What are Biofilms?

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Biofilms are formed by different pathogens as a protective barrier against the host’s immune system, which also allows them to continue to colonize within the body. Bacteria, fungi, and protozoans can each create biofilms by generating an extracellular polymer and adhering to a wet surface, and this sticky matrix can allow for other pathogens to bind together and grow. They can also bind to other substances, such as metals, debris, and environmental chemicals. As a result, several bacterial infections can remain in the body undetected. One example of biofilms you might notice is the buildup of plaque on your teeth. Unfortunately, within the body, the biofilms are difficult to detect and are now thought to be responsible for 80% of microbial diseases, including in the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, and oral mucosa [1].

Why is it important to treat biofilms?

Pathogens in the gut, including bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses take up residence in the lining of the stomach and digestive tract. This can lead to a more permeable gut lining, otherwise known as “leaky gut.” When the gut is “leaky,” toxins and food proteins can move into the bloodstream and make their way to the brain via the gut-brain-axis. This disrupts immune function and increases inflammation, contributing to symptoms like brain fog, altered gut, and digestive function, and can even lead to chronic conditions such as autoimmunity. Restoring the gut by balancing the good bacteria with the bad is essential for physical and mental well-being.

Additionally, treating pathogens with antibiotics may not fully eradicate the infection, as biofilms are up to 10,000 times more resistant to antibiotics. Clinical studies have identified that in the presence of biofilms, antibiotics aren’t sufficient to eradicate the infection alone [2]. By treating both the infection and addressing the biofilms, treatment outcomes can be significantly improved.

Natural Biofilm Busters

Before tackling biofilms, it’s important to practice healthy detoxification and support the immune system as the materials and endotoxins that the biofilms contain can be released back into the bloodstream. Gentle detoxification practices include ample hydration, eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables, daily bowel movements, vegetable juicing, and exercise. You can also learn more about the importance of motility and gut health here.

Curcumin

The active constituent of turmeric is known for its antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties. It’s now also recognized as an effective biofilm-disruptor, in addition to decreasing inflammation [3].

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid in addition to other acids, vitamins, and minerals. It is also shown to break down biofilms [4]. When consuming ACV, it’s recommended to use 1-2 tablespoons in an 8oz glass of water. You can additionally add cinnamon or a small amount of honey to taste.

Berberine

Berberine is an active constituent of several medicinal plants and has been clinically shown to exhibit antimicrobial, antiprotozoal, and anti-diarrhea; activity, acting as a natural pharmacokinetic [5].

Garlic

Garlic has a long history as a medicinal herb, and it has been shown to disrupt biofilms in addition to its powerful antibacterial properties. Easily add chopped garlic to a variety of dishes, or you can even press the oil from the clove and mix with a little honey.

These natural plant derivatives are likely safe for most people, but we recommend discussing supplementation with your provider to determine what’s best for your individual needs.

Resources
1. Prevention of microbial communities: novel approaches based natural products
2. Strategies for combating bacterial biofilm infections
3. A Review on Antibacterial, Antiviral, and Antifungal Activity of Curcumin
4. Antibiofilm Properties of Acetic Acid
5. Current knowledge and pharmacological profile of berberine: An update

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