• Dr. Caroline Ricker

Can’t fix your gut? Maybe it’s your secret relationship with biofilms!

Chronic belly problems are rampant these days. IBS, IBD, Crohn’s disease, acid reflux, trouble losing weight…I could go on and on, and I’m sure your list of symptoms often does. Patients frequently come to me searching for answers to their chronic upset stomach, diarrhea, belly bloat, gas, constipation and more. The great part of my job is that I’m frequently able, with a thorough analysis and individualized treatment regime, to rid them of these woes fairly quickly.

The frustrating part of my job is when someone comes in with the above mentioned symptoms, I do all the things that I usually do with fabulous results…and nothing. Their symptoms don’t resolve, they still feel crappy. It’s enough to make both of us want to pull our hair out. Once or twice could be just a fluke, but as I practiced longer I noticed that it kept happening every so often.

Luckily for these folks I like results and I’m more than a little bit curious about things that don’t fit the mold, so instead of ignoring the outliers I decided to dive deeper and try to figure out what made these people resistant to the treatments that work for others with their same issues.

It finally came to me after some research and digging that the answer was biofilms. No, I’m not talking about the latest cult classic from this year’s Sundance Film Festival. In order to talk about biofilms, we first need to talk about the microbiome.

The microbiome is your body’s internal habitat for microbes such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. Scientists over the past few decades have come to realize that not only are our digestive tracts inhabited my millions of bacteria, but that we actually live symbiotically with them. This means that we NEED them in order to function properly.

There are over 1,000 different types of these bacteria and every person’s microbiome is unique to them. These little critters not only help us to digest our food, remove toxins and build vitamins, they also modulate our immune systems.

Yep, you heard that right. Our ability to have a healthy immune system is interdependent on the balance of bugs in our guts. This is why all types of digestive disorders, from IBS to colorectal cancer, have been linked to disturbances in the gut microflora.

So what was I talking about when I started mentioning biofilms?

Biofilms are equal parts cool (if you’re a geek like me), and gross. Researchers have discovered that, especially in moist environments, bacteria have learned to group themselves together in clumps, and produce a gooey substance that surrounds their group. Like a castle with a moat, this gooey outer substance is protective, meaning it’s resistant to antibiotics and antimicrobial agents, making them much more difficult to get rid of.

This explained my problem!

While I treat many of my patients with supplements that are antifungal or antimicrobial, the ones that weren’t getting better had deep rooted biofilms which were deflecting the effects of these generally helpful supplements. With that knowledge I was able to tweak my treatment protocols for those with more persistent issues in order to first address these biofilms, then come back to clean up the bacterial or fungal overgrowth as the biofilms were dissolved. And it works!

So if you, or someone you know has tried “everything” to get rid of their tummy troubles, then I would highly suggest looking into biofilms, and finding a good functional medicine doctor who knows about them as well. Getting to the root cause of bacterial gut imbalances is the first step to getting back to a normal healthy gut and a free and happy life!

Dr. Caroline Ricker has been passionately helping people avoid unnecessary medications and surgeries since 2009. She combines a very logical functional medicine approach to digestive disorders and more using a more alternative holistic approach, utilizing standard lab tests and in-office evaluations as well as nutrition, acupuncture and homeopathy.

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