Fecal transplants may lead to remission in some people with ulcerative colitis (UC), although more research is needed. Medications and lifestyle modifications are other ways to manage the condition.
Fecal transplants may become a future treatment for ulcerative colitis (UC), a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Fecal transplants involve inserting stool from a donor into a recipient’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract to treat a condition or disease. Researchers believe the procedure may work by introducing good bacteria into the gut.
Some studies have shown promising results that may lead to treating UC with fecal transplants down the road.
Here’s what to know about fecal transplants for UC.
In a fecal transplant, healthcare professionals remove stool — which is full of good bacteria — from a donor without the condition, screen it for potential pathogens, strain it, liquefy it, and then insert it into a person in need of treatment for a particular condition. The procedure is not yet an approved therapy for ulcerative colitis outside use in clinical trials.
A fecal transplant can be done through:
Inside everyone’s digestive system lives a vast amount of healthy bacteria. These bacteria help us digest food but may also influence our health in many ways that researchers are still studying.
No one knows what causes UC, but one theory is that the bacteria in the colon — or gut microbiota — might play a role in the development of the condition.
UC’s potential connection to the gut microbiota is the reason why some doctors think fecal transplants could help manage the disease.
C. diff may share some symptoms of UC, such as:
- stools with blood or pus
- abdominal pain and cramping
- weight loss
Researchers are working to understand whether fecal transplants can be as effective for UC as they are for C. diff.
Many of these studies are small and more research is needed to determine whether fecal transplant is an effective treatment for UC.
Research has not indicated that fecal treatments can cure UC, but they may help put the disease into remission for some people.
Remission occurs when UC symptoms get better or go away for a period of time, such as weeks, months, or even years.
Further study is needed to learn how long remission from UC may last after a fecal transplant. These procedures are not used to treat UC outside clinical trials.
No cure exists for UC, but there are many methods that can help manage the condition and reduce flares, including:
- taking medications, like corticosteroids, biological drugs, and immunomodulators
- using natural remedies, such as probiotics
- maintaining a diet, especially avoiding foods that trigger flares
- reducing stress levels
- exploring surgery to remove the colon (with serious cases when medications don’t work)
Only 8% of study participants who received a placebo experienced the same results. However, many participants in both groups had side effects like gastrointestinal symptoms. Severe reactions occurred in two people in the fecal transplant group and one person who received a placebo.
In clinical trials and early studies, fecal transplants helped some people with UC have fewer symptoms or even achieve remission in 4–8 weeks. This research often involved a small sample size, so more study is needed to determine how long it takes before a stool transplant works for UC in larger groups of people.
When used to treat C. diff, stool transplants offer results within a few hours or days.
Research on stool transplants for UC is still in the early stages. Even though some studies have shown promising results, further study is needed to determine whether this is a safe and effective treatment for the condition.
In general, fecal transplant is a
- abdominal pain or cramps
Researchers are studying whether fecal transplants can be used to treat UC. So far, early studies have shown promising results, with some participants experiencing remission from UC within 4–8 weeks of receiving a stool transplant. These studies have been small, though, so more research is needed.
It may take years before health authorities approve fecal transplants for UC.
While there’s no known cure for UC, medications and lifestyle measures may help with managing the condition. Consider talking with a healthcare professional to learn more about how to reduce flares and potentially put UC into remission.