Faecal Transplant: The solution for a healthy gut?

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We are only now beginning to understand the impact gut flora can have on our health. Nevertheless, a healthy gut has already been linked to a strong immune system, as well as helping to prevent many illnesses including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and metabolic syndrome.

What is a healthy gut?

A healthy gut is one that is home to a diverse range of bacteria. Different types of bacteria live off different types of food. To promote the growth of ‘good bacteria’ eating a balanced diet, containing a wide range of foods and adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables, pulses, nut and whole grains is recommended.

A healthy lifestyle including regular exercise and enough sleep are also thought to have a positive impact on gut flora.

What is a Faecal Transplant?

Faecal transplants are also known as bacteriotherapy, is a treatment for recurrent C. difficile colitis. It involves transferring donor faeces (after screening it for potentially harmful viruses and bacteria) into another person’s gastrointestinal tract.

In most cases, recurrent C. difficile colitis is a result of antibiotic therapy and symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal cramping and even fever are often experienced due to inflammation of the gut. Before faecal transplant is considered as a treatment for C. difficile colitis, doctors will normally prescribe further antibiotics.

For approx 30% of treated individuals the infection returns within a few weeks. For those suffering from a continued recurrence of C. difficile colitis, faecal transplantation is an option, which has been proven successful in 9 out of 10 cases.

Faecal transplantation is not currently used for treatment in any other condition. Although it is in its early days of research, there are studies to suggest faecal transplantation could be of benefit to those with autism. This supports the evidence that there is a link between the health of the gut and that of the brain. This has also been implied by research from Lund University in Sweden, the study showed that unhealthy intestinal flora could speed the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The future…

Further research is required to investigate this area before faecal transplantations could be widely used in such treatments. This is a relatively new area of research with a limited number of studies.

It may be a while until we have more answers, as it’s not the easiest area to research. It is hard to recruit participants as many people find this topic a squeamish subject. Also, it doesn’t get a great deal of interest or funding from drug companies.

The degree to which faecal transplantations could aid in the prevention of related illness/diseases is yet to be verified. Leading an active lifestyle with a balanced diet and enough sleep is still currently proven to be the most effective way of achieving healthy gut flora. This may help prevent related diseases int he future.

For more information on the importance of good gut bacteria please click here.