The debate over H. Pylori is abundant right now; even Functional Medicine Doctors are often scratching their head at this bacterium.
Many bacterial species are both common to the human organism and symbiotic with our physiological function, but may become inflammatory threat with overgrowth. It seems that this penetrable strain really spreads like wild-fire and becomes problematic when the conditions are right- when acid production is at a low, and when pepsin is diminished.
Like most infections, we are most vulnerable when our defenses are weak.
Tis easy to spread this invader…..just good ol’ old fashioned kissing will do it. Of course it can spread by feces too.
Research shows that more than 60% of people have H. Pylori, and in some areas of the world, 90! Fascinating because not that many individuals are showing symptoms. Hmmm……
So is this bacteria the cause of disease? Or just associated with disease?
Well, these facts are interesting:
In certain studies where antibiotics were given for high levels of H. Pylori infection, GERD increased a ton. That’s right- increased. This means that this bacteria could actually be protective against certain conditions like GERD.
Also, higher levels of Pylori have been found consistently in conditions such as PMS, auto-immune conditions, depressive disorders, chronic fatigue, and migraines.
This indicates something very important- that this bacteria is not necessarily the cause of disease, but a representation of something related to disease.
In my humble opinion- H. Pylori, in the majority of cases, should not be treated as an infection; especially not with potentially devastating drugs such as antibiotics.
Most of the time, this bacterium is far from dangerous….it is usually just an overgrowth DUE TO stomach dysfunction or some other inflammatory process occurring in the body.
The goal should simply be to normalize stomach function. Unless it is a downright virulent infection- then we can bring in the big guns with antimicrobials.
Fun Fact: H. Pylori studies have frequently detected the bacteria in water supplies. For those that have been diagnosed with an “infection,” recolonization often occurs just by drinking the water.
Again- is eradication the answer?
I believe strengthening the body’s innate immune system, (in Chinese terms- Vital Qi), cleaning up the diet, addressing stress levels, and often times supplementing with HCL to increase stomach acid might go a long way….and save the body from even further dysfunction by avoiding antibiotics (atomic bombs).
Answer me this: why is H. Pylori found in 100% of populations in underdeveloped countries, but in only 50% of North Americans?
Yet, we have the highest incidence of gastric ulcers and stomach cancer.
1 + 1 is not equaling 2 here.
Could it be that our sky high rate of GI disease is due to all the antibiotics we are consuming from meat? Or from the water that is also full of pharmaceuticals? Or from all the antiseptic and antibacterial garbage that Americans have bought into?
This “over-sanitization” is wiping out our systems….wreaking havoc to our immune systems. All the drugs that have been designed for such infections have mostly been in the name of one thing and one thing only- $$$$.
Antibiotic resistance to H. Pylori is a real thing.
In some studies, there was up to 92% incident of antibiotic resistance. When using multiple antibiotics, up to 50% resistance. However, this was in the US only. In other less developed countries, antibiotics were not as resistant. This created a massive mystery…..
Normal or Infectious?
H. Pylori can be “normal” or it can pose infectious symptoms, depending on the area of the stomach and duodenum that it colonizes. It can be found in the stomach, mouth, and duodenum; it is known as a “transient” bacterium meaning it can move around.
There are four distinct areas of the stomach in which pylori can potentially set up shop: the Cardia (where the esophagus empties into stomach), the Fundus ( top area of stomach), the Body (middle), and Pylorus (lower stomach attached to duodenum by pyloric sphincter).
So how does this H. Pylori effect each specific area?
- Well, an overgrowth of this bacteria in the mouth has been linked to auto-immune condition Sjogren’s syndrome….but there is much controversy over this. As this bacteria is transient, it can be very challenging to biopsy. The correlation is still very much in question.
- Technically, H. Pylori can invade the esophagus, but interestingly enough, it actually depends on ones cellular structure in that area. Some are more susceptible than others.
- The Cardia area of the stomach has higher risk of cancer with a Pylori infection.
- If it invades Body of stomach, this is where it increases chances of GERD as it reduces even further stomach acid production. This leads to higher incident of ulcers and stomach cancer.
- Pyloric infections of H. Pylori often spread to the duodenum, causing duodenal ulcers. This increases chances of GERD, increasing stomach acid production.
Check this out- equal colonization of both parts of the stomach with Pylori equals zero symptoms. It causes no reduction or increase in stomach acid.
So yup- basically if found above and below, its considered normal flora. Also- if its just one single strain thriving, it will most likely cause no issues.
However, if multiple strains are found, this poses much higher risk of symptoms and issues. Usually diversity is a good thing……not so much with Pylori!
This unique strain is also able to deeply embed itself to the mucosa, protecting itself from stomach acid and pepsin, also rendering it undetectable from the immune system.
Because of this tactic, it can be really hard to biopsy. As you can imagine, the challenges of accurate detection leave us stagnant in deep understanding of this bacteria.
