Biofilms and How They Affect Your Health
You’re pretty savvy about your body and your health. You know about the bacteria and fungi (good and bad) that live in and on our bodies. However, do you know about biofilms? They can occur nearly anywhere, yet most people don’t even know they exist!
Biofilms are groups of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungus, and parasites that are protected by a layer of slime. Once they form, they can be difficult to remove. Those that colonize your gut can be particularly stubborn without the help of a biofilm disruptor such as Microb-Clear®.
Microb-Clear® is a powerful blend of herbal extracts and fatty acids. I designed this blend around botanical substances that are known biofilm disruptors. I recommended these to support optimal digestive tract health. I’ll circle back to how biofilm disruptors work after I’ve explained what exactly a biofilm is and how it can damage your health.
What Is a Biofilm?
A biofilm includes three components:
- Microorganisms that adhere, or stick, to one another or a surface.
- A change in the microorganisms’ state from their single-celled “planktonic” state to their “biofilm state”.1 This alters their activities and how they function together, making them stronger as a unit.
- An extracellular matrix or lattice made up of proteins, lipids, polysaccharides, and other molecules that aren’t cells. The matrix, or glue, protects the microorganisms inside it and stores the tools it needs to grow stronger.2
Biofilms grow throughout nature on or within minerals, metals, and plants. They can also form under- and above the ground and under and on water. Pond scum is one example of that.
They also form on and in animals and people. A common example is the dental plaque that forms on teeth. Biofilms also colonize the lining of your nasal passageways and in your GI tract. In fact, your gut is an ideal environment for bacterial biofilms and fungi. That’s because it has a huge surface area and a constant supply of nutrients.
Your gut is naturally lined with mucus that lubricates and protects it. However, when inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), or Candida overgrowth damage your gut wall, the mucus can also be disrupted. Damaged mucus creates an opportunity for bacterial biofilms to attach to the gut cell wall. There, it creates further damage and increasing the likelihood of leaky gut. I’ll discuss this in greater detail later on in this article.
These colonies don’t just attach to living tissue. They often affix to implanted medical devices such as prosthetic heart valves, joint prosthetics, catheters, pacemakers, and even breast implants.3 Devices that can be removed, such as retainers or dentures, are prime candidates for biofilm formation as well.
How Does Biofilm Formation Happen?
Biofilm formation begins when microorganisms adhere to the surface of an object in a moist environment. Once attached, they begin to reproduce. They spread along the surface and attach to each other by secreting a slimy, glue-like substance.
This sticky polysaccharide has sugary molecular strands called extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). This simply means it has tentacles made up of material that is different from the cell it came from and that it exists outside the cell walls.
Biofilm formation can depend on a single kind of microorganism. However, they almost always consist of mixtures of many bacteria species. They also commonly contain fungi, algae, yeasts, protozoa, and other microorganisms. For example, over 500 bacterial species can live on typical dental plaque biofilms. The films can be just a few cells thick. Or, they can build up to many layers over time in the same way coral does. Biofilm formation also tends to trap non-living debris such as microscopic food particles.
These colonies function as one well-oiled machine, helping them survive within an environment with other competing organisms. The microorganisms arrange themselves to form open channels through which water and nutrients circulate, and waste products are removed. This is similar to the way your circulatory system works. Bacterial biofilms can even communicate among themselves using a system of chemical signals, so the whole colony gets information.4
Any bacterium can form a film once it finds a place to stick. It seems to be what they want to do. And when a colony reaches a critical point, cells can break away to form a new colony on another surface. This allows them to spread throughout your body.
How Do Biofilms Affect Your Health?
Amazingly, when hidden in a sticky film, bacterial infections can completely resist antibiotics. In fact, their tolerance is at least double — and maybe as much as 1,000 times! — that of solo bacteria.5
Though they are slow-growing, they form phenomenal barriers. They can lie dormant, reemerge, confuse and evade your immune system, and even push medications and antimicrobials out of cells.
