Have you considered undergoing fecal microbiota transplant therapy? We have previously discussed the science behind this process and what conditions this may work best for. Today we speak with Jen Broyles, who recently underwent fecal transplant therapy, to get a firsthand understanding of what this therapy is like.
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Jen’s Road to Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT)… 1:34
Jen’s Symptoms Pre-FMT… 5:20
Jen’s FMT Experience… 6:20
Jen’s Results After 30 Days Post-FMT… 13:19
FMT Cost… 19:26
Follow-up and Maintenance for FMT… 22:38
Jen’s Final Thoughts and Tips on FMT… 27:06
Episode Wrap-up… 29:49
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Jen Broyles Shares Her Personal Experience with Undergoing Microbiota Transplant Therapy.
Dr. Michael Ruscio: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Dr. Ruscio Radio. This is Dr. Ruscio. And I am here with Jen Broyles, who is actually on our team at DrRuscio.com, but also, and interestingly, just went through FMT, or fecal microbiota transplant therapy, herself. So I wanted to bring her on to give a first-person account of what it feels like and all these questions that we can’t really get from the research studies but can get from hearing someone’s personal experience. So, Jen, welcome to the show.
Jen Broyles: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
DrMR: I’m excited to pick your brain a little bit because, as tempting as it’s been for me to ask you a bunch of questions when we have periodic calls, I’ve restrained myself because I wanted to have this conversation be as fresh as possible. So there are tons of questions I have for you.
Jen’s Road to FMT
But I guess before I start in with my questions, can you tell people a little bit about what was going on in your life and with your health and, kind of, like, the road leading up to FMT?
JB: Absolutely. And I will try to keep this as short as possible.
JB: But I started experiencing chronic IBS-type symptoms — constipation, bloating, those types of symptoms — back in college in my early 20s. And it all started after a round of antibiotics for acne. And at the time, I didn’t really correlate the two issues. I didn’t know, really, what antibiotics were. I knew nothing about the microbiome. So I had no clue that the antibiotics could have been triggering some of that.
And so after I discontinued that medication, my symptoms still lingered. And my digestion never went back to normal. And I guess I didn’t have optimal digestion even before that. But it never got in my way. I never knew it wasn’t [normal]. And I felt fine. I felt good pretty much all the time until I went on that medication.
And over the years, I could manage it, manage my symptoms. I didn’t know anything about nutrition, didn’t know anything about probiotics. Really in my early 30s, my symptoms started getting progressively worse.
And at the time, my career was in pharmaceutical sales. And so that was my previous life. And through all of this, through all of my personal experiences with just not being able to find answers, I just started doing my own reading and research. I went back to school to study nutrition and just learned the role that food plays on the gut and overall wellness.
But then I also just started diving deeper in the area of gut health and trying to just figure out what was going on and started seeing functional medicine doctors and doing a lot of testing. Definitely uncovered some infections. I tested positive for SIBO a couple of times but was never really able to treat it and get it under control.
And so that’s when I decided to give FMT a try. I had researched it quite a bit. And I was doing some research for you, actually, when I came across some of the clinics outside of the U.S. and started just diving more into that. And I decided to go for it because I know the root of so many of my symptoms stemmed from a dysbiosis in the gut. And so that’s what led me to move forward with FMT. And here I am now.
DrMR: And that’s kind of like the perfect, in my opinion — and I think the few different FMT experts we’ve had on the podcast have agreed with — you want to go through more of the foundational therapies first. And it’s exactly what you did.
DrMR: You went through diet. You went through seeing a few functional medicine doctors, but you were never able to get the kind of traction that you would like. So I think the way you did it was the perfect way to execute.
JB: Yep. Yeah, and I agree. I think you definitely need to try everything else first. For a lot of people, diet is the answer. For others, just taking a probiotic heals them. And sometimes, it’s treating an infection, and then the person feels so much better.
