteria as well as bad, and probiotics will replenish the good bacteria that you need.

And it's okay to change doctors if your doctor isn't helping you. I know it may not always be possible but try to at least get a second opinion, even if you have to go outside your HMO (if you have one) to do it. A doctor who shrugs and tells you to just take Tylenol isn't a very good doctor, and you have the right to find a doctor who will help you.

I don't think the idea of a fecal transplant is crazy - it has helped many people - but I don't think it's a good idea to just DIY. Try to exhaust less invasive options (such as probiotics and switching doctors) first.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:10 PM on August 29, 2013

As a relatively educated person but a definite non-doctor, I think a big problem with the DIY version is that you won't have access to the tests to properly screen the donor for communicable diseases or gut flora that you really, really don't want introduced into your system. From a disease perspective, fecal matter is pretty nasty stuff.

If you're living with a loved one who is healthy and willing, you might decide you're willing to take the risk since you're already living together and thus share any disease (this is far from certain, of course), but I'm suspecting from the wording of your question that that isn't the case.

It really would be smarter if you could find a doctor who was willing to work with you on this, because they can order the labwork that will at least ensure that you aren't making your problems worse by spreading disease to yourself.
posted by zug at 1:12 PM on August 29, 2013

I am not denying that you are suffering right now, but I think the answer here is still the same as it was in this question, this one (in which you said I constantly research posts online from people who took tetracycline for years and have horrible Gastrointestinal pain/problems for years/decades with no cure. It has become an obsession to find people who have had horrible side effects from tetracycline. ), and your first one.

You need to get treatment for your anxiety. Not tomorrow, today. Read your question again.

You need to get a second opinion from a reputable GI.
posted by inertia at 1:18 PM on August 29, 2013 [18 favorites]

Seconding finding a doctor that has done this before. If you want, you can find the ones who have written or been interviewed about it, contact their clinics, look for referrals.

I think there may also be risks with certain donors - there may be a procedure for screening donors. Learn more, find experts, get multiple opinions.

We've been hearing about successes with this procedure lately, but not much about the risks -- I have no idea what the risks would be.
posted by amtho at 1:23 PM on August 29, 2013

Look, I am not at all opposed to the general idea of an at-home fecal transplant. IN YOUR CASE, for someone who does not appear to have a bacterial infection and has existing issues with health anxiety, I strongly oppose it. Find a gastroenterologist and a psychologist that you feel you can trust and listen to what they tell you.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:27 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's really not something you should DIY, sorry. I sympathize that going to doctors who aren't listening to your concerns is really not fun, and while you definitely sound like you are suffering from health-related anxiety, that of course doesn't mean that nothing is wrong or that it's all in your head or something.

That said, you are severely jumping to conclusions here and this procedure could easily mess you up further - think hepatitis, giardia, shigella, norovirus, E. coli, H. pylori, etc., etc. Fecal transplants for C. diff are not woo, but you a) don't know that you have C. diff and b) would not be able to adequately screen potential donors, track your progress, or care for yourself if you reacted badly.

My advice would be to both seek treatment for anxiety (you can at least rule it out as a cause this way, plus it would be a useful signal to your docs that you're also listening to them) and go to a GI specialist.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:45 PM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

...think hepatitis, giardia, shigella, norovirus, E. coli, H. pylori, etc., etc

I came here to say exactly this! Not to mention, what your donor's gut may be adapted to, your gut may have serious reaction. This is something done under medical supervision.

That said, see a gastroenterologist, and try some at home food elimination trials for common food irritants such as wheat, dairy, etc.

I'd first try a couple weeks of yoghurt and other fermented dairy, kimchi or organic sauerkraut, wine, lactobacillis and acidophilus tablets, etc. Judicious accompaniment of a dish of beans for dinner may cause your stomach to adjust, or may upset it.

Fecal transplants.
Don't do this at home, folks.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:16 PM on August 29, 2013

The answer to 'should I DIY this medical procedure?' is virtually always no. I imagine you must be suffering quite a bit to even consider this course of action; if you go forward against medical advice you could compound your suffering even more.

Get a second opinion if you're not happy with your current treatment but don't do this.
posted by Space Kitty at 2:33 PM on August 29, 2013

I feel that a year and a half use of the antibiotic tetracycline may be responsible for my symptoms. I greatly regret taking tetracycline for so long but I was ignorant to the effects of long term antibiotics, my doctor assured me it was safe, and my parents took it for years for acne problems and they did not experience these side effects.

Honestly, what you feel about your medical problems doesn't mean (excuse the pun) shit. If you are the type of person that was "ignorant of the effects of long term antibiotics", than perhaps it would behoove you to get the advice of TWO OR MORE doctors before engaging in any kind of prescription medication or medical procedure.

