Are you Infected with H Pylori?

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H pylori bacteria

Do you suffer from frequent heartburn or acid reflux? Does it feel like there’s a heavy stone in your stomach, or do you often belch after eating? Have you ever considered you might be infected with Helicobacter pylori?

Read on for the lowdown about this condition and what can be done to ease your symptoms.

What is H. Pylori?

H. pylori is a type of bacteria infecting your stomach and duodenum, the first part of your small intestine. It’s an incredibly successful bacteria, thought to have colonised around half of the world’s population. It’s unusual because it can survive in the acidic environment in your stomach.

Unlike most bacteria, it sticks around – many people are infected by H. pylori throughout their lives.

Most people pick up Helicobacter pylori in childhood. It’s easily passed on by sharing utensils, but there are many different strains of Helicobacter pylori, so it’s possible to have it and remain symptom-free. However, some strains cause significant health issues.

What are the Symptoms of H. pylori?

The bacteria can burrow into the protective mucus lining your stomach, secreting toxins. These cause inflammation and irritation, otherwise known as gastritis.

As well as acid reflux and heartburn, H. pylori can cause many other symptoms. Feeling sick, vomiting, stomach pain, bad breath, constipation and non-specific digestive symptoms, often diagnosed as IBS, are all signs of H. pylori.

Over time it can lead to stomach and duodenal ulcers. Most stomach ulcers are caused by H. pylori, yet the bacteria are relatively unknown and often not suspected.

If you’re infected by H. pylori, the bacteria can turn off the activity of the cells making stomach acid, meaning your stomach becomes less acidic than it should be. Although the bacteria have evolved to survive in the stomach, decreasing its acidity will help them to survive more easily.

You might think this reduced stomach acidity would decrease the likelihood of having heartburn and acid reflux, but quite the opposite. If your stomach doesn’t produce enough acid, opportunistic bacteria will produce gas and increase the pressure inside your stomach This means acid will be pushed upwards past the muscle between your stomach and your oesophagus.

Another effect of too little stomach acid is that nutrients aren’t digested as well, both in your stomach and further down your digestive system. Protein digestion needs an acid environment, so will take longer to digest. Your stomach may take longer to empty, causing bloating.

The acidic stomach contents act as a trigger to start digestion in your small intestine. So if there isn’t enough acid, your gallbladder won’t receive the signal to release bile, essential for fat digestion. Nutrients like magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium and B complex vitamins won’t be absorbed easily. Finally, low stomach acid will have a knock-on effect on the bacteria living in your intestines and can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria where they shouldn’t be, called SIBO.

Because of these widespread effects, many different health conditions are connected with H. pylori. These include autoimmune diseases, especially type 1 diabetes and inflammation of the thyroid, skin problems, headaches, cardiovascular disease, hormone imbalances and even stomach cancer. People infected with H. pylori are six times more likely to develop stomach cancer.

H. pylori is very clever at hiding from your immune system, so infections can rumble on for years.

Conventional Treatment of H. pylori

H.pylori bacteria cells

H. pylori infection is often missed. If it is diagnosed, it’s usually conventionally treated with acid blockers and antibiotics. But antibiotics aren’t always effective against H. pylori, whereas they’re very good at wiping out other bacteria, including the beneficial ones in your large intestine needed for good health.

So, antibiotics have a devastating effect on your microbiome. This provides an ideal opportunity for non-desirable bacteria and fungi to colonise your gut once the course of antibiotics has been finished. This is known as dysbiosis, and it can persist for years after antibiotic treatment.

Several natural substances have been found to be effective against H. pylori, such as green tea, garlic, and mastic gum, a resin obtained from a Mediterranean tree. Liquorice extract can make it more difficult for the bacteria to attach to your stomach lining. Sprouted broccoli seeds contain an antioxidant effective at reducing inflammation and hindering H. pylori colonisation.

Functional Medicine Support for H. pylori Infection

H. pylori can be stubborn to treat, so support from a practitioner who understands your health issues can be incredibly helpful. H. pylori can be diagnosed from a stool test. Such a test can identify other problems in your digestive system too, like parasites, fungi, intestinal leakiness and inflammation.

Following this, a personalised combination of herbs and supplements will be recommended to eradicate the bacteria and repair your stomach lining. Anti-inflammatory foods can help healing and probiotic supplements can restore a healthy microbiome. Finally, healthy lifestyle habits such as stress may be advised to support your digestive health.

To wave goodbye to H. pylori, contact Embracing Nutrition here.

Did you know you can request a FREE 15 minute Discovery Call

Are you concerned about the health of your bowel? Why not book a free 15 minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.

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