But for me, like you said, I had tried everything. I had tried diet, lifestyle, treating infections with both pharmaceuticals and herbal anti-microbials. And nothing seemed to do the job.
Jen’s Symptoms Pre-FMT
And coming back to your symptoms, can you share some more specifics just so people might be able to get an idea or connect with you on some of those levels? You said IBS, but that can be a variety of stuff.
JB: That can be so much, yes. So my specific symptoms — I primarily was dealing with constipation, a lot of bloating, and abdominal discomfort. I was dealing with weight loss. I could not keep weight on. And then I also was experiencing some systemic things like skin issues, rosacea. There were periods where my hair would be thinning and I would have really dry skin. And just, honestly, a lot of anxiety was coming up around all of this because I couldn’t figure out the answers.
JB: But those were my primary symptoms.
DrMR: Okay. I definitely want to work our way to the symptomatic improvements that you’ve seen or the results that you’ve seen.
Jen’s FMT Experience
DrMR: But before we do that, what was it like? Tell people about where you went, what the process was like, experientially, what it felt like, what the kind of commitment was, so people get a better idea of that.
JB: Great. Great. Yes, so after a lot of research, I decided to go to the Taymount Clinic. They are in the UK. They’re located right outside of London. So I went there a month ago. And they’ve since moved locations. They just moved into a larger clinic. But it’s still very close to where they were.
So at the time when I went, they were in a little town called Hitchin, which I’d never heard of before. But it’s actually quite a nice little town. And they’ve since moved to Letchworth, which is about a 5-minute train ride from Hitchin.
JB: And Taymount Clinic has been doing FMT for a number of years. So I feel like they have really figured out what works. They’ve got a process that is very effective. They’ve worked out all the kinks. And so after just reading about their method of performing FMT and some of the testimonials, I was definitely sold on going there.
And I’ll tell you a little bit about what makes them special. And so what they do is they have a group of donors. And let me just say, they do serious screening on all of their donors. And I think it speaks volumes to their donors, too, that these donors have to go through routine testing. I think it’s every 3 months they’re doing stool tests and blood tests. And so they have to live an extremely healthy lifestyle. I think they all follow some type of paleo-style diet, just eating a real food diet, trying to get a lot of diverse foods to broaden their bacterial diversity.
And when the donors bring in their stool samples, what Taymount does is they extract just the bacteria from the stool. So that is the only thing that is being implanted. So there is no waste, no toxins, no hormones are being implanted into the patient, which is so important, in my opinion, because most patients who are coming to Taymount are immunocompromised.
And so you want to make sure, first of all, that these donors are extremely well tested to ensure there is no pathogenic bacteria, no viruses, nothing that could make the patient worse potentially, and also that the patient is just getting the beneficial bacteria.
The other thing they do is that they freeze the sample. And I don’t recall how long. I want to say — it might be 3 months, actually. But don’t quote me on that. But they freeze the samples so the bacteria doesn’t mutate because they want the bacteria in the form that it needs to be in so it can go in and colonize in the appropriate, beneficial form. So I really like their methodology.
Then when you go to Taymount Clinic, the way they do the implants is, first of all, you have to do a series of 10 implants to start out with. And this is for any type of IBS or IBD. Or they even treat MS and a number of other conditions. But it’s 10 days of treatment. And you get a different donor sample each day for 10 days.
And so you go in. And they implant it using a catheter. So it goes just right up into the sigmoid colon. So it doesn’t go too far up. And they just use the syringe and implant the sample. And then they do another syringe of saline to flush that sample throughout the colon. And then they do a colonic massage to really get the bacteria all throughout the entire colon. Then they have you lie there for about 30 minutes in different positions just to let that implant kind of sink in and start to colonize.
So the process itself is extremely easy. And when I went over there, I was a little nervous about it, as I’m sure most people would be.
