Each year millions of healthy men and women donate their blood, plasma, eggs, and sperm in an effort to help others while earning a little extra cash. Needles and reproductive material not your thing? No problem. How do you feel about feces?
You could earn up to $13,000 a year selling your poop. So says the headline of a Washington Post article.
Fecal Microbiota Transplants
In the US alone, an estimated 70 million people have a digestive disorder. As more people are diagnosed with digestive diseases, scientists have turned to a novel therapy that seems to be helping: fecal microbiota transplants (FMT).
In an FMT, poop is taken from healthy donors, processed, often frozen, and then packaged into a medical product that can be transplanted into another individual. Why? Good question. It’s all about the gut microbiome.
A Healthy Microbiome
The human gut houses trillions of microorganisms. The collection of these bacteria and viruses is called the gut microbiome. No two people on Earth have the exact same one (not even identical twins). Due to genetics, diet, and lifestyle, some people have a better gut microbiome than others.
“Better” is a subjective term, but scientists generally define a better microbiome as one that (1) has lots of beneficial bacteria to help digest food and fight off infection and (2) is richly diverse with a wide range of bacterial species.
People with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis typically have a sub-optimal microbiome. Researchers have been using FMT to introduce healthy bacteria into the guts of patients with these inflammatory bowel diseases in hopes that the transplant will sort of jump-start the gut environment to adopt healthier microbes. So far, the results are promising.
For several years, FMT has already been used to successfully treat Clostridium difficile infection, a common but severe bacterial infection that can be deadly.
Making a Donation
Stool donation banks have been popping up around the country. Their sole purpose is to screen donors and then entice those with the healthiest gut microbiomes to donate their poop and keep the samples coming. Compensation for donating on a regular basis can reach up to $13K a year, not too shabby for human waste.
But don’t start counting your cash just yet. Some say it’s easier to get into Harvard than it is to make the list of approved stool donors. Only about 3% of those willing are accepted. Traveling overseas, taking antibiotics, having asthma or depression, and even drinking too much alcohol are all reasons to be rejected as a donor.
About Vivante Health
Vivante Health is an innovative digital healthcare company reinventing the way chronic conditions are managed, starting with digestive disorders. Our all-in-one digital gut health program, GIThrive, empowers people—through brilliant technology, advanced science, and on-demand expert support—to improve digestive health, while lowering cost of care. Learn how employers and health plans are saving money with GIThrive.
GutCheck: Let’s see what you’re made of…™
In 2019, Vivante Health added GutCheck, the at-home microbiome test kit, to our GIThrive digestive health program. Research shows bacterial diversity in the gut is linked to better health and symptom control. But everyone’s gut ecology is different—there’s no one-size-fits-all fix. Achieving a balanced microbiome requires a personalized approach. The first step is a microbiome analysis.
GutCheck results are easy to understand. We compare results to healthy averages and give members simple, actionable tips for improvement.