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Can Fecal Transplants Help IBS?

Can Fecal Transplants Help IBS?

I’ve been reading and hearing more and more about fecal microbiota transplants (FMTs) as possible treatment for IBS.

I know, I know. There’s a definite “ick” factor involved with this subject, but it has actually been performed by doctors for hundreds of years. In fact, treating gastrointestinal disorders with FMT was attempted as early as the 4th century, where a Chinese physician named Ge Hong advised his patients suffering from severe diarrhea to consume fresh stool via a “soup” made from feces and water as a form of treatment.

What is it?

A fecal transplant is a procedure in which fecal matter, or stool, is collected from a pre-qualified healthy donor and put it into an unhealthy recipient. The feces can be administered via an enema, colonoscope, through swallowing freeze-dried capsules, or via a tube that is inserted through the mouth and into the gut.

Fecal transplants for C. diff

The intent of a fecal transplant is to repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria that are living in the healthy donor’s gut.

Many clinical trials have shown that FMTs are especially useful for people who have reoccurring intestinal infections caused by C. diff (clostridium difficile), a serious infection inside the gut that causes severe diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and can even lead to death.

Fecal transplants for IBS

There haven’t been many large-scale studies to test whether FMTs could benefit people with IBS, but a few small studies have produced positive outcomes. One small study at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City followed up on patients treated with FMT for refractory IBS after interventions of dietary changes, probiotics, antibiotics, and/or anti-depressants had failed. Of the 13 participants in the study, 70 percent reported relief of their IBS symptoms and nearly half reported an improvement in their overall well-being.

More specifically, before FMT, none of the 13 patients in the study reported “good” global well-being. After FMT, three patients reported “good” overall global well-being, six reported “acceptable,” and four reporting “poor” global well-being.

“IBS…has a tremendous effect on the quality of people’s lives and has proven to be very difficult to treat,” said David M. Pinn, M.D., one of the doctors involved in the study. “…Fecal microbiota transplantation can be a safe and effective treatment modality for the symptomatic relief of refractory IBS.”

Too extreme? Try probiotics

Fecal transplants may be a bit extreme for many, and for those who wouldn’t consider it, it’s important to know that there are other options for repopulating your gut with good microbes. Two common ways to do this are by taking probiotic foods and supplements, which can be very effective, but takes much longer to experience results: the average probiotic food or supplement contains between 1–30 strains of probiotics at billions of units. In comparison, healthy poop contains 1,000+ strains of microbes at hundreds of trillions of units.

Want to learn more?

If you’ve contemplated getting an FMT, where you live is important. As of 2013, the FDA has classified fecal microbiota transplant as an “investigational new drug.” It is only permitted to be used on patients with C. diff infection whose condition didn’t respond to multiple courses of antibiotics. Canada’s requirements are similar to the United States. This means that, if you live in the USA or Canada, you cannot get a fecal transplant for IBS. In the UK, Australia, Europe, and some other nations, however, you may be able to get an FMT legally from your doctor.

If you live in the USA or Canada and want to try fecal transplant for IBS, one option is to see if there are any clinical trials for fecal transplant and IBS open. You can go to to check.

Have you ever considered a fecal transplant? Have you received one? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  • Rossen NG, MacDonald JK, de Vries EM, D'Haens GR, de Vos WM, Zoetendal EG, Ponsioen CY. Fecal microbiota transplantation as novel therapy in gastroenterology: A systematic review. World J Gastroenterol. 2015;21:5359-5371.
  • Pinn, D & Aroniadis, O & Brandt, Lawrence. (2013). Follow-up study of fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) for the treatment of refractory irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Am J Gastroenterol. 108.
  • Comments

  • jjd48
    2 years ago

    I recently had a FMT due to C Diff infection that I contracted in the hospital after gall bladder surgery. I had taken metronidazole and vancomycin for 6 months and still had the beast. I have had IBS for years prior to all this other. It seems that I still have IBS, but I understand that most recovering C Diff patients will have bowel problems even after the FMT which I had 7 weeks ago. I was tested for C Diff about 3 weeks ago due to a bad siege of diarrhea and test was negative. So the FMT helped me beat the bug, but am still fighting IBS. My problem is I don’t know if this is due to FMT and will eventually subside or if this could be due to gallbladder removal or if it is just the same IBS that I’ve had for years. I’m trying to try different probiotics and be patient. Has anyone else had a similar experience and if so, what worked for you?

  • Becky Oleson moderator author
    2 years ago

    I’m in the same boat as you, jaeger91. Never say never! I haven’t had a severe flare-up in a while (knock on wood), but I would definitely consider it if there were more studies showing it helps. I’m really curious to hear more about the sacral nerve stimulator — haven’t heard of that. What can you tell us about your experience?

  • jaeger91
    2 years ago

    I’m thinking of the phrase, “Never say never.” IBS can be debilitating frequently enough that I might consider something like this IF enough studies showed positive long-term effects. A study with only 13 participants isn’t convincing enough for me. Not at this point, at least. But the first time the sacral nerve stimulator was recommended to me, I thought, “No way.” It sounded risky. Three years later, I was so desperate for help, it no longer seemed too scary, and it has helped me a little–with no bad side effects.

  • DorisE
    2 years ago

    Thing is… why is poop such a dreaded four letter word? It is the remnants of the food we ate. Yes it does contain ecoli etc, smells and is messy…. but its just a product of our digestive ststem after all. Just talking about it seems to be taboo!
    I would have any type of fecal transplant in a heartbeat.
    In 1985 I had radiation to pelvis for cancer of cervix… also had appendix out before that. Problems started about ten years later with seconds to get to bathroom, diarrhea and pain. Was hard keeping my job. Radiation damage? All in my mind?
    Trying to make story short, I also had stressful job, on meds for depression, half thyroid removed, have tmj pain, and quite a few bad reactions to antibiotics … one being Norflox … radiation damage to bladder, migraines….
    So, here I am, age 75, Have been suffering with frequent abdominal pain, almost daily diarrhea, washing machine going constantly, cannot make plans for even the next day….etc etc. for many years, the last fifteen yrs being the worst.
    Would I try a fecal transplant even if there is only a slight chance of my health improving? Yes, yes and yes.
    I am told I have Ibs D… which does not qualify for the treatment, but if the cost is not prohibitive to the health care system, perhaps we should be given a chance to find out if it might help… ANY bowel issue that causes this pain and affects quality of life.. and I especially feel for those younger than I who are suffering…. my heart goes out to them.

  • Becky Oleson moderator author
    2 years ago

    You make so many excellent points, DorisE. I’m so sorry for all of the pain and suffering you’ve experienced. I’ve had the accompanying migraines, too, and at times the combination of IBS + migraines was too much to bear. I can’t imagine adding cancer, thyroid, and TMJ pain to the mix. I wish I had an answer for you, but I don’t blame you one bit. I’d do the transplant, too, if I thought it would help. My symptoms are mostly managed right now, but it’s definitely something I would consider. I hope you’ll get some relief soon.

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