JB: Not knowing what to expect. Is it going to hurt? Is it going to be painful? What is it going to be like? And it was not at all. It was super easy, not painful at all. The actual procedure takes less than 2 minutes. And then you spend most of your time just lying there in different positions. So it’s actually quite relaxing. So the procedure itself is very, very easy.
DrMR: Gotcha. And I like the screening that they do. That’s definitely been something echoed by every FMT expert we’ve spoken with — just the importance of thorough screening. And the different donors, I think — it just makes a lot of sense to me to have different donors.
DrMR: Because I think it was — oh gosh, I’m blanking on his name — the gentleman from Australia who said —
JB: Oh, yeah.
DrMR: The donor effect can really be a big one. So I think that’s a nice way to kind of hedge against that.
DrMR: The thing I wonder about — and this is just curiosity. I wonder if the bacteria only has a downside to the upside because there is also the mycome — the whole world of fungus in the gut —
DrMR: And the virome. But I think it’s always a pro/con analysis where there may be less toxin exposure through that process. So that’s just something I ask as just kind of a question that runs through my head. I don’t think anybody has the answer to that.
DrMR: But it wasn’t painful. They had you retain it for 30 minutes, was it?
JB: Yeah, so they have you lie there for 30 to 45 minutes. The practitioners there say if you can at least retain it for the time that you’re in the clinic, then that gives the bacteria time to colonize. And so you should be good. Obviously, the longer you can retain it, the better.
And so they don’t want you to be uncomfortable throughout the day. So if there is that urge, then they definitely want you to listen to your body. But the longer you can retain it, the better. And for me, for most days, I was able to retain it all day.
JB: So that was definitely a good thing because I think a lot of saline and everything is going to just get absorbed. So yeah, I felt pretty good most days and was able to retain it, maybe a little extra bloating but nothing uncomfortable.
But, yeah, I know a lot of patients go there, and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, what if I can’t retain it? Am I wasting all this time and money?” But no, as long as you can lie there in the clinic and retain it for that period of time, then it’s going to have a positive effect.
Jen’s Results 30 Days Post-FMT
And what about — and this is a really big question I’m curious about. I think everyone listening is probably curious about. What kind of results have you seen from this? And you’re about — what — 30 days out from it?
JB: Yeah, yeah.
JB: I’m close to a month out. And I am noticing some small improvements that I’ll definitely explain. But one thing I do want to just emphasize — and I love that, when you go to the clinic to get this procedure, they make this very clear, too, just to set your expectations to be realistic.
So most people do not leave feeling completely cured. A lot of people leave feeling the same as they did when they came. And that is completely normal.
Most of the time, what they’ve found is it takes several months to start noticing significant improvement. So they check in with you at the 3-month mark to see how you’re doing. But for some people, it takes 6 months. For some people, it takes a year. Some people have to go back for additional treatments. Everyone’s different, so it just depends on how you respond.
For me, one of the things that I noticed while I was there getting my treatments, which is very common for many of their patients, is I experienced a lot of fatigue. And they said that is completely normal. They want to see some sort of change, whether it’s fatigue or extra energy or something like that, because that’s a sign that something is working in the body.
And if you think about it, you’re giving your body an entirely new microbiome. And so your body isn’t used to that. Your immune system has to get adjusted to it.
JB: It’s like a total foreign object to your body. So the fatigue was totally normal and actually a pretty good thing.
Some of the symptoms I’ve noticed have improved since my treatment are, for one, my blood pressure has been a lot better. I have dealt with really, really low blood pressure for a number of years. I’ve often attributed that to adrenal fatigue. I don’t know if that’s the cause. But my blood pressure has just been kind of on the scary low.
And that started going up, even while I was there. The second week, my blood pressure had climbed a good bit. So even the nurses were like, “Oh my gosh! Your blood pressure is looking more normal now. This is really cool.” So that was a great thing.
Another thing that I noticed, even while I was there, was that for the past couple of years I’ve had this dermatitis on my scalp. And that’s the best term I have for it because I don’t really know exactly what it was, but just a very dry, itchy, flaky scalp. And it started out in small patches. And then it just spread to my entire scalp. And that has significantly decreased. It’s almost gone. So that was really exciting.
