Stomach trouble is one of those issues that can be quite hard to pin down. Because the gut is so interconnected with our diet, our mental health, and so much more, it can be hard to tease apart what exactly the source of our sour stomach is—and, more importantly, what to do it about.
Thankfully, scientists are on the case—and these two brand new therapies might be the surprising solution to your gut trouble. Have you ever heard of N-AcG? How about fecal microbiota transplantation? Are you confused as to why the accompanying image for this article is a pile of shells? Below I’ll demystify these cutting-edge interventions for restoring the balance in your gut’s microbiome.
1. N-acetyl glucosamine (N-AcG): A Possible New Therapy for Supporting Our Gut
N-acetyl glucosamine (N-AcG) comes from the outer shell of shellfish. Studies indicate it might help protect the lining of the stomach and intestines. N-AcG seems to be an energy source for friendly organisms within the microbiota, which may account for its protective benefits to the intestinal tract.
There is early evidence that taking N-AcG by mouth or rectally might decrease symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, conditions that are known to have deterioration of the gut microbiota. While a holistic practitioner will always focus on reestablishing a healthy microbiota, sometimes we also need therapies and treatments to help with flared symptoms.
NB: Do not confuse N-AcG with the forms of glucosamine that are used in holistic therapies for osteoarthritis; the supplements are very different. For osteoarthritis, glucosamine sulfate is used. N-AcG, since it is derived from shellfish, carries the risk of causing a reaction in individuals who are allergic to shellfish. Also, N-AcG may raise insulin levels, interact with prescription medications, and is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.
The appropriate dose of N-AcG glucosamine depends on several factors, such as age, health issues, current medications, and many other factors. The appropriateness of N-AcG for any individual needs to be determined by a health practitioner.
2. Fecal Microbiota Transplantation: A Cutting-Edge Intervention to Rebalance the Microbiome
All that bacteria in your gut has a job to do: protect your microbiome and ensure it remains in balance. But when there’s trouble—when a microorganism becomes overgrown—the resulting imbalance damages the integrity of the microbiome, leaving it open to disease processes that affect other systems in the body.
One particular bacteria that is a normal part of our gut biome, but which is likely to overgrow and cause damage, especially after antibiotic use, is C. difficile, which is often difficult to control.
An innovative, cutting edge treatment is Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT), or stool transplantation; in randomized, controlled clinical trials, it has resolved 80-90% of infections caused by C. difficile. With FMT, an infusion of bacteria from a carefully-screened, healthy donor’s stool is transplanted into the recipient’s colon. The procedure may be done in different ways, depending upon the needs of the patient. Methods used for FMT include: colonoscopy, naso-enteric tube or capsules, each having unique risks and benefits.
Experts indicate that FMT works by repopulating the patient’s microbiome with diverse microorganisms that rebalance the microbiome. Other health conditions that may be helped by FMT include Irritable Bowel Syndrome, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and Crohn’s Disease. However, more research must be conducted to confirm the safety and efficacy for these conditions. Current FDA guidelines permit the use of FMT only for the treatment of C. difficile infection that is not responsive to standard antibiotic therapy. It is not recommended for people who are immunocompromised.
The procedure is performed by a licensed physician. FMT can lead to serious health complications if performed by untrained individuals. To be considered for this procedure, you must have a complete medical evaluation and be assessed for your candidacy. Consult with a physician for more information.