The Rise of the Do-It-Yourself Fecal Transplant

Hallie found relief from 7 years of unrelenting stomach pain at the bottom of her 3-year-old nephew’s froggy potty.

She took his stool out of the training toilet, “mushed it up” with some saline solution in a plastic baggie and then squirted it into her rectum using an empty enema bottle.

“People say, ‘Didn’t it gross you out?’ And I would say no. This was like gold to me,” says Hallie, age 40, who lives in California. She asked us not to use her full name to protect her family members.

A growing number of patients like Hallie have flocked to blogs and social media sites like YouTube and Facebook to share advice and techniques for at-home fecal transplants. A web site called PowerofPoop even helps connect people to potential stool donors for a small fee, which ranges from $30 to $200 per deposit. The recipient typically also pays for any laboratory tests, if they choose to do them, to screen their donor.

Why All the DIY?

People are going the do-it-yourself route to relieve everything from a child’s autism to male pattern baldness to bad breath, according to Catherine Duff, executive director of The Fecal Transplant Foundation, a nonprofit that is advocating for safer, more widespread access to the treatment. Based on telephone and Internet inquires to her site, she estimates that about 10,000 people do at-home fecal transplants in the U.S. each year.

“It’s crazy,” says Duff, who years ago did an at-home fecal transplant herself after doctors told her she was dying of an intestinal infection. “It’s ironic that I’m saying this because it saved my life. But now it has become a Wild West, and the things people are doing aren’t safe,” she says.

Doctors have reported cases of sudden weight gain and new bowel disease after fecal transplants. And even people who appear to be in robust health can silently carry germs they can pass to others.

Because the stool is about 50% bacteria, the theory behind the transplant is that it can replace bacteria that have gone missing from the gut. It can have dramatic results, even after a single treatment.The process of doing it at home is surprisingly simple.

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