And the other big improvement that I’ve noticed since I got back is that my daily bloating that was so uncomfortable has drastically decreased. There are some days where I don’t have it all, which is just amazing to me because that was probably my most uncomfortable symptom. So that’s been great.
My energy has been good most days. For the longest time, I’d sleep, and I would wake up not feeling rested. And I would just feel tired throughout the day. But the past few weeks, my energy is getting better. So I’m definitely seeing some small improvements.
Am I completely healed? No, but I’m taking it one day at a time and just really recognizing the small improvements and just being aware of how I feel each day. So it’s pretty exciting.
DrMR: Great! Yeah, it seems like for 30 days out, you’re doing pretty well.
JB: Yeah. Yeah, I am. So it’s a procedure I’m so thankful I had. I just feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to do it. And everyone at Taymount was so amazing. The entire staff was just wonderful and supportive. They clearly love what they do. So I just really liked being there and working with them. But yeah, it was a really good experience.
DrMR: Good. Good. And we’re going to be having, I think, one of the head doctors on the podcast here in the near future.
DrMR: I know with the move, it was kind of hard to coordinate.
JB: Right. Working on it, though, yes.
DrMR: Yeah, we’ll make that happen eventually.
JB: Yes, for sure. For sure.
DrMR: Now, I’d be curious, Jen, are you planning on maybe retesting SIBO at any point and seeing how that looks?
JB: I’ve thought about it. And I don’t know. I may. I may. I don’t plan on doing it any time soon. But that is something I would like to eventually retest and see how those numbers look because it would be neat to just see the kind of effect that the treatment has had on that. But I don’t have any definite, immediate plans to do that.
DrMR: Well, I would think if there would be a good time to do it, it would be when you feel like your improvements have plateaued.
DrMR: But let me know if that’s something that you want to do. And we’ll help out with that.
DrMR: Because I’d be curious myself to see.
JB: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. It definitely would be a good thing to do. And one of the other things I will mention that Taymount does when you buy their package and you do 10 treatments there, they send you home with two complimentary treatments that you can do at any point in time.
So I haven’t done those yet. But I don’t know when I’ll do them. I haven’t figured that out yet. But they do send you home with two treatments, two implants that you can do yourself. And you can buy more if you want to. So some people choose to buy more. But I’m just doing two. And they teach you how to do it yourself while you’re there. So they make it really easy.
And the next two questions I had were regarding cost, if that’s something you feel comfortable discussing, and then what their follow-up or maintenance recommendations were.
JB: Yeah. So the cost — I will just say, it’s not inexpensive. It’s one of those things where I felt like I had exhausted all of my options. And my husband and I talked it over and decided this was the best next step. We had to give it a try. And the cost for 10 treatments is around, I want to say, £3900, which in US dollars is probably between $5000 and $6000.
So it’s a pricey treatment. But just thinking that it could be life-changing, that there is the potential for that, I just had to do it. And so we made the decision to go for it and see how it worked.
DrMR: And I think if you put that in relation to if someone has to do, let’s say, a round of rifaximin that’s not covered by insurance —
JB: Oh, yeah.
DrMR: That can be about $1000. If they had to do two, that could be $2000.
DrMR: If someone had to do several months of functional medicine care for their gut with follow-up visits and with herbal treatments, or they’re going to use probiotics synergistically, or whatever or what have you in addition to that, you could be looking into the couple thousand dollar range there.
DrMR: So this is more expensive than that, but it’s not drastically more expensive than that.
DrMR: So it seems reasonable.
JB: It’s so true. In my opinion, it’s very reasonable for the potential outcome you could experience. And I just think back to the past few years of all of the conventional testing that I did that I had to pay for out of pocket because my insurance deductible was so high.
