Fecal Microbiota Transplantation: How It Works & Benefits

Fecal microbiota transplantation, or FMT for short, is a procedure where stool samples of healthy individuals are transplanted into the colon of patients with severe gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Although there is no conclusive medical evidence to prove the effectiveness of FMT, many doctors and patients believe stool transplants to be a promising treatment for these ailments. Here are some facts about this relatively novel therapeutic approach to gastroenterology:

FMT Is A Remedy For IBS And Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Fecal microbiota transplantation has been tried in patients with IBS and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), with promising results. The procedure involves taking a sample of the patient’s fecal matter and using it to inoculate the intestines of the recipient, through colonoscopy or enema, or in some cases, via a nasogastric tube. This treatment is viewed by many doctors as a way to restore the normal microflora (the “good bacteria”) in the digestive system of IBS and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients, thereby alleviating the symptoms of these gastrointestinal disorders. However, FMT should not be used to treat patients with severe gastrointestinal infections or celiac disease, as it may promote the growth of pathogenic bacteria in these patients. Fortunately, the majority of people with IBS and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) fall into the right group of recipients for FMT, which means that most people should not have adverse reactions to this therapy.

It Is An Effective Treatment For Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Many studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of FMT in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects around 15% of the world’s population. Like with IBD, FMT is usually performed in cases of refractory (not responding to standard therapies) or severe (frequent occurrences) IBS. Since IBS is a condition that involves the digestive system and its associated functions, such as digestion and nutrient absorption, it makes sense that the therapeutic effect of FMT is often observed in this population. In fact, many clinical trials are currently underway to test the efficacy of FMT in the treatment of IBS.

It Has A Few Side Effects

Although FMT is a relatively novel therapy, many studies have examined its side effects, and most of them are fairly mild and transient. The most frequent and significant side effect is abdominal discomfort, which can last for several days after the procedure. In some cases, this discomfort is so severe that it requires hospitalization. Other side effects include flatulence (an unpleasant odor often described as “farting”), oily spotting, and diarrhea. These side effects should not be a cause for concern, however, as they tend to subside after a few days. In rare instances, patients have experienced short-lived allergic reactions or hives after an FMT procedure. It is important to note that the risk of complications from FMT is very low and comparable to that of a transesophageal echocardiogram (otherwise known as a “TEE”), which is a diagnostic test for heart disease. Only 1% of patients experience mild complications from the TEE, such as esophageal pain and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). However, complications are rare and usually do not require hospitalization. Overall, FMT is a relatively safe and effective therapy for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and, in most cases, the side effects are minimal and transient.

It Is Not Yet Practical Enough For General Use

The fact that FMT is an emerging treatment for IBS and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) makes it all the more apparent how inadequate the current state of clinical research is in this area. Many experts agree that more studies are required to establish the efficacy of FMT for these gastrointestinal disorders and to understand the factors that contribute to its effectiveness. At this time, it is not yet practical enough for general use as a treatment for IBS and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In many cases, doctors will choose to use FMT when other treatments have failed and will closely monitor the recipients for signs of adverse reactions or complications.

Many unanswered questions remain regarding FMT, and there is certainly a lot more to learn about this exciting new treatment for gastrointestinal disorders. As with most emerging treatments, however, FMT is showing great promise and may represent a promising avenue for future therapeutics.