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Tried and Tested: Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT), Part 1

Welcome to ‘Tried and Tested’, my new series where I share my experience playing guinea pig with various ‘alternative’ health treatments. First up: my experience with receiving a Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) for IBS/SIBO/gut dysbiosis at the Taymount Clinic in England.

If you’re not sure what FMT is, please read this article first!

N.B. I had FMT in the summer of 2015, so this is not a recent experience!

Why I decided to get FMT

After having spent 2 years on restrictive diets, I had improved a variety of health concerns (including interstitial cystitis) but my digestive symptoms just didn’t go away – I was so bloated all the time that people would ask me if I was pregnant!

A breath test showed Small Intestinal Overgrowth (SIBO). I took some natural antibacterials, which got me nowhere. I just about had had enough!

Then I heard about FMT and thought: wow, a quick fix to help me restore my gut microbiome – I want it!

Turns out one of the few FMT clinics was actually located in England (the Taymount Clinic)! After a consultation with the clinic and a bit of back and forth I finally decided that I wanted to give it a go, scraped together my savings and scheduled my treatment…

My treatment plan was 5+5, which means that I received 5 implants at the clinic and did the other 5 myself at home.

Preparation Period

The months leading up to my FMT treatment I decided to do a bit more testing and resolve any remaining issues that could negatively impact the treatment.

On top of the GAPS diet which I had been on for a year, I also went low FODMAP, did a two week elemental diet and took herbal antibiotics in order to resolve the SIBO.

Moreover, I tried the liver and gallbladder flush (blog post coming soon) a few times and started taking betaine HCl, digestive bitters and enzymes to sort out my digestive fluids. I couldn’t afford to retest for SIBO but my symptoms seemed to improve.

The clinic also requires every patient to go through a preparation period.

To prepare for FMT I had to start taking a stool softener a month prior to treatment. Ten days before treatment start I had to have a colonic irrigation and then take a laxative 2-3 days before traveling to the clinic. This was to ‘clean’ out the colon so that it would be easier for the new microbes to colonize.

I had no problems with the preparation though the colonic wasn’t very pleasant.

Generally though I felt like all the ‘flushing’ had taken a bit of a toll – I lost some weight, my skin and hair got worse again and my cycle became irregular. However, I was really excited to finally meet my new microbes (if a bit nervous)!

Day One

For some reason I was pretty nervous when I arrived at the clinic. But this soon eased as the staff at the clinic were really friendly and caring and really took their time.

To start with, I had to have another colonic irrigation to make sure my colon was clean. It was easier than the last one but gave me horrible abdominal cramps.

The treatment itself was pretty straightforward and didn’t take long.

A catheter was administered rectally and then the first implant went in, followed by a saline solution to push the microbes further up the colon.

This was followed by an abdominal massage to help the implant spread throughout the colon. It was slightly tender but the cramps that had started after the colonic disappeared.

Then I had to lie in different positions for half an hour to let the microbes spread and colonize throughout the large intestine. I noticed a strange warm sensation in my gut.

After the treatment I felt slightly drained and tired. The clinic advised to keep the implant in as long as possible and I managed to retain it until the next day.

Throughout the day I felt tired and headachy and there was quite a bit of rumbling going on in my gut.

I decided to feed the new bugs straight away so I had some prebiotics (food for bacteria).

There was some more rumbling and bloating going on at bedtime but nothing extraordinary- which was great considering I had added new foods for the first time in ages!

Day Two

The procedure today was a lot shorter.

I had some cramping again and this time it was harder to retain the implant but I managed anyways.

Throughout the day I felt full and bloated and slightly crampy. There was a lot of rumbling again, especially after food.

I had some prebiotics again and that seemed to be alright despite the previous SIBO problems.

Generally I felt fatigued, headachy and a bit lethargic again.

My sleep was interrupted and I felt slightly ‘hungover’ in the morning. After having been to the loo my belly was flat and calm for the first time in ages though!

Day Three

The procedure again was quick and uneventful today.

I retained the implant no problem and even had enough energy to do some sightseeing and walking.

Overall I felt less tired but my belly was still bloated and big after eating food.

I was able to introduce more ‘new’ foods.

Day Four

I felt pretty rough that day with my hay fever really kicking off for the first time and horrible period pains. The nurse said that issues like allergies can get worse during FMT as the immune system reacts to the foreign microbes.

I was taught how to do the implant myself in preparation for the home treatment. This went pretty well and I felt confident continuing the treatment at home.

Later, I introduced more new foods and ended up with a bit of a headache after lunch.

Otherwise I experienced some abdominal pain and cramping.

However, there seemed to be no major reverse affects from the prebiotics though my belly still got big and bloated after food. Also noticed that my skin was worse and my hair was falling out a bit more again.

Day Five

Today was my last day at the clinic, the week flew by.

It was kind of nice and relaxing as I had no other commitments apart from the one hour at the clinic each day.

I managed to see most of the town and went for walks and read a lot. The clinic advised me to get as much rest as possible and I certainly tried that. The sun finally came out as well.

Unfortunately my hay fever was killing!

Otherwise I had no pains though.

The last implant went fine, I did it myself again and managed to spill a bit but luckily the nurse was there to assist. I’ll sure be more careful next time…

Going Forward

The clinic staff were super nice again and showed me how to put the home kits together one more time.

The patient liaison manager came to speak to me about my progress and the future and said it was a good sign that I had eaten more foods without major reactions.

I also received my home implants in a massive insulated box.

Before I left, I had a chat to a fellow patient who had her last day and said she felt super great! This gave me confidence.

I was told again that it takes three months for the microbes to really be mine as the immune system has to produce new antibodies in reaction to the new microbiota. So in any case I’d have to wait that long to determine whether the treatment has been successful.

Taking the rest of the buggers home
Taking the rest of the buggers home

The staff at the clinic have been really great, I was almost sad to leave. They were really caring and really took their time.

The clinic stressed again that the progress of the treatment is very individual and that it might get worse before it gets better.

In their experience they’ve seen patients who get better straight away, patients who have ups and downs before they get better, patients who need more continuous implants before they get better and then some patients who don’t get better through FMT at all.

Half-way through my treatment it seemed that some symptoms have come back and/or gotten worse. They include the hay fever, skin breakouts, hair loss and bloating/cramps.

Overall I’ve felt quite drained that week. The treatment was definitely taking a toll on the body and I could tell that my immune system was working hard.

But…Isn’t it disgusting?

I’m sure that’s one of the first questions many people will think of. I have to say that it wasn’t disgusting at all and I barely ever thought of the implant as being ‘someone else’s poo‘. There wasn’t even any smell. I really only thought of it as ‘my new bacteria’!

The next post will be about the second half of my treatment, which I had at home. I’ll also write about my results, so stay tuned!

Have you had FMT or are you thinking about it? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments…

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