JB: All of those tests — colonoscopies, endoscopies, MRIs, you name it — those are thousands of dollars. And that adds up fast. And, unfortunately, that didn’t give me any good results. It didn’t give me any answers. And so I’d much rather put my money toward something like this that can give me some hope and some results.
JB: And there are so many ways when you’re traveling from the US, you also obviously have to think about flights and accommodations. And to anyone out there that’s thinking about it, I definitely recommend doing Airbnb. I’ll just say that right now. We did that, and it was great. And especially if you’re going to be over there for 2 weeks, you probably want a kitchen.
DrMR: Oh, yeah.
JB: Because if you’re going over there, chances are you’re on some special diet or you’ve got food allergies or something. So living in a hotel and having to eat out all the time not only gets expensive, but it may not accommodate you very well. So Airbnb is great because it’s so much cheaper than a hotel. And you can have your own kitchen and cook your own food. So that’s the way to go.
DrMR: I totally agree. When I travel, I try to do either Airbnb or VRBO or HomeAway.
DrMR: Or one of those services where you can stay in someone’s house or apartment or what have you because it’s just way more cozy than a hotel. Totally agreed.
JB: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
Follow-up and Maintenance for FMT
DrMR: So what about follow-up and maintenance? I know you said they gave you two to be done at home. I’m assuming they have probably different plans for different people. So can you talk a little bit about what you know regarding their follow-up and maintenance options?
JB: Yes. And they don’t have one recommendation for one diagnosis because everyone’s so different. So it’s not like, “You have IBS. So you need to do this many implants at home” or anything like that. It’s just very, very personalized and individualized.
But they do give you two complimentary implants to take home. And you can do those whenever you want. They just have to be used within 6 months. So they say you may want to do one the first few weeks you get home and then another one a couple months later. But they really leave that up to you.
And of course, they say if you have food poisoning, do a treatment. If you have to go on antibiotics, do a treatment after you finish antibiotics. So outside of that, there’s a lot of flexibility.
They also have additional packages that you can purchase. You have to go there to get your first set of treatments. But after that, you can order implants to have them shipped to you so you can do it yourself. And you can buy them individually. Or I think they come in packages of 10. So if you do need more treatments, you can either go back, or you can have them shipped to you and do them yourself.
And another option is they have a sister clinic in the Bahamas. So you could also opt to go there if that’s closer.
DrMR: Nice! And maybe make that like a vacation/health retreat.
JB: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So, yeah, it’s nice that they do have a closer location to the US now because I was asking them when I was there. I was like, “What percentage of your patients are Americans?” And they said about 50% which, to me, is really no surprise.
And while I was there, I had the opportunity to meet a few of the other patients. And they were all Americans. And so I think a lot of Americans travel over there.
DrMR: Yeah, well, as I think we all know, it’s so tightly regulated here that there is no other option. Well, you could use someone as a consultant here in the States. But I think a lot of people want to get that clinical first step with someone like you did.
DrMR: And then maybe go on to maintenance on their own from there.
JB: Yep, exactly. Exactly. And that was the other thing I had considered because before I really started looking into going somewhere to get it done, I was looking into DIY and how I might be able to do it myself. But then when you think about all the stuff that you have to go through for that — you have to find a healthy donor. You have to put them through all of that testing.
JB: They’ve got to be willing to do that. You also want your donor to be on a very clean diet. So they’ve got to be willing to do that. And all that testing can add up. And so just that whole process alone can get expensive. And it’s not even as, I guess — I don’t want to say safe. But you can’t go through all the steps that a clinic goes through.
DrMR: Yeah, it’s hard if people are self-educating themselves to be able to have the same level of effectiveness or thoroughness as a clinic —
DrMR: — that has a group of people who’ve been working on this exclusively maybe for 3, 4, 5, 10 years.
JB: Yeah, exactly.
JB: Exactly. So, yeah, I just made the decision that I felt more comfortable going to a clinic that has a really good reputation doing this procedure. And their protocols are solid. And I just felt more comfortable with that.
