What is a Biofilm?


If you’re managing any kind of chronic health condition*, Bacterial Biofilm can make things very slippery.

*National Institutes of Health says: “Biofilms are medically important, accounting for over 80 percent of microbial infections in the body.

Health conditions linked to biofilm include: Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lyme disease, any chronic bacterial infection (including sinus & tonsil infections), chronic candida infections, Barrett’s esophagus, Helicobacter pylori, cavities and gum disease, endocarditis, kidney stone infections…

mass-of-gelatinous-biofilm-had-enmeshed-numbers-of-microorganisms-including-amoebae-and-bacteria-725x493

The blue stuff is a biofilm that is protecting bacteria and amoebae.

Important Point Number ONE

Your body is covered by and filled with microbes. These include bacteria, yeast, parasites and viruses. You have TEN TIMES more microbes than you have human cells. (More on why your body is a bed and breakfast.)

–>Did you just have a disgusted reaction to that? I urge you, do not be a microbist! Some of those tiny life forms have bad raps, but they’re not all nefarious and destructive! Many microbes have evolved along with us (including viruses) and need us as much as we need them. Sure, they may misbehave if given the chance, but it’s not personal.

Important Point Number TWO

The trillions of microbes that live in/on you are smart!
Most microbes mean you no harm. They literally love the $hi+ out of you (80% of a bowel movement is microbial bodies). Pathogenic microbes, on the other hand, don’t mind making you miserable.

Very generally, and in very simplified terms, pathogenic microbes harm us with their secretions, which are toxic. While small amounts of these toxins are easily handled by your body (batted away like a fly), larger amounts can make you sick.

Here’s one way microbes are smart: they use Quorum Sensing to act differently depending on how many of them there are. Bacteria produce compounds that act like telegrams. They wait and listen and hang out… hidden until there’s a tipping point! Once they learn enough of their chums are there inside you to make a difference, they will wage war with your immune system. Learn more about Quorum Sensing from this FASCINATING TedTalk by Bonnie Bassler.

Another way microbes are smart: Microbes know how to defend themselves from antimicrobial agents, whether those are drugs or herbs.

Antibiotics only kill bacteria that are active and freely moving. So, antibiotics would be useless if bacteria could find a way to become dormant or corral together in one protected place………….

Important Point Number THREE

Some types of bacteria can become dormant and corral together in one protected place, thus rendering antibiotics as useless. When a bacterium senses a prolonged threat (whether it’s from a powerful antibiotic drug or a course of garlic or grapefruit seed extract), it can morph into a dormant state.

Bacteria can take multiple forms, depending on their types. Most have the option of becoming dormant (in a cyst or cell-wall deficient state). All can gather together like a bunch of unwashed hippies (no offense– I love hippies) underneath the stealthy cover of a… BIOFILM! When the threat leaves, they come out from behind the biofilm and resume both their frolicking and your misery.

So, what is a BIOFILM?

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 3.11.15 PMA biofilm is a complex matrix of slippery, slimy mucilagenous excretions made by bacteria in order to protect them from a treacherous environment. Plaque is an example of a biofilm and it protects bacteria from the enzymes in your saliva.

While behind this homemade barrier (the biofilm), bacteria, viruses, yeasts and parasites reproduce. They can also sometimes swap genetic material between species! This means if one little guy is resistant to a particular antibiotic, it could confer that resistance to its buds.

As time goes on, the microbes that live beneath the biofilm will get reintroduced into the body. This can happen via fragments of biofilm that bleb off and float around or via a mist of bacteria that leaves like a swarm of insects. (See a visual of this at around 4:11 in the video below.)

It’s important to keep in mind that the biofilm is not the problem… the problem is what’s living in the biofilm. Beneficial bacteria live under a biofilm to protect them from acid, digestive enzymes and bile. If you choose to experiment with a biofilm protocol, don’t worry– your good guys will survive: they are very resilient + your immune system will not attack them.

The fingers below are holding another example of a biofilm… from kombucha! You may have heard of this beneficial fermented beverage. It’s produced by microbes that live in the biofilm, otherwise known as a SCOBY (symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast).

If you’re a visual person, check out this video. Jump to minute 4:11 for an extremely good visual, but don’t fear the talking heads! Interspersed among sciency jargon are some very helpful explanations of what a biofilm is.

So what?

Now that you know about biofilms, what do you DO about them?

Whether or not you’re suffering from a chronic condition, the correct answer is: start a Biofilm Busting Regimen! A biofilm buster dissolves the biofilm and reveals the microbes that are underneath. Beneficial bacteria will not be attacked by your immune system, so they will be just fine. Plus, it turns out a specific product has been scientifically proven to impact the biofilms of bad bacteria, but not of good ones. Interfase by Klaire Labs (available through my supplement dispensary, FullScript) is a combination of enzymes that break up a biofilm without harming your beneficial bacteria.

As the biofilm thins/disappears, the immune system will go about killing the microbes that are revealed. Assistance from an antimicrobial agent would likely be much appreciated because crime fighting is hard work.

If you try Interfase, be sure to follow instructions from your healthcare provider very carefully. The key is “slow and low.” If you dissolve the biofilm too quickly, your immune system will be overwhelmed by the work it has to do. Also, when microbes are dismantled, the toxins they store inside their bodies dump out into your tissues. Logic says your body has an easier time cleaning up if there’s less to clean up. This can make you feel pretty gross. (If this does happen, products like activated charcoal, bentonite clay and soluble fiber, like citrus pectins, can mop the toxins up.)

Other biofilm busters include Neprinol (another combo of enzymes), Lumbrokinase (enzyme made by earthworms), Serrapeptase (made from silkworms), garlic (also an antimicrobial agent) and Terminalia Chebula (Haritaki fruit).

Another important consideration is diet. Both infection and dysbiosis are descriptors of a bacterial imbalance. An infection is when some foreign organism takes over, like e. coli from spoiled food or salmonella from uncooked food. Dysbiosis happens when any species that normally lives in your gut grows to larger numbers than is natural. Either way, an invader eats what you eat (or they may feed on byproducts of inflammation, which is influenced by food choices). No matter what, a diet containing too much sugar and refined flour encourages trouble. Also, fermented foods are key… and if you find them unappetizing, a probiotic supplement is important to consider.

More reading on Biofilms