Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Wisdom Wednesday: Stealth Bioburden
Traditionally, the bioburden is defined as the number of bacteria living on a surface that hasn’t been sterilized. This is a real concern in the hospital setting and attempts with antibacterial soaps have led to super bugs that are antibiotic resistant.
The stealth bioburden is an emerging term used to describe commensal bacteria in the digestive tract that may have adverse effects on our health.
Under healthy conditions, commensal bacteria are kept in check by the healthy bacteria (probiotics) that vastly outnumber the commensals. The GALT (gut associated lymphoid tissue) also plays a vital role in analyzing the microbiome and transmitting data to the thymus.
Dysbiosis, the term used to describe an imbalance of the microbiome, is most commonly caused by the use of antibiotics. However, chemotherapy and radiation therapy have similar effects. Food poisoning and drinking contaminated water are other common sources.
Virtually all cases of “intestinal flu” are mild cases of food poisoning but are seldom diagnosed. The body responds by purging (diarrhea and/or vomiting) for a day or longer, then we gradually return to normal.
But do we really return to normal?
The stealth bioburden is that ongoing stress from commensal bacteria overgrowth that disrupts normal digestion and elimination. For some, it results in intermittent constipation and/or diarrhea. If it continues unabated, you might be diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
For most, however, we are told that whatever bowel function we have is “normal for you”.
Laboratory evaluation of the stealth bioburden is in its’ infancy. We can only identify about 20% of the bowel flora using DNA analysis. Although this technology holds great promise for the future, the applications are currently limited.
Digestive stool analysis can readily identify many commensal bacteria. However, it is difficult to determine, which, if any of them are truly a bioburden. Measuring the immune response of the GALT is valuable in determining whether the immune system is unable to cope or is overtly responding to the presence of commensal bacteria. Zonulin, diamine oxidase (DAO), histamine, IgA, IgG, and IgM can all be measured in the gut to assess the immune response.
Traditional treatment has generally been limited to antibiotics (I know, the very thing that creates a majority of the problems). Fecal implant has become popular for one particular bacteria – C. difficile. Although effective, you have to have a closely related donor who lives and eats with you for a good match.
Recently, interest has been growing in the use of a variety of herbs in the treatment of stealth bioburden. Foremost among these is Myrrh, but Wormwood, Sarsaparilla root, Thuja leaf, St. John’s Wort, and Licorice root all can be effective in restoring the microbiome.
Studies have shown that these herbs, and others, are effective in breaking down the biodome that often projects the harmful bacteria in the gut.
Typically, treatment is done with “pulsed dosing” or a “weed and feed” approach. You treat for 1-4 days with an herbal combination designed to kill the offender, then support the immune system with additional herbs, pre and probiotics for 5-14 days. The process is repeated for 2-3 cycles or longer, if needed.
The Bottom Line:
If you feel your digestive tract is not treating you well. Your bowel function is erratic or you suffer from abdominal bloating and indigestion. Consider being evaluated for potential stealth bioburden.