Researchers found that a fecal transplant – stool samples taken from a healthy donor – seemed to send Crohn’s symptoms into remission in seven of nine children treated.
According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, up to 700,000 Americans have Crohn’s – a chronic inflammatory disease that causes abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation and rectal bleeding. It arises when the immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the digestive tract.
A number of drugs are available to treat Crohn’s, including drugs called biologics, which block certain immune system proteins.
But fecal transplants take a different approach, explained Dr. David Suskind, a gastroenterologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital who led the new study.
Instead of suppressing the immune system, he said, the transplants alter the environment that the immune system is reacting against the “microbiome,” which refers to the trillions of bacteria that dwell in the gut.
Like the name implies, a fecal transplant involves transferring stool from a donor into a Crohn’s patient’s digestive tract. The idea is to change the bacterial composition of the gut, and hopefully quiet the inflammation that causes symptoms.
And for most of the kids in the study, it seemed to work. Within two weeks, seven of nine children were showing few to no Crohn’s symptoms. Five were still in remission after 12 weeks, with no additional therapy, the researchers reported in a recent issue of the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.
“The preliminary data is promising,” Suskind said. “But research into how to manipulate the intestinal microbiome is still young. There are many things we don’t understand yet.”
This is a much more reasonable approach to autoimmune disease. Let’s change the stimulation to the immune system rather than depress or destroy it. We have long known that triggers from the gut are responsible for most, if not all autoimmune disease. Please refer to my blog 2014 in Review posted on December 29, 2014. It lists five blogs I wrote in 2014 related to this topic.
Although fecal implant clinics are popping up all over the country, the treatment is not yet approved for Crohn’s or any other autoimmune diseases yet. It is an accepted treatment for the infection C. difficile, which causes such severe diarrhea and can be fatal.
The fecal donor must be genetically related to the recipient and hopefully has lived in the same household for many years. Although the microbiome is unique for each of us, its content is based on genetics, diet, and environment. So your spouse is not a potential donor, but your children, parents, and siblings might be.
The Bottom Line:
If you suffer from any autoimmune disease, look for a nutritionist that treats the gut. Restoring a healthy microbiome is the first step in treating autoimmune disease.
April 10, 2015 National Institutes of Health