Biofilms: Another Potential Contributor to Interstitial Cystitis
Researchers are finding that the topic of interstitial cystitis is complex and that there may not be a one-size-fits-all answer for diagnosis, root causes and treatment. The most recent discovery regarding biofilms as one of the culprits can be added to the list for those that are trying to find relief.
Biofilms are all around us in nature and can be a single bacteria type or multiple types that are contained in a matrix that create a slimy film. Multiple types of biofilms can contain bacteria as well as other air or waterborne substances and funguses, creating a kind of slime soup. They can adhere to an external source as well as inside the body and about 15% of the composition of biofilms are pathogenic microorganisms.
Emerging research continues to show that a variety of the organisms causing UTI’s, especially chronic UTI’s, have the ability to create biofilms. Biofilms are difficult to eradicate due to their protective film and resistance nature against antibiotics.
Scientists have always known about biofilms, but they are recently looking into them as potential contributors to disorders such as interstitial cystitis. Biofilms have been compared to “intracellular terrorists” that have a protective shell that is often immune to standard antibiotics as they damage the host tissue and immune system and cause continued inflammation.
The fact that biofilms have an overall aggressive, survival-oriented strategy, combined with the increased use of antibiotics, as well as intrauterine devices may suggest a connection between biofilms as one of the possible reasons for the continued development of interstitial cystitis. They can also be introduced with subcutaneous implants, catheters and contraceptive rings. Due to the high mucus content of the vaginal wall, biofilms find a comfortable home in the various cavities.
While the medical community is leaning towards biofilms as a major contributor for recurring interstitial cystitis, their specific production of antigen K can only account for around 75%-85% of the disorder. Researchers continue to search for approaches to target and eradicate intracellular biofilms.
Natural Biofilm Treatments
A first type of treatment is called “biofilm disruptors”. These can include enzymes such as nattokinase, lumbrokinase, proteases, streptokinase, and plasmin.
Antimicrobial treatments that can be effective include:
- citrus seed extract
- black walnut hulls
- Artemisia herb
- galbanum oil
- oregano oil
When there is a destabilization in the biofilm, a final step can be to use citrus pectin and chitosan for a cleanup process.