H. Pylori overgrowth can even impact the gut-brain axis to demand its survival.
If that wasn’t enough, let’s look at the top ten (other) things this wizard of a bacteria is capable of:
- Reduces stomach acid and pepsin in order to penetrate deeper into the mucosa
- Dysregulate esophageal and gastric motility and small intestine emptying (MMC)
- Manipulate gastric blood flow
- Influence our cravings for food and appetite
- Influence digestive neurotransmitters (this equals mood)
- Avoid immune system detection by releasing endotoxins
- Produce biofilms
- Increase blood pressure and causes vasoconstriction
- Reduces T cell response
- Elevate cortisol and adrenaline production eventually leading to adrenal fatigue.
H. Pylori has been associated with many other medical conditions.
There are way too many to mention and speculate over; the ones that interest me are the so called “auto-immune” ones. It is now common knowledge that Klebsiella pneumoniae is the cause of rheumatoid arthritis, but not many know that it is often linked to a co-infection of H. Pylori. The other one that really intrigues me is Lupus- there are findings now associating H. Pylori with a Staph co-infection as the cause. As mentioned before, Pylori has also linked to Sjogren’s syndrome; also Behcet’s disease, Wegner’s granulomatosis and scleroderma.
Again- perhaps this bacteria is more a marker of disease, though, and not “infection.”
H Pylori and Histamine:
Another area of interest to me is Pylori’s association with histamine intolerance (Mast Cell activation syndrome); it has the potential to dysregulate histamine and mast cell function.
I have written much content on histamine issues in relationship to gut health. The majority of patients I see these days are dealing with some degree of histamine intolerance and it has become standard for me to treat this condition simultaneously in order to get optimal results.
It makes perfect sense that H. Pylori would indeed influence mast cells…….as this overgrowth is surely marking the presence of inflammation. Inflammation = histamine.
There are just so many layers involved these days with infection; there are many bacteria around now that have undergone serious evolutionary adaptation and have found genius ways to remain stable in a human host.
Most pathogenic bacteria are identifiable to the immune system and will be cleared. Theoretically, our immune systems were designed to keep these infections in check and not allow them to move around to other parts of the body.
However, in these modern day times, it is being discovered that more and more infections are basically growing smarter than our innate immune functions.
Their mechanisms are simply out-witting ours. Candida and Mycobacterium are other examples of pathogens that are clearly too manipulative for our systems to keep up with. Also- just like H. Pylori, Candida and Mycobacterium are profoundly difficult to detect and diagnose.
Is this why so many are ill and have such a hard time recovering?
A contributing factor in ridding these problematic bacteria from our systems is the reality of harsh antibiotic treatments that so many have succumbed to. These antibiotic regimes have resulted in catastrophic antibiotic resistance….making eradication of infection that much more challenging.
Even with proper diagnoses- the hard part still remains: treatment. Most Western MD’s are not aware of the controversy behind H. Pylori,( the growing evidence that it is a symbiotic bacteria) and feel compelled to treat any person with a “positive” test result with antibiotics.
In most cases, I do not feel antimicrobials even need to be used. Of course there are exceptions. For the majority of folks who have tested “positive,” I simply recommend strengthening the GI system and stomach function, repairing leaky gut, and restoring a healthy microbiome.
The most supportive product I have found for normalizing and regulating stomach function is Microbiomelabs “ MegaGuard.” This product can do a whole lot, and doesn’t just “kill.” It “balances” H. Pylori, as well as stomach acid.
Restoring the eco-system of our GI, striving for homeostasis and control of the pH (acidity), with diet, herbs, and supplements will go a lot further than harsh antibiotics.
When will science stop with the notion that so many of these bacterium’s are “infectious” and bring disease?
If one is having upper GI symptoms, it would be very easy to label these symptoms as an H. Pylori infection (assuming tests confirmed), when really these symptoms could be linked to so many other things…..such as straight gastric dysfunction or a small intestinal issue. Heartburn could be GERD or acid reflux; too often, if H. Pylori is detected, the MD and the patient blame every single symptom on the Pylori.
This is just absurd.
If you truly believe you have an H. Pylori “infection,” then by all means try one the following antimicrobials. However, clearly I suggest stabilizing, normalizing and strengthening the gut above all else.
It is likely if someone is given a diagnosis of an H. Pylori “infection,” they are first and foremost dealing with leaky gut, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. There is much work to be done here….and only a fraction is “killing.”
*There is extremely high correlation with H. Pylori overgrowth and poorly digested proteins. Gastric dysfunction may subsequently lead to excess urea and ammonia. Ammonia is toxic and causes all sorts of problems when circulating in the blood. There is so much I could go on about with this topic- suffice to say, I recommend in ALL Pylori cases to drastically decrease protein consumption and increase vegetables. H. Pylori thrives in an acidic environment- excess meat consumption causes over-acidity.
To check out my approach in addressing H. Pylori dectection, visit my H. Pylori protocol section here.
You CAN heal your gut.
Education. Mindfulness. Discipline.
Karen Mullins DOM