DrMR: Sure. And I guess, to maybe try to paint some real-world shades of gray, maybe if you’re someone living in the United States who has a pretty challenging financial situation, and you have IBD that is flirting on the edge of surgical intervention, maybe that’s when using a consultant and trying to do some of this on yourself makes more sense because you’re trying to hedge against a greater risk of surgery.
DrMR: So all these things need to be weighed when making a decision. But I think for the position you were in, Jen, this decision to go to the Taymount Clinic made a lot of sense.
JB: Yes. Yes, it was just the right decision at the right time. So, yeah, it worked out really well.
Jen’s Final Thoughts and Tips on FMT
So, what else? Any other thoughts or tips that you’d like to leave people with?
JB: I would say the big thing for me — and if you’re listening and you’re struggling with health issues, whether it’s IBS or IBD or maybe an autoimmune condition — it’s very easy when you’ve tried everything and you feel like there are no other options. Just know that there are other options, because it’s easy to lose hope. And it’s easy to get really down.
And those emotions are going to affect your physical situation, not for the better. And I have definitely learned that. I’ve experienced it firsthand where I’ve been kind of in these stages where I feel like I’m doing all this stuff, and I’m working so hard. I’m doing everything right.
And I’m like, “I’m living like the healthiest person I know, but I’m not the healthiest person I know.” And it’s frustrating. And you want to give up. And in those moments, honestly, that’s when I feel the worst physically.
So I think it’s really important to do things in your life to bring out a positive outlook because that will truly make you feel better overall. And that can be in the form of stress management activities. That can be in the form of expressing gratitude, meditation, journaling, spending time with friends and family. Whatever that is for you, keep that in your life. And just hold onto that faith and that hope because that is so important.
DrMR: I like that message, Jen, and I think that’s becoming increasingly more important in our space because it’s easy to kind of find yourself at the bottom of a proverbial black hole of doom and gloom on the Internet because it’s as dark as you want to go.
DrMR: It’s almost like as dark as you can go.
DrMR: And I was actually speaking with someone the other day about this, how it’s usually the people who regain their health or improve their health — they’re not hanging out as much on message boards or comment sections.
And so I think you get a little bit of a biased perspective from some of these — as helpful as these things can be for some, we also have to be cognizant of the fact that you’re going to get more of a negative view there because most of the people who are doing better are kind of just out living their lives and not venting on these websites or comment sections or what have you.
DrMR: So I think you make a great point in that same direction, which is that doing things to feel good about yourself or to feel gratitude or appreciation or what have you is really, really important.
JB: Yep, awesome. Awesome.
DrMR: So where can people hear more from you if they wanted to pick your brain or read something that you’ve written or what have you?
JB: Absolutely, yeah. So I have a website and a blog. And it’s my name. It’s JenBroyles.com. And we’ll make sure there’s a link in the post, as well. But it’s J-E-N-B-R-O-Y-L-E-S.com. And so you can visit my blog. I have a lot of different information. I write articles on gut health, on adrenal health. I do a lot of inspiration articles. I have a lot of healthy recipes.
I do a lot with essential oils as well. I’ve found them to be extremely beneficial for my health and well-being and even emotional health. So I’ve got a lot of articles and resources on essential oils. So you can find all of that at my website.
DrMR: Sweet. Well, Jen, thank you for taking a moment to share your story with us. I’m sure there are people out there who have probably been following the scientific review that we’ve been going through for FMT.
But I think some people will probably be really, really helped by just hearing this more personal account of what it looks like. And like you said before, is it going to be painful? And all that. So I think this is going to hopefully help a lot of people. And thank you for taking the time to share your experience.
JB: Oh, you’re so welcome. Thank you for having me.
DrMR: Absolutely, Jen. Have a good rest of your day. We’ll talk soon.
JB: All right.
DrMR: All right. Bye-bye.
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