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Banking your poop could save your life in future

HEALTH

Every so often, medical science comes up with interventions that initially appear unappealing, and improbable. Banking poop for health reasons is one such initiative that is raising eyebrows. Yes, you read that right, you may soon get a recommendation to bank your poop in long-term medical storage for future use.

But let me first explain the scientific basis behind the push to bank poop. You see, our guts are full of micro-organisms, or microbiota in other terms. Such organisms exist symbiotically with us, conferring healthy benefits (but also causing disease at times).

In fact, a healthy balance of gut microbiota is associated with lower rates of inflammatory conditions, better cardio-metabolic profiles, and even better mental health among a host of other healthier states. Some research even shows that transplantation with faecal microbiota (called Faecal Microbiota Transplantation, or FMT), can treat some conditions better than using antibiotics, or other routine meds!

So then, why the idea of banking poop? Our lifestyles mean that lots of things we do can disrupt gut microbiota. Poor diets and use of common antibiotics are top examples. This translates to ongoing risk of diseases as life advances. But the opportunity to reverse disruptions in gut microbiota can be achieved by banking poop earlier in life, or at any opportune moments as you age. The preserved poop can be transplanted back into you in future. This would negate disease, or treat amenable conditions that may have arisen over time.

The next question is how, and where to bank your poop? Several poop banks already exist, and may soon be available right where we are. Poop banks aren’t too different from already existing blood banks, sperm banks, egg banks and all sorts of other bodily material banks.

If you find the idea appealing, first find a poop bank nearer to you. Then provide a stool sample for analysis. If it fulfils medical criteria for banking, then it will be processed for long-term preservation and storage. You can thereafter carry on with your life, and call back on your banked sample should you ever require it.

Current research into poop banking is rife with optimism. But many challenges remain. There’s still more to discover about gut microbiota, and FMT is still getting refined. You’ll have no guarantees that your preserved poop sample will remain viable for years to come.

Current storage is limited to about two years, and mainly linked to FMT in susceptible patients. Cost and regulation is another matter. Finally, there are no guarantees that restoring gut microbiota to a former disease-free state will heighten subsequent health. 

Poop banking is now a reality worth contemplating. If you are the proactive type, go ahead and bank yours.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist. [email protected]

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