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The Golden Turd: Is Your Poop Worth Money??

The Golden Turd: Is Your Poop Worth Money??
The Golden Turd: Is Your Poop Worth Money??
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The next time you hear someone say “that’s not worth crap,” you might want to correct them. It turns out crap can be worth quite a lot! Not all poop, granted, but under the right conditions the contents of your colon can be downright golden in value.

Before I explain why, let me take a step back. One of the biggest breakthroughs in medicine—ever—was antibiotics. They have literally saved millions of lives and prevented untold suffering. And that’s the problem—we are now victims of their success. Antibiotics work so well that we’re addicted to them, and increasingly we find they don’t work. In fact, they often make things worse.  Much worse.

A fairly innocuous bug colloquially known as C diff, that’s Mr. Clostridium difficile to you, lives unbeknownst to us in our colons. Usually, he’s a perfectly fine neighbor, but when we take antibiotics, he becomes a bully, takes over the neighborhood and in the process produces a toxin that makes us poop like there’s no tomorrow. And there won’t be a tomorrow if your doctor doesn’t aggressively kill it with—you’ve guessed it—more antibiotics. All too often, however, despite using the best antibiotics existing, the diarrhea continues and the patient dies.

Now, in this day and age, we shouldn’t be losing people to prolonged pooping, so naturally doctors and researchers are trying to tackle this issue. And somewhere along the line, one of them had this amazing, if downright disgusting, idea: What happens if I transplant poop from a healthy person with good bugs into the patient dying from C diff diarrhea? Would they get better?

So he set about doing it. Advertised for donors. Screened them for diseases like Hepatitis B and HIV. Gave them laxatives. Collected the gold. Stuck the donated gold into a blender. Spun it down. Then sieved it to remove the particles. (This is something you’d best leave to the professionals—I wouldn’t recommend using your kitchen blender and a flour sieve). Anyhow, this bright mind then transplanted the refined “gold” into the sick patients. He did this either by passing a tube through the nose into the patients’ belly or sticking a tube up the back end. None of which seems very appetizing to me, but then again I’m not dying of diarrhea. And guess what? It worked!

The next question of course is how do you do this on a big scale?  You set up a poop bank, of course, in the same way you’d set up a blood bank if you needed reserves of blood on hand.  And that’s exactly what the folks behind OpenBiome have done.  They’ve set up the first national poop bank.  Don’t laugh, because it might just save your life.

With the success of healthy poop treating the seriously ill with C diff infections, more bright minds wondered: Is there a difference in the bugs living in colons of people with other diseases? What about fat versus thin people? Yes, is the answer. It turns out there is a big difference in the bugs that live in the colons of a ninety pound waif and a four-hundred-pound sumo wrestler. Which leads us to the next obvious question: if you take the poop from the waif and transplant it into the four-hundred-pounder, will they get thin? I don’t know. Nobody knows. But you can bet they’re studying it, so we’ll know soon.

So, where does all this leave us? Antibiotics are still a vital part of modern medicine, but should only be used when necessary. Let me correct that— “when absolutely necessary.” The routine use of antibiotics for colds, sinusitis or mild bronchitis is bad, especially if the body seems able to fight off these diseases on its own given enough time, rest, and fuel. The next time you visit the minute clinic and they say that cold that’s bogging you down is “probably viral, but we’ll give you an antibiotic just in case,” ask yourself if it’s worth ending up requiring a “gold” infusion. And then ask your doctor if they think the antibiotics are really necessary for this particular illness. If you do have to take antibiotics, eat a little yogurt or take a probiotic every single day you’re on them. It helps keep “order” in your colon so bullies like C diff don’t get out of control.

And remember, if you’re blessed with a healthy colon, there’s always the opportunity to earn a little gold from the poop bank.

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