What’s the Microbiome? I’m glad you asked. See, the human body is made up of about 10 trillion human cells. And that same body is also home to 100 trillion bacteria. Your mouth, nose, armpits, bellybutton, skin and especially your gut are teeming with thousands of different species of bacteria. Collectively, they’re called the microbiome. If you took them all out, they’d weigh about 2 kilos.
And then you’d die, because they play a crucial role in keeping you alive.
As I’ve written before, I’m convinced we’re being crowdsourced by these little suckers, manipulated by our microbes into maintaining these warm, well-nourished vehicles we like to call our bodies. Free will? Right. Just pass the croissants and nobody will get hurt.
But maybe for the more clever bacteriamobiles among us, there’s a silver lining. Maybe they’re not the only ones who can profit from this symbiosis. In short, there’s money to be made here, folks. There’s gold in them thar guts!
See, here’s the thing: In our western world of processed food and Monsanto and broad-spectrum antibiotics, more and more people are suffering from nasty gastric conditions like Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel, colitis and antibiotic-resistant Clostridium difficile infections. Their lives are ruined by the twin spectres of painful constipation and explosive diarrhea. Mainstream medicine isn’t a whole lot of help.
There is one thing that works, though, and it works amazingly well: FMT, Fecal microbiota transplantation, in other words, a shit transfusion. Poop from a healthy donor is blended gently with saline solution, and then deposited via enema into the sick person’s gut.
The new microbes get busy trying to take over the new territory. And from what we’ve seen, the healthy donor microbiome outcompetes the unhealthy one. With the help of its new inhabitants, the gut can heal itself.
A team at the University of Calgary has developed a much better delivery method: a poop pill, if you will. No more blenders, no more messy enemas. You just swallow a pill.
I know what you’re thinking. Ick. But coprophagia, or eating shit, is actually quite normal. If you have a dog, you know what I’m talking about. Pandas, elephants, hippos and koalas are all born with sterile digestive systems. They have to eat their parents’ poop to survive.
And it’s not just other animals. In ancient China, sick people drank a yellow soup made with fecal matter and broth. Today, Bedouins eat fresh camel feces to treat infectious diarrhea. In the Middle Ages, doctors routinely tasted their patients’ poop to diagnose disease.
Hippocrates said that all disease begins in the gut, and he was right. It turns out that Crohn’s and C diff are just the tip of the iceberg. Experts are now finding that a whole raft of first-world ills could be associated with an out-of-whack microbiome: obesity, autism, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, even cancer and depression. Our obsession with cleanliness and our overuse of antibiotics have damaged our freeloading bacterial communities, who play such an essential role in keeping us healthy. Treating any these ills with something as simple and cheap as poop would be huge.
Now, here’s where you come in. Are you super-healthy? No auto-immune disease, hepatitis or STDs, you’re lean and fit, you abstain from alcohol, drugs and promiscuous sex? Do you eat organic kale?
I didn’t think so. Never mind. Are you a writer? Put down your pen! You could have a lucrative future selling, not bullshit, like you’ve been doing, but real shit. And if you’re not healthy, don’t despair. You live in Vancouver! Just go to a yoga studio and pass out a questionnaire. You don’t necessarily have to be healthy yourself, you just need to have access to the poop of someone who is.
And then get that shit working for you.
First step: cut a licensing deal with the Calgary folks for their poop-pill method, and set up a lab in your basement. Next, source yourself some good, pure product (you, your yoga friend, whoever) and get it safely to your lab and then certified as healthy by a professional. Three: get the word out. Think online sales or maybe a specialty boutique. You could set up shop in a closing cannabis clinic, maybe.
If you’re smart, you’ll get your foot in the door while the authorities are still hand-wringing about whether or not they should authorize widespread use of the technique. (It’s just a matter of time, trust me.) In the meantime, you could peddle it under the radar. On the brown market, so to speak.
You’re ideally located, after all: Vancouverites have a long and storied history of selling illicit product from their basements.
As in any business, you’ll need a niche. What’s so great about your product? Is it flavoured? Does the doctor certifying it have at least three professional degrees? Consider collecting in undeveloped countries where the diseases of civilization have yet to gain a foothold. It’s an expense, sure, but probably worth it. That stuff will be highly sought-after — pristine, pure, triple-A, 100% top-of the line shit.
Of course branding will be critical. Shit Happens. Or maybe Poopylicious.
Here’s an enticing picture painted by gastroenterologist Robynne Chutkan in article in the Atlantic Monthly magazine:
“Imagine,” she writes, “a posh store displaying expensive samples that sell for more than $1,000 an ounce. The donor ate an unprocessed, non-GMO, plant-based diet, with no hormones or antibiotics, ever. The label says it’s from a rare and difficult-to-access source in the Himalayas. The samples are rigorously tested on site to assure purity and quality, and then flown back to the U.S. in a pressure-controlled, refrigerated jet.”
The luxury stool market (and I’m not talking furniture here) is the future of first-world medicine. Haute cuisine, make way for “haute manure.” Wait a minute. What about a partnership, via the restaurant washroom…
And remember, you heard about it here first.