15 November 2023
When the gift of poo comes with something extra
Thanks to his mum, one young man found a cure – and a surprising side effect.
If you’re anything like this Back Page correspondent, with each passing year you might find yourself inevitably, and alarmingly, becoming more and more like your mother.
Even if your mum is no longer around, she’ll be right there with you when you hear her exact words coming out of your own mouth.
You might find yourself tsk-ing loudly when someone leaves crumbs all over the kitchen bench or remarking that all the lights have been left on in the house yet again, or reminding your children to take jumpers with them to school “just in case it gets cold” (insert icy teenage eye roll).
It doesn’t matter whether you were a fan of those particular traits or not – they’re yours now, too. Live with it (everyone else has to). But I will say there is one mother trait I can proudly say I have left behind with dogged determination.
I’m talking about that disgusting habit your mum had of spitting into a tissue and then wiping your face – all under the premise that you have left toothpaste or vegemite or some other stain around your mouth.
I have never done that, will never do that and still feel a vague sense of nausea when I think about it.
But even those little quirky or gross foibles don’t come close to the experience of young Charlie Curtis.
In breaking news from the unapologetically titled documentary Designer $hit, Charlie revealed that he started experiencing symptoms of menopause after receiving several faecal microbiota transplants donated by his lovely mum.
You see, at age 18, poor Charlie was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and then developed Crohn’s disease, which didn’t respond to medication.
His symptoms got so bad that he was hospitalised and had to use the bathroom 40 times a day, so understandably he was ready to do anything to get some relief.
Which is why the Canadian lad ended up trying faecal transplants in the hope of repopulating his unhappy gut with healthy bacteria.
It wasn’t just the one, either. The mother and son team started doing the transplants in 2008 and did them “every day for a month, then every two days for a month, then every third day for a month”, his mum, Sky Curtis, told the doco makers.
“Once we got down to once a month, we did once a month for three and a half years.”
Miraculously, those dedicated years of hard slog worked, and by 2019 Charlie had no symptoms and had stopped taking medication.
“When I was actually doing the procedure, I’d feel tingling inside of me,” he said. “It felt healthy, it felt like it was working.”
But Charlie also started experiencing strangely menopause-like symptoms such as sweating, hot flushes and mood swings – just like his mum was.
“At the time, I was going through menopause,” Sky said in the documentary. “And so was he!”
Professor Thomas Borody, who pioneered faecal microbiota transplants in the 1980s and is the director of the Centre for Digestive Diseases in Sydney, told the documentary makers that donated poo can “transmit high levels of hormones”. So it was very possible that Charlie was absorbing his mum’s hormones and experiencing the same symptoms, he said.
It’s not the first report of surprising poo transplant side effects, either. In 2019, researchers reported that a patient with alopecia areata had some hair regrowth after faecal transplants. And this year, another study found that faecal transplants significantly improved behavioural symptoms of autism in children with ASD.
Of course, whether Charlie really was going through a phantom menopause is yet to be confirmed. And his case is just anecdotal – but never let the facts get in the way of a good poo yarn to rehash around the dinner table right? After all, isn’t that the place where all these things end up when you have kids?
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