Philosophical, Therapeutic, Kinky, and Factual musings on the emerging field of poop transplants
Content warning. This post does discuss matters of digestion, the gut, and poop…and may stray into kink. Please read with this in mind.
We’ve all felt when things were right or wrong in our guts. We also all know what it is like to feel butterflies when we get stage fright or are particularly excited by something. For example, the first time I met Mistress I had so many butterflies that I shivered with a mixture of excitement, nervousness, and fear the entire time I was with her. [You can read about that encounter here].
Our gut biome is often referred to as our “second brain”, but in truth this is a bit of a misnomer. If anything, it is our first brain. In our evolution as a species there was a time when our brains were not so evolved as they are today…and going back further and further in our evolutionary tree we come to a time when the “brain” in our guts was our only brain, as indeed it still is for many of the smaller species. It is easy to understand why. What we eat and ingest is the most vital and basic aspect of our survival. It is our most animal, and is the home of our instinct, and our gut feelings.
The gut is the only organ in our bodies with its own independent nervous system. We have ca. 100 million neurons in our gut lining. That is more neurons than you would find in either the spinal cord or the entire peripheral nervous system (the rest of our bodies).
Despite all of this, we cannot say that our guts are where “higher reasoning” takes place—it is not the realm of conscious thought, but rather one of instinct.
The Gut, our Mood, and General Well-Being
The gut is technically known as the enteric nervous system. That on its own is quite interesting. How many people would have thought of our guts as a nervous system rather than as a simple digestive tract?
Think for a moment just how delicious sensuous touch on our skin can be. The nerves on our skin transmitting those magnificent sensations are as populous on our skin as a rural setting is with humanity; contrast this to the gut, which is more like Manhattan. And yes, there are parallels with touch. As food passes through our system, is broken down, digested and moved along, our guts are sending a near infinite symphony of sensation to our brains.
Stay with this metaphor of the sensuous feeling of touch. All these nerve endings are sending signals to our brains about “yes, we’re happy” or “no, we’re not happy.” It could be that simple. The nerve fires or it does not. And each nerve has a role, a defined purpose, and so its transmission of happiness or its absence is as complex as 100 million neurons sound.
And, happiness is exactly what can be conveyed. Serotonin, the happiness hormone/neurotransmitter, is mainly produced in the gut. Yup. 95% of our serotonin is produced in the gut. Our guts are where feelings of bliss originate. In other words, we can be rationally happy in our minds, but nothing beats happiness that is felt in our guts.
At its simplest, the neurons in the gut allow us to “feel” the inner world of our guts and its contents. Digestion and the expulsion of waste may be the mechanical function of the gut, but feeling it, and communicating what it feels to the rest of our body, is the true purpose of the gut.
This is so important, that the gut operates independently of the brain. Digestion is such a complex process that our rational brains would be overloaded by the burden of working things out—that is why digestion takes place outside of rational thought.
And yes, the information flow is from gut to brain, not the other way around. Why? 90% of the nerve fibres carry information from our guts to the brain, and only 10|% the other way around. This is a function of the complexity and importance of the task, but also the independence of the gut. The gut brain also came before the cerebral cortex, so it follows that instinct comes before reason. You want a rational reason for God? If you feel the divine in your belly, who needs one?
How is the gut connected to the brain?
We refer to this important causeway as the gut-brain axis. There is a physical pathway, known as the vagus nerve, which connects the gut to the heart, brain, and lungs. The gut is also connected to the brain and the rest of the body through chemicals (hormones and neurotransmitters) that are either produced in the gut or are affected by the bacteria living in the gut.
The microbiome and Mental Health
Science has now shown what we felt in our guts all along (hehe). There is a connection between mental health problems and issues with the gut—heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux, bloating, chronic pain, and many diseases are definitively linked to gut health. Gut inflammation has also been tied to Parkinson’s disease, anxiety and depression. Your gut is serious business.
Emotions and our “State of Mind”
Although butterflies are but one symbol of the gut’s influence on the mind, so too are we all to aware that gastro-intestinal stress can ruin our day. The gut is our primary locus of stress response, and it is telling our entire body what to do. Stage fright leads to vomiting. Was it Wayne Gretzky, one of the great hockey players, who said he vomited before almost every game.
The flipside of this is that one way to treat depression is to stimulate the vagus nerve with electrical signals. Interestingly, though serotonin is a happiness chemical, too much of it can also lead to havoc. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, for instance, arises in part from too high serotonin levels in the bowels. What is going on? IBS is a consequential disease—in other words, the body is experiencing a kind of stress that is affecting the gut, and as a result the gut is producing more serotonin, and the consequence is IBS. In this sense, IBS is a “mental illness” of our second brain.
This is not the only instance where serotonin levels and disease can be linked. Osteoporosis and bone mass have been found to be linked to gut health. Autism is linked to gut health, and one characteristic of autism is the frequent correlation with IBS. In fact, so many diseases or disturbances are either felt in our guts or result from poor gut health. Insomnia, chronic fatigue, are just two more. Mood is just one small part of the picture. Indeed, as our stress response is felt in our guts, so many chronic illnesses are now being found to be linked to gut health.
