Naturopathic doctors Andrea McBeth and Piper Dobner founded Flora Medicine, an intentionally all-female naturopathic clinic in Portland, Oregon which focuses primarily on healing the microbiome and providing fecal microbiota transplants to patients suffering from Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections. Unique to their practice, they produce and ship frozen fecal matter transplant (FMT) capsules which can be administered by doctors throughout the United States. Flora medicine is positioned to make FMT much more available for C. diff patients, as the capsules can be taken orally and have been shown to be as effective as an FMT done by a colonoscopy.
When it comes to C. diff, the system is complicated and full of holes. A C. diff infection picked up in a hospital or long-term care facility often becomes a repeat infection, with 1 in 5 patients suffering a recurrence. This deadly and highly contagious bacteria kills at least 29,000 Americans each year, and in patients over 65, 1 in 11 patients die within 30 days of infection.
Since 2000, increasingly younger, healthier populations with no common risk factors (recent antibiotic use, advanced age, hospitalization, compromised immune system) are contracting C. diff infections in the community.
To treat the often-intractable infection outside of the hospital environment, McBeth and Dobner trained with fellow naturopathic doctors Mark Davis and Carmen Campbell to learn the most effective protocol for FMT capsule administration. After an off-the-record meeting with an FDA rep, McBeth took a leap of faith and purchased a $10,000 centrifuge and the necessary equipment for a state-of-the-art lab to begin the business of “healing people from the inside out.” A year later, Dobner jumped on board and the two partnered up to create Flora Medicine.
It hasn’t, however, been all open doors and smiling faces for the two trailblazing women. Big pharma and the biotech industry are predominantly male “boys clubs” and are not known to be very open to naturopathic practitioners. “We have become accustomed to having a lot of doors closed in our faces,” admits Dobner. “But still, we show up and tell ourselves that we are supposed to be here. We try and have fun with it while learning from our amazing female advisors.”
While Flora Medicine doesn’t take insurance, they do try to make their services accessible to as many people as possible by operating on a sliding scale and offering payment plans for patients in need. It is their mission to help people reduce their suffering and feel empowered to heal from C. diff. Dobner continues, “We have this amazing opportunity to take care of patients. We aren’t governed by the AMA, we get to try different things, and we get to see our patients get better.”
Angela Kelly is the founder of GutsyMother, a health and wellness informational site and blog exploring the microbiome as it relates to personal health, fitness, and family health. She is also a freelance writer, mama to three small humans, a C. diff survivor, and a gut health enthusiast. You can find her drinking an obscene amount of green tea, swearing at the laundry, running, writing, or enjoying the beach with her tribe. Follow her on Instagram at @GutsyMother.