The antidote to your gut health could also be the most disgusting

Would you swallow someone else's poo in a pill?

This is not some weird new internet challenge and it's a hell of a lot safer than eating a dishwasher ball.

Cool new science has discovered human waste may actually contain organisms that can treat a range of diseases, including obesity, autism, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and a range of nasty gut ailments.

A waste opportunity

Welcome to the world of Faecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT), where you are welcome to leave your squeamishness at the door.

Over the last decade medical science has gained a deeper understanding of the delicate relationships between the intricate systems in our bodies. The health of the microbes in our gut may, ultimately, even have an effect on our mental health.

The theory is dead simple. If your microbes are sick, add the microbes of someone who's well and balance is restored.

Our bodies are a universe of living microbes, including bacteria, that work to keep us alive and healthy.

Pass the pill

It's too easy to make jokes or shudder and think "Ew, gross." There's nothing funny about the agony of Crohn's disease, and the inevitable colostomy bag. Given the choice, pass me the poo pill.

Hospitals and facilities that care for the elderly are fairly swarming with a nasty called Clostridium difficile, which, when they rapidly outgrow the other bacteria in your gut, cause a horrible condition with a horrible name, psuedomembranous colitis. It can also happen when you take antibiotics. Get that, and you'll be spending a lot of time in the bathroom, pale and moaning. FMT is a proven cure in 97 per cent of cases.


Proof in the poo-ding

If ever there was a man passionate about poo, it's Melbourne gastroenterologist, Dr Paul Froomes.

"There's a large body of evidence, and more coming every day, that shows healthy gut bacteria is critical to good health," he says.

And it's not a stretch to link gut microbe health to things like arthritis, obesity and depression. They produce nutrients which are the precursors to glucosamine and neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. The little chemical messages they send to our brain affect our mood, what we want to eat and how much.

It's still new science, and so many papers are being published internationally Dr Froomes says it's hard to keep up.

A theory fermenting

At the moment, the magic pill is a couple of years away. Right now, in Australia, if you want to try FMT, it's still delivered by enema. It's fair enough that regulatory bodies are taking take a long, hard look at approving the eating of poo.

Science is still testing the theory and there's still considerable debate on exactly how and why it works. There's a lot of discussion going on at a lot of doctor conferences and a new study is published every couple of months.

But the anecdotal is staggering. Dr Froomes says a patient in his late 50s visited his clinic, Melbourne FMT, with severe depression. He was unable to work and his family was breaking down. He also had irritable bowel syndrome.

A bitter pill to swallow

"He had a course of FMT. I was a bit nervous about his follow up visit a month later – the man was suicidal and I was worried about him. But he jumped out of his chair and said 'You've changed my life!'.

"I rang his psychiatrist, who said 'What did you do?' I said 'All I did was change his gut microbes.'

It's a common story in FMT circles.

While it may be a little hard to digest, there's very little doubt one day soon someone else's faeces in a pill could fix your sore tummy and maybe even save your life.

With more than 25 years in Australian media, Phil Barker has edited NW and Woman's Day magazines, and published such titles as Vogue, GQ, Delicious, InsideOut and Donna Hay. He is a consultant creative director and communications specialist, currently writing a book on "man stuff" for publisher Allen & Unwin. He is a regular commentator on the lives and style of Australian men.