Consider these facts. Those with healthy guts are far less likely to contract COVID-19. So-called co-morbidities such as diabetes are often lived in the gut. COVID has a consequence a seriously weakened gut. Diseases such as certain cancers like melanoma are linked to gut health, so too is rheumatoid arthritis, ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease (motor-neurone disease as had Stephen Hawking).
If you want to live strong then you need to take care of your gut. If you want to be happy you need to take care of your gut.
Taking care of your gut
It is more than possible to take care of our guts. What we eat, how we eat, when we eat are all critical supports for this. I wrote previously about colonic irrigation and enemas. [You can read that post here]. These treatments can be a part of the arsenal of your self-care when it comes to your gut. Eating spicy food also helps; capsaicin, the chemical which makes peppers “hot” is an irritant which speeds digestion, keeping food waste from hanging around too long. Healthy gut transit time is an important sign of gut health.
I have mentioned a few times that I am participating in a gut health study and treatment plan called Zoe [you can read about that here], which is something I will write about more fulsomely with the passage of time (yes, pun intended). I wrote previously about the Zoe Blue Muffin Challenge, which you can read about here. The concept behind the “challenge” is to test your gut transit time, and consists of eating nothing but a blue food dye laced muffin at a certain time for breakfast and then seeing how long it takes for blue poop to emerge. The speed at which this comes about is an indicator of gut health. The faster the better.
The Crapsule and Transpoosion
Who ever said that Doctors don’t have a sense of humour? The “crapsule” is exactly what it sounds like—poop in a pill. Okay, it sounds pretty grim. In fact, in my overactive mind, I keep imagining that it would somehow break in my mouth. And the idea of eating s$$t is not for me. Just how averse am I to poop? The one time, and yes, I am not proud of this, but the one time that I changed the poopy diaper of one of my children because the nannies weren’t around and because my wife thought I should do it resulted in my face in the bowl of the toilet retching my guts out, after my child laughed and splatter-pooped all over me with such force that I was decorated, as was the wall behind me, like a Jackson Pollock splatter painting.
So, crapsules are out. And besides, no matter how strong the casing of the pill, the stomach is a pretty harsh environment, and the crapsule has to make it through to the gut before it dissolves. A bit hit or miss I’d say. Enter the “transpoosion”. Yup, you read it right. They squirt someone else’s poop up your bum.
Okay, this is not any ordinary poop. It is the poop of a superhuman. And, the doctors “clean” it first. They check to make sure it doesn’t harbour any nasty bacteria that could make you worse. So, this is a pretty extreme treatment. It is given to people that have serious bowel issues. Fecal transplants, or politely, bacteriotherapy, is powerful stuff. In basic terms, this involves taking the poop of a healthy person and putting it into the colon of an unhealthy person. Even if you think it is gross, it is pretty amazing.
When is it used? Serious bacterial infections like C. difficile, call for a transplant, so that the good gut bacteria can overwhelm the bad guys. One of the consequences of antibiotics can be damage to the natural balance of the gut biome—indeed, antibiotics kill good bacteria as wantonly as bad ones. Further, some bacteria have developed antibacterial resistance, so do not respond to courses of antibiotic treatment. Enter the fecal transplant. And because these types of illness are becoming increasingly common, so too is bacteriotherapy. It is remarkable how quickly a fecal transplant can restore a healthy gut bacterial balance, and how quickly someone can be cured by this method. This is not the full list, but these are ailments in which fecal transplants are becoming a preferred method of treatment: ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, depression, obesity, food allergies, diabetes. Can you believe it? That is really pretty incredible.
As with many such therapies that begin their lives in the treatment of more serious ailments, they eventually enter the mainstream. It was my sports coach who planted this idea in my mind. [I wrote about it here]. But is the future of wellness and gut health going to be regular crapsules? Certainly after I go for a full-on colon cleanse the doctor always recommends me consuming pro-biotics. Well, why don’t they just squirt some fresh goodies up inside me instead and make that part of the therapy?
Why do I think it is inevitable that poop transfusions are the wellness trend of the future? Because most people are too lazy to do the hard work of diet change and rigorous self-care that having a superhuman gut biome requires. I consciously feed my gut biome every day. I actively think about what I am doing to my body through what I eat and drink, through exercise, etc. That was part of what drew me to participate in the Zoe Gut Health Study. And one of the things I am learning by being so intensively monitored (yes, they look at my poop, blood, what I eat and when I eat it), is that despite all my efforts, I am a long way off of living the best life I can be for my gut.
I am not kidding when I say that my whole body and mindset are in a happier place than they have ever been in my life. Yes, I credit this in part to the spiritual growth and feelings I am exploring with the divine Mistress Natasya. But I also know that this process began before I met her with an active effort on my gut, and with her encouragement is only now deepening and accelerating.