Complete biofilm removal is a challenge. That’s because the bacteria or other microorganisms hide in their matrix. The polysaccharide matrix is tough and protects the microorganisms underneath it, acting like a fortress against attack.6 These colonies show increased tolerance to antibiotics, disinfectants, and the body’s defense system over time,7 so the longer they exist, the harder biofilm removal becomes. This is one reason why so many people suffer from chronic infections, despite their best efforts to rid their bodies of these unwanted guests.
What Conventional Medicine Got Wrong
Though conventional medicine might have given you the impression that bacteria are single cells floating around in your body, this isn’t usually the case. This is because conventional medicine studies bacteria as individuals, not as part of a unit that contains multiple types of organisms and group defenses. In fact, most microbes carry out their jobs within one of these colonies, where they attach to each other to form something that is its own microbiome.
Discover more about microbiomes in this article.
Some biofilms, like the dental plaque I mentioned previously, are very common. Others, such as ones that can colonize chronic wounds,8 or the lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients,9 for example, affect people with compromised immune systems and/or long-term illnesses. Conventional medicine acknowledges these, as well as certain life-threatening conditions such as endocarditis,10 a bacterial infection of the heart that requires acute care, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,11
As I mentioned before, gut infections including Candida overgrowth and SIBO can pave the way for biofilms to form in your gut. However, biofilms that form in the gut as a result of damage to the gut cell wall from the standard American diet, heavy alcohol use, stress, or environmental toxins can also be the root cause of Candida overgrowth and SIBO.
To combat gut biofilms, use the 4R approach that I detail on my blog. The first of the 4Rs is remove. The goal is to get rid of things that negatively affect your gut’s environment, including bacteria, fungi, and the colonies that can form without your knowledge.
To remove the bad, cut off their food supply and support your immune system by avoiding inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, grains, and nightshades. Eliminate toxic foods such as sugar, alcohol, trans fats, food additives, and preservatives.
However, because biofilms are so stubborn, changes in diet alone are likely not enough. I recommend adding a natural supplement that’s been designed as a biofilm disruptor, such as Microb-Clear®.
Biofilms build up over time, so the more proactive you are, the less chance they can do harm. The best way to prevent these colonies from forming is to keep yourself clean without the use of antibacterial agents that also kill the helpful bacteria that keep your body in balance.
Brush your teeth after every meal and get them cleaned by a functional dentist. Thoroughly scrub any removable appliances, as rinsing alone very likely won’t get the job done. Dentures, retainers, and CPAP machines also need more attention than we often give them to ensure they are free from microbes that can create these sticky films.
Support Your Body
My newly reformulated Microb-Clear® is a powerful blend of herbal extracts and fatty acids. It supports microbe balance in the GI tract. It also creates an inhospitable environment for bacterial overgrowth and gut biofilms, making it a fantastic biofilm disruptor. Microb-Clear® does this because it supports your body in creating a favorable environment for beneficial probiotics. These probiotics fight the pathogenic bacteria that dominate your gut when it is out of balance.12
Microb-Clear® also includes N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), which the body uses to build free-radical scavengers, including glutathione, your body’s most powerful detoxifier that protects and repairs cells from damage. NAC also supports your body in breaking up the mucus that enables biofilm formation and allows biofilms to attach to surfaces.
NAC has the unique ability to penetrate the slimy outer coating of biofilms to destroy and then move out even the deepest, most stubborn layers that can harbor damaging pathogenic microorganisms — a hallmark of bacterial biofilms. This is critical in ensuring that these tricky colonies can’t reemerge, confuse, and evade your immune system, and even push antimicrobials and prescription medications out of cells.
The cutting-edge amino acids and botanical extracts in Microb-Clear® support optimal bacterial balance in the gut. They also play a beneficial role in supporting your body to suppress Candida overgrowth and discourage opportunistic parasites for a complete approach to microbiome support and biofilm removal.
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