Have you ever heard of biofilms? If so, you may know they contribute to the formation of plaque on your teeth, but did you know they can also form a slimy layer in other areas of your body or surfaces in your home and public places? A biofilm is a sticky layer of bacteria, yeast, algae or parasites surrounded by gluey matrix of collagen, proteins, carbohydrates and DNA. The biofilm provides a safe haven in which microbes can coexist, communicate with each other via cellular messengers and protect themselves against removal by scrubbing and antimicrobial or toxic agents.
Biologists, dentists and hospital workers have been aware of biofilms in the human-microbe interface for some time now. They aren’t all bad. Biofilms can promote healthy microbial populations in our colon, treat our water, clean oil spills and extract metals from ore without using toxic chemicals. However, medical researchers and practitioners are more recently starting to realize the role of biofilms in more kinds of chronic illness. If you have one or more of the following conditions, biofilms have probably played a role.
chronic digestive disorder
chronic fatigue syndrome
chronic urinary tract infections
chronic vaginal infections
chronic ear infections
How can I find out if I have biofilms?
There are no FDA-approved tests for biofilms yet. If a patient in my practice has a chronic illness that has not improved with standard treatment, I use blood, stool and urine metabolite tests to assess viral, fungal, bacterial and parasitic infections.
Many people have one or more of these infections that contribute to low immune function and inability to heal. Treatment will first involve building someone’s nutritional status and immune health, supporting adrenal and psychosocial health and addressing environmental exposures. This is followed by breaking up biofilms, killing unwanted microbes with various agents, then replacing healthy microbes and regenerating healthy biofilms in their tissues.
If you or a loved one has a chronic illness that has not gotten better with standard treatment, it may be useful to consider the role of chronic infections and biofilms.
Dr. Claire Graser, ND works at San Francisco Medicine to bring wellness into patients’ lives with naturopathic medicine. Call 415-643-6600 to schedule a free, 15-minute consultation with Dr. Graser to learn how you can benefit from naturopathic medicine or visit our website at www.SFnatmed.com for more information.