Smart dieters consider what they eat, how and when they exercise, and countless other factors when they want to lose weight. But what about their poop − or, more specifically, their digestive health?
Digestive health is closely tied to your intestinal bacteria, or gut flora. Gut flora is a complex community of microorganisms that is important for both your health and weight. There are many ways you can improve your gut health, including:
- a diverse diet rich in vegetables, legumes, beans, and fruits
- fermented foods
- prebiotic foods
- whole grains
- avoiding artificial sweeteners
However, some dieters still struggle with digestive health − and weight loss − even after taking steps like those above. If the same applies to you, a fecal transplant − also known as the poop diet − may be the answer you’ve been searching for.
What is the poop diet?
The poop diet − or fecal transplant − is a procedure where a doctor will collect fecal matter from a tested donor, mix it with saline or another solution, and place it in the patient by colonoscopy, endoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or enema.
The basic premise of the procedure is that a person’s good gut bacteria has been impaired in some way, meaning that it needs to be replaced. Doing so will significantly reduce bad bacteria from spreading or otherwise overpopulating the intestines.
People most commonly experience this problem after taking antibiotics, which can cause bad bacteria (Clostridium difficile or C. diff.) to spread. These bacteria spread toxins that not only harm cells, but can be deadly. They also cause common symptoms such as colon inflammation, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
Before you can undergo a fecal transplant, you must identify a potential donor. Generally speaking, donors should not:
- have been on any antibiotics in the last six months,
- have had any tattoos or piercings in the last six months,
- have any history of drug use or high-risk sexual behavior,
- have any chronic GI disorders, or
- have traveled to endemic areas.
Fecal transplants can also help treat other digestive discovers, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis.
How the poop diet heals the gut
The idea of “transplanting fecal matter” is disgusting to most. However, it serves an important purpose and can play an instrumental role in healing a bacterial infection that isn’t responding to antibiotics.
Transplanting a healthy person’s fecal matter into the intestine of someone with inadequate gut health is a simple way to restore balance to the digestive tract. That’s because the fecal matter contains the good bacteria the body needs to fight the bad bacteria. More importantly, fecal transplant means a person won’t be forced to fight the bacteria with antibiotics, which will only send the bacterial balance further from where it should be.
Fecal transplants for weight loss
While fecal transplants are often used to treat bacterial infections, they can be used for weight loss too.
Gut health is inextricably linked to:
- how the body stores fat
- how the body balances levels of glucose in the blood
- how we respond to hormones that regulate hunger
With the wrong internal balance of gut flora, some are setting themselves up for obesity and even diabetes, whether due to genetics or external factors such as diet.
Recent studies reveal that gut bacteria could play a role in obesity. This is because gut bacteria are strongly tied to visceral fat levels, or fat stored in the abdomen near your vital internal organs.
While these studies have not yet been fully explored and require more research for validation, the connection between gut bacteria and visceral fat based on six measures of obesity is promising for those struggling to lose weight. Other studies that predate this one have found that leaner individuals often have a gut bacterium called Christensenella in their systems. This is also suggestive that at the very least, those who are lean and those who are overweight have different gut health makeups.
Of course, factors like diet may also play a role and one study is not indicative of causality between obesity and poor gut health. With research on the brink, it’s important to keep an eye out to ensure your gut health isn’t compromising your weight loss efforts.
What to expect from a fecal transplant procedure
The fecal transplant procedure is typically performed by colonoscopy. During the procedure, the doctor will push the colonoscope through the colon. When the colonoscope is retracted from your body, it will deposit the healthy fecal matter.
The procedure itself is low risk and minimally invasive, but offers promising results to a pressing common problem. This is especially true at the moment.
Promising results with science backing them
One of the most startling discoveries about fecal transplants is how effective they are. This is particularly noteworthy in light of existing studies suggesting that while fecal transplants are effective, their effectiveness is short-lived. In fact, one recent research study found that patients with fecal transplants retained a healthy gut bacteria balance for up to 21 weeks, turning existing research on its head.
It is uncertain when fecal transplants will become a more commonplace treatment for C. diff. or weight loss generally. This mostly stems from growing uncertainty as to whether the treatment should be classified as a drug, tissue donation, or other classification entirely. But as the novelty of the procedure wears off, it seems certain that fecal transplants will become increasingly popular as an alternative to harmful antibiotics for treating bacterial infections.
An alternative approach to weight loss
While a fecal transplant may not be your first choice for weight loss, it’s an option that’s gaining more validation through research and other means. More importantly, it could be a way to prevent serious infection or disease depending on your current gut health.
Unfortunately, research is still catching up to this procedure as a means to cure bacterial imbalances in the gut and as a method for weight loss. However, there is something to be said for the nuances in existing research and general trends that suggest why gut flora, which are already known to influence weight loss and gain, are of critical importance as you progress on your journey to greater well-being.
Would you try a fecal transplant to help you lose weight? Let us know what you think below!