Faecal transplants – yes, putting one person’s poo into another’s bowel – is becoming an increasingly popular treatment for conditions like chronic fatigue, Parkinson’s, autism and irritable bowel syndrome.
More commonly, the procedure is used to replace the gut bacteria of people who have complications after prolonged use of antibiotics.
Now faecal transplants could be the new frontier in promoting good gut health, the cornerstone of wellbeing.
You can learn more about it when over 40 medical, allied health, cosmetic and wellness experts present their insights into Gut Health: The Cornerstone of Wellbeing at the 11th annual A5M Healthy Ageing and Aesthetic Medicine Conference, being held at the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins, August 6-7.
Here are seven not-to-be-missed presentations at the 11th Annual A5M Conference:
Dr Paul Froomes: Faecal Transplant; State of The Art in 2017
Dr Froomes is a consultant physician and gastroenterologist with a post-doctorate Masters degree in liver disease at the University of Melbourne and has published many scientific research papers on cirrhosis and inflammatory bowel disease. At A5M, Dr Froomes will explore the current state of faecal transplants in medicine today.
Dr Robyn Cosford: Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth; Current Understanding and Management
Dr Cosford is the founder and director of Northern Beaches Care Centre, operating for more than 20 years in the field of nutritional and environmental medicine. At the forefront of interventions for children with learning, behavioural and developmental disorders, Dr Cosford will share the latest insights into Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth and current management solutions.
Dr Peter Fields (US): Regenerative Orthopedics; Stem Cells/PRP/Prolotherapy to Repair Joints and Spine without Surgery
Dr Fields, The Athletic Doc®, is a world-renowned expert in the field of Regenerative Orthopaedics. He is both a board certified medical physician and chiropractor, and is only one of a handful of physicians in the world with both of these degrees. Speaking on Regenerative Orthopaedics, Dr Fields will explore the latest in Stem Cell, PRP and Prolotherapy treatments which offer patients the chance to avoid unnecessary orthopedic surgery and let one’s own body repair itself.
Dr Ahmed Al-Qahtani (US): Growth Factors: Harnessing Healing Power, From Restoration to Rejuvenation
Assistant professor at the College of medicine and health sciences at UAE University and a National Institute of Health (NIH) scientist, Dr Al-Qahtani will share the latest research from AQ Skin Solutions that effectiveness of naturally occurring growth factors for anti-ageing, skin rejuvenation, wound healing and for the first time in the treatment of hair loss.
Dr Thomas Guilliams (US): Fundamentals of Gut Barrier Support
Dr Guilliams, founder and director of the Point Institute, is an expert in the therapeutic uses of dietary supplements and has spent the last two decades investigating the mechanisms and actions of lifestyle and nutrient-based therapies. At A5M, Dr Guilliams will explore what is the gut barrier and how can the microbiome and immune system function to maintain that barrier?
Dr Debby Hamilton (US): Improving Brain Function with Bacteria
What if you could take bacteria to treat depression or prevent the development of Alzheimer’s? Research is beginning to explain how the bacteria in our intestine can influence inflammation in the brain leading to changes in mood and cognition. Our mitochondria are suffering under the onslaught of toxins, medicines, disease and stress in our modern lives. This mitochondrial dysfunction is also one of the underlying mechanisms in chronic disease from mental health issues such as depression to serious childhood illness, such as autism to autoimmune illness and finally Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Dr Ian Holten: Win-Win; The Fusion of Cosmetic and Medical Therapies for Optimal Skin Health
Traditionally, cosmetic appearance and mainstream treatments for medical skin conditions have been viewed by both the public and practitioners as two very separate entities. However, each has a lot to offer one another. Dr Holten will present the fusion of cosmetic and medical therapies in the prevention and treatment of medical skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, skin cancer and the ageing face, and furthermore the use of botulinum toxin for medical conditions.
BUT GETTING BACK TO POO …
A faecal transplant involves taking faecal matter, or stool, collected from a donor and mixing it with a solution. It is then strained and placed in a patient’s bowel by colonoscopy, endoscopy or enema.
The aim is to replace the recipient’s “bad” gut bacteria with the donor’s “good” bacteria.
Its use has been documented as far back as 4th Century China. The treatment has been used in modern medicine since the 1950s, but doctors are still learning about its effects.
Sydney gastroenterologist Professor Tom Borody has been championing the treatment, officially known as faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), for 25 years.
“In terms of genetics there are 3.1 million genes. That’s a hell of a crowd of individuals living in our colon,” he says.
Professor Borody is not waiting for controlled clinical trials to treat a range of diseases.
Patients travel to his Sydney clinic from as far as the UK, many of them seriously ill. They come for FMT, where donor human stool is injected into their intestines or colons.
“We know that bacteria manufacture active anti-microbial molecules so when we infuse these new bacteria they are like a factory of antibiotics that have gone in there and they weed out and kill the bug that we cannot identify,” Professor Borody says.
FMT is now recognised in the US as a first line treatment to combat an epidemic of the antibiotic-resistant and often deadly gut bacteria, C.difficile.
But Professor Borody claims he has also cured dozens of colitis and Crohn’s cases, gut diseases regarded as incurable.
“I think it’s a hell of a breakthrough to say we can cure colitis,” he says.
Today nurse Suzanne Heskett is full of energy and walks several kilometres each day, but 13 years ago she was very ill, diagnosed with Crohn’s, a disease she believed would never be cured.
“I really believe that I was so sick that I would have ended up with part of my bowel removed,” she says.
“I was going to the toilet 18 times a day. I was sitting on the toilet for hours, cramping and in pain. Then Professor Borody offered this chance of a cure.
“They put a nasal tube down into my small intestine. I had three donors – about 950 mls – and all up it took about five hours.”
Suzanne says she felt better almost immediately and over several months her condition steadily improved.
“Eleven months after having the stool transplant I had another colonoscopy to see what it looked like,” she says.
“I remember I was waking up from the anaesthetic and I heard Professor Borody say if he hadn’t known I’d had Crohn’s he wouldn’t have believed it. I was so happy.”
Ms Heskett’s colon has been healthy for 12 years with no sign of the Crohn’s infection that had kept her housebound for years.
Professor Borody believes the gut is the gateway for toxins to enter the body, triggering an array of seemingly unrelated diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s and autism.
He says he has been surprised many times when diseases far from the gut have eased or vanished following faecal microbiota transplantations.
“We’ve had a young person with rheumatoid arthritis and it went away. It was classic rheumatoid factor positive RA,” he said.
Professor Borody also claims symptoms of Parkinson’s eased in three patients treated for chronic constipation.
But scepticism is strong and, for instance, Parkinson’s groups do not recommend patients have faecal transplants.
The Australian Medical Association does not have a view on the treatment, and Medicare offers no rebate.