Type “DIY FMT” into the Reddit search bar and you’ll be inundated with unofficial advice on how to anally ingest other people’s shit. Do-it-yourself fecal microbiota transplants are becoming an increasingly popular way of treating all manner of ailments—from IBS to anxiety to restless leg syndrome—from the comfort of your home and without the cost or nuisance of going through a licensed medical professional. All you need, according to the armchair experts, is a blender, a strainer, a rectal syringe, a lunch bag, and someone with a healthy gut who’s willing to take a dump in that lunch bag.
First and foremost, a disclaimer: it is not advisable to perform an FMT on yourself at home. Moreover, it’s probably worth laying out a quick primer on what FMTs, or fecal microbiota transplants, actually are.
Fecal microbiota transplants, otherwise known as stool transplants, are the process of transplanting fecal bacteria from one person—ideally someone relatively healthy—to another—usually someone less healthy who’s experiencing some gut bacteria-related health conditions. The transplant can be performed via colonoscopy, enema, or orally by consuming freeze-dried materials in capsule form—but more often than not it involves one person’s shit being put inside another person’s body. The idea, essentially, is that the healthy bacteria from the donor’s stool will lead to the cultivation of healthy bacteria in the gut or the body of the recipient.
Since at least 2013, FMT has been offered as a therapeutic approach to a variety of conditions, mostly performed as a treatment for clostridium difficile infection—the inflammation of the colon caused by bacteria in the gut—and mostly in clinical settings. Since then, however, there’s also been a steady growth in online forums, social media posts, and YouTube videos that explain how to perform an at-home FMT and espouse the benefits of DIY-ing it.
As Dr. Colleen Kelly, doctor and researcher at Brown Medicine Gastroenterology and Liver Research, told Insider: self-performed stool transplants is a trend that “absolutely” continues to grow. Dr Kelly recently conducted research into people who have undergone a DIY FMT, and found that, while half of the 84 people she surveyed received health advice from a professional, 87 percent reported getting their information online—from unprofessional videos, Reddit posts, and Facebook groups with as many as several thousand members. Insider reports that members of these groups often share FMT-related articles with each other, as well as seeking referrals for people who could make good potential donors, and reflect on their success.
Those surveyed in Kelly’s research were most commonly trying to treat IBS—and many of them were happy with the results. Eighty-two percent of participants said it helped whatever condition they were trying to treat, just 12 percent reported negative side effects, and 96 percent said they'd do it again. Experts warn, however, that ingesting another person’s shit at home is a risky enterprise—and one that can easily lead to a range of undesirable side effects.
"We're still unable to guarantee you won't contract something from it," naturopathic doctor Mollie Parker Szybala told Insider, noting that the internet is "full of misleading information."
If you absolutely insist on taking matters into your own hands and going the DIY route, it’s highly recommended—both my medical professionals and moderators in many of the aforementioned subreddits and Facebook groups—that you at least take the time to suss out the quality of your donor’s feces and have it screened.
As gastroenterologist Dr. Amy Shah explains: "our stool is a mixture of our undigested waste, the beneficial microbes needed to keep our guts healthy and whatever bacteria, fungi, and viruses we've picked up in our busy lives. So if you use feces from a donor, this donor should be screened for pathogens like viruses, fungi, and bacteria, that might make a sick recipient sicker."
Or just leave it to the experts.