The mechanics of a fecal transplant
It appears that who gives you a fecal transplant matters to the success outcome of the process. Those who are “close” to you are better. Amazing, but true, sibling donors are better than parents or children, but there are also stool banks! Stool donors have extensive blood tests and health screening before being allowed to donate their poop.
Once a donor with very healthy eating habits and a healthy gut is found, the poop is collected and mixed with a saline solution. It is then filtered through a coffee filter, before being injected deep into your colon via a flexible tube called a colonoscope.
It is not recommended that this be tried at home. A donor, no matter how healthy they seem, may not be. Squirting someone else’s poop up inside you means that you are truly being exposed to everything that was inside of them.
I have had a fantasy that just such an operation is performed on me using the stool of a certain someone with a very healthy, even more than mine, attitude towards her body and the food she eats.
In my mind, your gut biome is intimately linked to who and how you are. To be injected with someone else’s gut microbiome and to have this hugely important part of our instinctual, animal, selves become mingled with that of someone else, is an absolutely functional way of replicating what the Native American meant by becoming “blood brothers”. Only here, quite literally, the recipient becomes comingled with the donor. I am beating around the bush out of a sense of politesse, but how sublime to think that someone important now also lives inside you. I know that tending to her biome as it lived inside of me would be a sacred task that I would look forward to every day.
A diet for gut health begins and ends with plants
Quite simply, the best way to take care of your gut is to eat a diet that is primarily plant-based. That isn’t necessarily vegetarianism or veganism, but the balance has to be plant-based. You need pre- and pro-biotics to figure largely in your diet.
There are pre-biotics, which are foods that are high in fibre, and are usually best eaten raw. These are some great sources of pre-biotics: garlic, onions, asparagus, underripe bananas and plantains, tomatoes, apples, berries, pineapple, and mangoes. Without a steady supply of pre-biotics, literally the food that your gut bacteria feed on, your gut suffers.
The pro-biotics are harder to come by and require more regular diligence. Cooked and heated foods suffer the loss of their bacteria. Raw foods, fermented foods, pickled foods are the best sources of pro-biotics. What people refer to as the four K’s (Kombucha, Kefir, Kraut, and Kimchi) are the top of the list, but yoghurt, skyr, miso soup, tempeh, apple cider vinegar and other fermented foods work well.
Therapy and Gut Health are finding themselves as happy bedfellows
As mentioned above, what may begin in more serious context can often evolve into the mainstream. Mental health and gut health are now increasingly being addressed together in the psychotherapy community. Changing a patient’s diet is now not just the fringe of the therapeutic process. There is strong evidence that the emerging field of biological psychiatry should be the mainstream of all therapeutic practice. The effects of the gut microbiome on neural (our nervous system), endocrine (our hormones), and immune (our defence system) response is undisputed. Patients with illnesses as varied as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorder (among others) all share the common thread of gut imbalances. Active steps to change the diet have been shown to have a beneficial effect in these ailments and others. An emphasis on pro-biotic and pre-biotic nutrition is driving improvements in mental health.
But what about mood and happiness and spiritual fulfilment?
Mistress feels that some of the “trauma” I carry inside of me is held in my gut. A lifetime of self-protection and self-preservation is manifested in a tightness that is held there which must surely be affecting all of me. Separately, the curandera I visited [written about here] was all about adjusting my intestines, using physical therapy to improve the function of the gut…and after she had worked her magic, I felt sublime.
They are not alone in identifying my gut as a place where my stresses hide. I walked into the wellness centre of the spa I have been writing about [see some of their therapies here] and had a chat with their acupuncturist. This will be the next stop on my list of curiosities, and will absolutely help address my phobia of needles! She said, “show me your tongue.” I did. She said, “tell me what’s going on with your belly.” Here I am eating so well and some of that effort is being lost on whatever resides there that I am not letting go of.
Many serious illnesses begin and end with gut health. So too, our whole state of being is moderated or enhanced by what is going on in there. Our mood and levels of happiness are directly impacted by our guts. I know that my body feels happy when my gut does too, and how I feel in my skin has a lot to do with what is going on in my digestive tract. [I have written about how important this is to my sense of self and general well-being].
But I am also drawn to Mistress in this way. I feel my attraction to her in my guts. My spiritual feelings for her reside all through my body, not just my mind, and they radiate from my core. I also believe, however, that I am not responding to her physical beauty, which is staggering, but to her interior beauty. Yes, to her mind, absolutely, but also to her essence. And here is a person who tends her essence through the care she gives to her own gut biome in a way that I look forward to growing into as she teaches me and guides me in so many new ways. But I see, literally see, this beauty emanating from her. Her guts speak to mine, and that is something I feel just sitting next to her. It shines all through her, it comes out of every pore. And because I am open to her signals, I feel the most sublime overload every time I find a way to open myself to her. Little by little, as I get better and better at receiving these signals, I know that her essence comes to dominate mine, that her guts guide mine, and this is something so deeply animal and spiritual in me that I can no longer imagine seeking anything else.