Fecal transplants (FMT), the process of putting a healthy person’s fecal matter into another person’s colon, has been approved as a procedure to treat Clostridium difficile by the FDA, and is currently under trials to treat other diseases such as food allergies and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Costing upwards of $1500 for one dose however, many are turning to the internet for a cheaper way to access the treatment- DIY style.
In particular, people interested in performing FMT on themselves use resources such as Facebook groups and Youtube to learn how to carry out the procedure. Typical at-home practices include having donors send them their own fecal matter (which they urge is healthy via a series of testimonials and self-reported medical data), and then using a blender and a strainer to create a concoction to be syringed into their rectums.
To see the extent to which people are willing to try out this investigational treatment, Colleen Kelly, a researcher at Brown Medicine Gastroenterology and Liver Research, and her team conducted a study to assess those interested in, and claiming to have done, the DIY procedure.
To do so, they created a 25-point cross-sectional survey and posted it online via the websites and social media pages of the Peggy Lillis Foundation, The Fecal Transplant Foundation and the Power of Poop between January 2018 and February 2019.
In the end, 84 people completed the survey, most of them being female (71%) and white (80%). While 80% of the respondents had reported giving themselves fecal transplants, 87% reported to have used internet resources to aid the process, with half claiming to have gotten advice from a healthcare professional. Meanwhile, 92% knew who had donated them the fecal matter, with inflammatory bowel disease and IBS accounting for 35% and 29% of the conditions that the respondents wanted to cure.
Surprisingly enough however, although 12% reported adverse side effects, 82% reportedly experienced improvement in their condition. Also, 96% of respondents said they’d do it again, while 43% reported to have performed more than 10 of such procedures.
Kelly said, “There’s this strong placebo effect: ‘I did something that’s supposed to make me feel better and now I’m more in control...It’s tough to know what’s going on.”
Although she recognises the apparent positive effects of those who have undergone the DIY procedure, Kelly nevertheless encourages those interested in FMT to either have one administered under proper medical supervision, or look to other approved treatments for their issues.