Good luck and get several PROFESSIONAL opinions.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:47 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

So, I don't have the slightest clue myself, but perhaps the community does: *how* can the OP see a GI specialist? Particularly if the OP wants to see one who will consider fecal transplant as an option (in case the OP does happen to have a condition which responds well to that treatment)? Most insurance setups in the US require a referral. How should the OP ask for this, and whom should the OP ask?

And for a second opinion, what's the procedure for getting one? You can't exactly just wander in to a random doctor's office.

(I expect this is largely insurance-dependent, but if anyone has some general advice about *how* to do this, or even how to find out how to do this, it might be useful.)
posted by nat at 3:04 PM on August 29, 2013

If you need a referral to see a specialist, generally you go to a generalist to get one. A Primary Care Physician or the like. You know, the ordinary doctor you go to with an ear infection or whatever.

As for the OP's question ... don't. You have neither the expertise nor the equipment to do an actual fecal transplant - there's a lot more involved than just shoving someone's poop up your butt. Best case situation is that nothing happens, but most likely you will make yourself very, very sick.
posted by kafziel at 3:17 PM on August 29, 2013

*how* can the OP see a GI specialist?

They are already seeing one. So, the same way.
posted by Houstonian at 3:59 PM on August 29, 2013

I'm surprised it hasn't come up as a suggestion - Saccharomyces boulardii, it's not the typical probiotic but it can be very helpful with cdiff...

Culturelle is the best probiotic I've used - excellent for traveler's diarrhea as well as for re-establishing good bacteria after antibiotics....
posted by NoDef at 4:02 PM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

In a previous question, you talk about medical anxiety. I wonder if that could be a large source of your trouble. Also, are you lactose intolerant? Or rather, have you become so as an adult?

I used to drink milk by the quart, ice cream by the half gallon, and Chicago-style pizza with aplomb. After thirty, i started having loose stools, emergency shits, just all kinds of unpleasantness. Turns out I'd become lactose intolerant. I now keep lactaid on hand for cheese, ice cream, etc.

To the meat of your question: jesus god no, do not to a DIY fecal transplant.
posted by notsnot at 7:25 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are other ways to heal the gut (google!) and to repopulate the gut flora. Try some potent probiotics (biokult and Prescript Assist on Amazon) and homemade kefir. Bone broths as often as you can is fantastic. Best of luck!
posted by Neekee at 10:24 PM on August 29, 2013

Self administered home fecal transplants are a thing,
Success of Self-Administered Home Fecal Transplantation for Chronic Clostridium difficile Infection
BACKGROUND & AIMS: Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) can relapse in patients with significant comorbidities. A subset of these patients becomes dependent on oral vancomycin therapy for prolonged periods with only temporary clinical improvement. These patients incur significant morbidity from recurrent diarrhea and financial costs from chronic antibiotic therapy.
METHODS: We sought to investigate whether self- or family-administered fecal transplantation by low volume enema could be used to definitively treat refractory CDI.
RESULTS: We report a case series (n  7) where 100% clinical success was achieved in treating these individuals with up to 14 months of follow-up.
CONCLUSIONS: Fecal transplantation by low volume enema is an effective and safe option for patients with chronic relapsing CDI, refractory to other therapies. Making this approach available in health care settings has the potential to dramatically increase the number of patients who could benefit from this therapy
They appear to be both safe and effective for the treatment of a few chronic conditions, but it sounds like your doctor is entirely right about this not being a thing for you.

Your GI doc, not even a PCP but a real live specialist in exactly this, has told you that this is not a thing for you with access to your full medical history, which we do not. If you have concerns about the advice they have given you the only appropriate advice we can give you is to see another GI doc. Having access to your AskMe history though, these are indeed symptoms that anxiety can totally cause, which I would suggest as a better etiology to get medical help addressing.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:25 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your symptoms sound like SIBO. That can be cleared up with some pills, not ingesting someone else's fecal matter.

I vote no until your doctor has identified your condition and you know this is a thing that can work.
posted by mrfuga0 at 4:48 AM on August 30, 2013

IANAD There's a lot of interest in fecal transplants to re-populate gut flora, and I hope there's a lot of research, but it hasn't been well documented for anything but C. diff. Before you embark on the DIY project, perhaps you could contact physicians who are doing it in a clinical setting. These articles mention health care providers who do FMT:
Ohio hospitals now performing fecal transplants for patients with stubborn cases of C. diff
Therapeutic Fecal Transplant: Hope for Cure of Childhood Diarrhea Comes Straight from the Gut

It's a good idea to try less invasive methods 1st. A couple months of probiotics could help a lot, with no/low risk. Can you see a nutritionist and get some professional help with diet for your gut issues? And can you see a different doctor for a 2nd opinion? I recommend both.

If you decide to do DIY, getting the donor screened for hepatitis and HIV is part of the protocol, so please ask your donor to be tested.
posted by theora55 at 6:57 AM on August 30, 2013

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