Anybody who has worked with me is familiar with the term biofilm. But what exactly is a biofilm and how does it affect the body? And even more importantly, what can be done to counter the negative effects of biofilms? All these questions will be addressed here.
Biofilms are a collective of one or more types of microorganisms that can grow on many different surfaces. Microorganisms that form biofilms include bacteria, fungi and protists. One common example of a biofilm is dental plaque, that slimy buildup of bacteria that forms on the surface of your teeth. Pond scum is another example. Biofilms have been found growing on minerals and metals. They can be found underwater, underground and above ground. They can grow on plant tissues, animal tissues and even on implanted medical devices.
Biofilms can be found on all these surfaces because of one common factor…moisture. All of these environments are frequently exposed to water and biofilms thrive in and on wet surfaces. Biofilms aren’t something new either. Fossil evidence of biofilms dates back to about 3.25 billion years ago!
Biofilm formation begins when free floating microorganisms, such as bacteria, come in contact with an appropriate surface and begin to put down roots. This first step of attachment occurs when the microorganisms produce a gooey substance known as an extracellular polymeric substance (EPS). An EPS is a network of sugars, proteins and nucleic acids (such as DNA). It enables the microorganisms in the biofilm to stick together.
Attachment is followed by a period of growth. Further layers of microorganisms and EPS build upon the first layers. Ultimately, they create a bulbous and complex structure. Water channels crisscross biofilms and allow for the exchange of nutrients and waste products. Multiple environmental conditions help determine the extent to which a biofilm grows. These factors also determine whether it is made of only a few layers of cells or significantly more.
Finally, the cells within a biofilm can leave the fold and establish themselves on a new surface. Either a clump of cells breaks away or individual cells burst out of the biofilm and seek out a new home. This latter process is known as seeding dispersal.
Biofilms form because microorganisms survive better in groups. In general, microorganisms living together as a biofilm benefit from the presence of their various community members. Thus, living as a part of a biofilm comes with certain advantages. Communities of microbes are usually more resilient to stress. Potential stressors include the lack of water, high or low pH, or the presence of substances toxic to microorganisms such as antibiotics, antimicrobials or heavy metals.
Considering that biofilms can be found in so many places and on so many different surfaces, it’s no surprise that they can affect the human body. Research over the past few decades has shown that bacterial and fungal biofilms account for 80% of all microbial infections in the body, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The reason that biofilm formation is a great cause of concern is that, within a biofilm, bacteria are more resistant to antibiotics and other major disinfectants that you could use to control them. When compared to free floating bacteria, those growing as a biofilm can be up to 1,500 times more resistant to antibiotics and other biological and chemical agents. Studies confirm that biofilm resistance combined with the general increase in antibiotic resistance among bacteria creates a double whammy and a major challenge to treating infections.
Bacterial biofilms have been found growing on intravenous catheters and pacemakers, which can lead to endocarditis, pneumonia and other infections. Likewise, fungal biofilms have been found growing on breast implants, pacemakers, prosthetic cardiac valves, as well as body tissues (think yeast infection). And regardless of where the biofilm takes hold, it can sometimes be very detrimental, as well as difficult to treat.
Bioremediation can sometimes help. Bioremediation is the use of living organisms, or their products, for example, digestive enzymes or probiotics, to treat or degrade harmful compounds. But if your gut is already overwhelmed with bad bacteria and your lifestyle habits don’t counter those bad bacteria or fungi, digestive enzymes may not always be enough.
This is where an herbal superhero can help. Belly Zen is a comprehensive Chinese herbal formula containing herbal extracts that have a range of benefits including: promoting digestion, dissolving phlegm and mucus, regulating fluid metabolism (weight loss), breaking down biofilms and inhibiting adverse fungal growth.
It is both the brilliant design of this formula, as well as the superior quality of the ingredients, that make Belly Zen so useful for a wide range of complaints. Indigestion, gas, bloating, nausea, chest fullness and dizziness with food or drink can be improved in minutes. It can be taken anytime you eat or drink things you shouldn’t to reduce gas, bloating, heaviness, fatigue and brain fog that often follows sweet or rich food and drink.
If you have a history of poor dietary habits, Belly Zen can be taken regularly to reverse the damage to your gut lining and microbiome. Microorganisms line the entire GI tract and play an important role in your health. Even if you take probiotics, your gut walls and intestinal lining may not support healthy colonization of these beneficial bacteria. Belly Zen can help by eliminating those biofilms that prevent the healthy bacteria from doing their job.
Food allergies and food sensitivities are frequently due to erosion of the epithelial lining of the GI tract with loss of healthy gap junctions. This is the “leaky gut syndrome” those with gut problems quickly learn about when researching their condition. A specific herb in Belly Zen, Radix Pueraria, has been shown to help heal those gap junctions, contributing to the benefit of the formula as a whole.
Mood disorders like anxiety and depression can also benefit from Belly Zen. Gut bacteria produce significant amounts of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. This is why once the gut dysfunction is corrected, the frequency of symptoms are reduced. You may even notice a clarity and lightness to your thoughts and feelings where foggy brain and muddled thinking once predominated.
Certain types of chronic pain and chronic fatigue patterns are also often improved by the actions of Belly Zen. These conditions can be associated with fluid retention and inflammatory conditions that disrupt neural signaling in the body. These pains may be associated with autoimmune disorders. Examples of some of the pain syndromes that may improve with regular Belly Zen use include fibromyalgia, some types of arthritis and chronic fatigue.
There’s really no escaping biofilms. But there are ways to improve and limit their hold on your health. If you would like to find out more about biofilms or Belly Zen, give us a call or set up an appointment. Our intake examination can effectively determine if biofilms are playing a detrimental role in your life and then we can get you on track to better health.