Why The Gross Frozen Poop Pill Thing Is Awesome For Everyone

This week, a stomach-turning therapy (no pun intended) has been gracing our social media feeds with unexpected zeal. The idea: That fecal transplants, delivered via tiny little capsules, can cure one of the most difficult bacterial infections that exist. In the U.S., Clostridium difficile causes a quarter million hospitalizations and kills 14,000 people a year. Fecal transplants delivering beneficial bacteria have been previously found to be about 90 percent successful, but they typically require invasive and uncomfortable colonoscopies or, even worse, tubes up the nose.

fecalpillsIn the most recent study, which was to ascertain whether treatment could be administered via less invasive methods (ie, pills), Elizabeth Hohmann of MassGeneral Hospital, together with Ilan Youngster from Boston Children’s Hospital and colleagues, enrolled 20 patients, ages 11 to 89, who’ve had at least two to three episodes of C. difficile infection. The overall success rate for the frozen capsules was 90 percent, making them just as safe and effective as traditional transplant techniques.

As the New York Times noted in their coverage of the story, stool can contain thousands of types of bacteria, and scientists do not yet know exactly which ones have the curative powers. So for now, samples must be used pretty much intact. Hence, the undeniable cringe factor. But, here’s where it gets interesting.

As the microbiome—the community of microorganisms that we play host to with a population outnumbering our own cells by a multiple of 10—begins to take center stage as a key player in our health, the potential for more selective bacterial interventions on a whole host of conditions becomes incredibly enticing.

An article in the journal Current Gastroenterology Reports from last year noted other disease states are closely linked to the GI microbiota, namely, obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and even autism spectrum disorder. Patients with any one of these disorders may, theoretically, see an improvement with microbiome tinkering. Even more fascinating, and hinting at a bright future for microbiota therapy, are the isolated case reports of fecal transplantation responses with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome. The power of the microbiome even calls into question free will, as behavior itself can be modified just by altering it. Again, this is a new frontier with massive implications, and these therapies will see accelerating evolution in the coming years in no small part due to the success of these recent trials.

The brain-gut axis is so burgeoning an interest that just recently, a new peer-reviewed journal specifically to explore this scientific border town was announced, called Brain and Gut, edited by neurologist and best selling author Dr. David Perlmutter. It will be dedicated to exploring a vast array of physical interrelationships, including those between the gut bacteria, the microbiome, and various neurological processes.

Imagine being able to take a pill packed with microorganisms, isolated and grown in a lab (no poop required), which could then cross-talk with your own microbiome for positive health outcomes. We would no longer have to treat ourselves, but the universe of bacteria living within us, which, when taken as a whole, is vastly more complex than we are: for every gene in your genome, there are 100 bacterial ones. The implications for our health are just astounding.

5 Ways To Upgrade Your Brain Before Lunch

For as long as I can remember, I have been in pursuit of optimal performance and health. Even in high school, somehow, I had enough sense to know that food is information, and though we may find within ourselves the most advanced operating system in the universe, there is still much room for optimization. And yet while it’s easy for us to imagine how going to a gym or drinking a protein shake can benefit our physiques, there are very simple steps you can take to bolster your brain power as well. In an age where attention is the new limited resource, optimizing ones brain may be as important as ever. Here are five easy, yet very effective ways of doing that, all before lunch.

Drink green tea.

Studies show that this popular beverage actually boosts working memory. It also is the most common source of L-theanine, a potent nootropic studied for its potential ability to reduce mental and physical stress without sedation, to improve cognition, and (working synergistically with caffeine) to boost mood and cognitive performance.

Or, opt for coffee.

In one study, individuals who consumed the most coffee were found to have the lowest risk of developing dementia later in life. This antioxidant-filled beverage has also been shown to significantly reduce risk of Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in the US.

While you’re at it, add some grass-fed butter and coconut oil.

Though the combination may sound gross, it’s not only a startlingly delicious add-on to your beverage, but an incredibly healthy one as well: Fat is good for the brain, and particularly the kind of fat found in coconut oil. This is because the medium chain triglycerides replete in coconut oil provide the brain with ketones, a cleaner burning and more efficient fuel source than glucose.

Definitely take the stairs.

Aerobic exercise can actually reverse age-related hippocampal volume loss (the hippocampus is known as the brain’s memory center). To date, no known drug has the ability to do that.

Lastly, trust your co-workers.

A paper published a couple of months ago in the journal Neurology found that cynics are nearly three times more likely to develop dementia than their more easygoing counterparts. Have I convinced you yet? Trust me, your brain will thank you.