Evidently you can be full of the wrong shit. A cyclist, by testing her friends fecal output, determined she needed better critters up in herself to improve her pedal pushing. So she did.
The madwoman behind “poop doping” is Lauren Petersen, a postdoctoral microbiologist at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine. Petersen has been racing bikes all her life, but as she told The Scientist earlier this month, she’s struggled with chronic Lyme disease since her teen years. She finally rid herself of the disease in 2013, but the intense course of antibiotics she took had ravaged her system and left her with chronic fatigue and stomach problems.
Eventually, she learned that her microbiome (the colony of microbes in her body) was dangerously unbalanced and was not functioning as it should. She was not breaking down any food, and she learned that she was not eligible for a potentially beneficial fecal transplant. So she simply did one herself. As she said, it was a fairly dangerous DIY procedure and it wasn’t fun, but it worked better than she thought it could:
In February 2014, with the support of her family, she recruited a donor and did it herself. “I just did it at home. It’s not fun, but it’s pretty basic. It costs like six bucks to do.” (The $6 being for the drugstore enema kit.)
The do-it-yourself solution worked. “Within two months I was a new person,” Petersen says. “I had no more fatigue. I could ride my bike hard three days in a row, no problem.” She started racing four months after her fecal transplant, and was winning races at the pro level soon after that. “Everything changed,” Petersen says.
Petersen’s donor was a fellow elite cyclist, and after analyzing the sample and those of other riders, she discovered an unusually high prevalence of the bacterium Prevotella, which helps synthesize amino acids that help in muscle recovery. Petersen’s analysis of her friends’ craps also showed an abundance of M. smithii, which performs a complementary function. The science is complicated, but in short, a healthy amount of both bacteria types in one’s gut means you can more efficiently process food and then deal with debilitating byproducts like carbon dioxide and hydrogen.