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As a long-time health blogger, you can imagine that I get some pretty “out there” emails. Sometimes the emails are happy or funny, occasionally scary, and at other times very, very sad.
It just goes with the territory.
One of the most heart-rending emails that caught me off guard landed in my inbox last Spring. The email detailed a woman’s arduous struggles attempting to reclaim her gut health to no avail. As a last-ditch effort, she wanted to try an at-home fecal transplant but had no healthy relatives or friends from whom to get a donated poop sample.
For those of you who aren’t yet familiar with fecal transplants, they are a procedure that is gaining rapid and widespread popularity in conventional medicine due to the nearly 100% success rate they promise for those with intractable, life-altering gut problems or infections such as the superbug known as C-diff. Since having a hospital perform the procedure is very expensive and many times not covered by insurance, laypeople have developed a DIY approach which is specifically what this lady was emailing about.
You can imagine my shock when I read further down the email to where the lady asked if she could purchase a stool sample from one of my children since they had been born naturally, breastfed for 2+ years, never been on antibiotics and raised on a traditional diet. I literally teared up when I read this message!
It is so tragic how sick many people have become today as a result of the industrialized food system, routine antibiotics, and other gut flora altering drugs prescribed like candy at doctors’ offices.
Needless to say, I was unable to help this poor woman out with that request. But, one of my children was quick to notice a business opportunity when I mentioned the email to them (not over dinner!). He said, “Mom, someone needs to start a company that takes people’s poop and stores it for others who need it.”
As it turns out, there is now a company that does exactly that.
The company OpenBiome is the very first and, as of this writing, the only independent stool bank in the country. Mark Smith, an MIT postdoctoral associate, launched the nonprofit in 2012 in Medford, Massachusetts and describes his operation as similar to “a blood bank, but for poop.”
Smith’s mission is to ensure that every city and town in the United States are provided with fecal samples within a two-hour radius for every person who needs them. The company has hit the four-hour radius so far with 345 hospitals in 48 states obtaining stool samples from OpenBiome for the purpose of fecal microbiota transplantation.
Poop Prescriptions a Better Option than More Antibiotics
Smith says that from a cost perspective, fecal transplants are the optimal treatment for patients who aren’t responding to antibiotics for severe and recurrent intestinal infections such as C-diff saving on average $17,000 per patient compared to treatment with antibiotics.
OpenBiome sells poop for $250 per sample to independent physicians and hospitals that do not have their own stool samples in-house.
While the cost for a fecal transplant sample is extremely reasonable, challenges remain as the procedure is still categorized as explorational by the FDA. This means that patients are not going to find universal acceptance among insurance companies for reimbursement.
Need a Career Change? Pooping for a Living Could Be for You
OpenBiome targets nearby Tufts University as a ready source of young, healthy donors. However, if you are under age 50, willing to make daily trips to Medford, and have regular bowel movements, pooping for a living could be your true calling too.
Donors are paid $40 for each stool sample, with a $50 weekly bonus for those who come into OpenBiome to do their daily business five days a week. This translates to $1000+ per month or $13,000 per year.
In addition to a significant side income, regular donors get to compete for the legendary names awarded by OpenBiome like Albert Einstein, Vladamir Pootin, and Dumpledore.
Who knew that healthy poop was such a valuable commodity?
Only in America my friends. If there’s a buck to be made on something, it will be made.
Liliana Verd Rodriguez
My friend mentioned this recently and I never heard of it used for this reason. She was considering a diy from her own daughters. And not because she was sick but to stay young.
I didn’t follow through with her. I am still curious as if she did it and how!
I have actually known someone who used this procedure at the Mayo Clinic, using his wife as a donor. Sadly it did not work for him (I wonder if her gut health was really as it should be, or if there were other contributing factors that caused it to fail). It is certainly an interesting procedure, and I’m thankful that traditional western medicine is finally acknowledging the many benefits of intestinal health. I think your son has a great (and hilarious) idea! I’ll let my kids know about this as a future career path. (Ummm…poo donor, not Gastroenterologist!)
Everything hinges on the health of the donor .. if the donor’s gut is in questionable shape, the transplant will have little effect in turning things around.
I had a good laugh, at the same time being very impressed by this MIT graduate
Please excuse my ignorance however I don’t understand exactly how the donor’s faeces is made useful. Is it inserted into the patient’s bowels via the rectum? And if so, then what happens? Do the good bacteria repopulate the patient’s gut?
Hi Taryn, there are a couple of ways healthy stool is being used as medicine to restore gut health. This articles describes both of them … hope that helps. https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/as-antibiotic-failure-grows-poop-pills-filling-the-void/
Thank you kindly Sarah 🙂
While I have been aware of the procedure for some time now, this article really had me laughing. While I’m sure that there are some risks, this procedure must be ‘god send’ to a great many folks!
Sarah, I ALWAYS look forward to your newsletters, thanks!
I wrote it tongue in cheek, so I’m glad you appreciated the thinly veiled humor 🙂 Even though this is a very serious topic, a bit of humor is needed given how it’s such a taboo subject for most people to discuss openly.
Wow. I’m really impressed. But no worries. POLAND is very keen on reaching America’s styles. So the poop method will be needed here soon anyways.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Healthy crap = Healthy person
True 10,000 years ago, true today.
Sir Poops Alot
Sign me up…I’ll use someone else’s bathroom for $13000 a year.
Oh my goodness! The timing of this article! My mother in law JUST had this procedure done THURSDAY! After being sick Keith colitis & a c diff infection for a week in the hospital. Within 4 hours she was already feeling way better & after a very scary life threatening week, she is on the road to recovery. A poop transplant!!! Who knew!!!
The doctor said the Chinese have been doing this procedure for 2,000 years?? Hey, I’ve never been more thankful for a load of crap!
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
A good lesson for when one might think that drugs like antibiotics are somehow better than Mother Nature? NOT!