H Pylori: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Oftentimes people with digestive troubles try changing their diet and supporting digestion with supplements and still can’t get any relief. In some cases, doing these things may even make symptoms worse!
When this happens, a gut infection is usually the culprit. In fact, almost every client I’ve worked with has had a gut health infection!
Gut infections occur when an outside invader (sometimes referred to as a “pathogen”) takes hold within your system and begins to wreak havoc on your body. Infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungus, and parasites, but I want today to address one specific type of bacterial infection called H Pylori.
Side note: It’s personally important for me to share this information about H Pylori symptoms and treatment with you because I recently did my annual gut health test and it turns out I had an overgrowth of it in my stomach myself!
So just know that if you do have an h Pylori infection, or suspect you do, you’re not alone – and it happens to the best of us. So we’re going to cover:
- What is H Pylori
- H Pylori Causes
- The Potential Dangers of Having this Infection
- H Pylori Symptoms and Treatment
What is H Pylori?
H Pylori is short for helicobacter pylori. It’s a curved-rod shaped bacteria and it’s usually found in the stomach.
You may have heard of it because it’s such a common infection, but many people have H Pylori infections and don’t even know it. It’s actually estimated that about 50% of the population has it.
If you’re wondering how you get H Pylori, the bacteria can be transmitted from person to person via saliva (so unfortunately yes, H Pylori is contagious – but only through direct contact), or you can get it from contaminated food or water.symptom
When H Pylori gets into your system and the circumstances are right, it nestles snugly into the lining of your stomach. Its curved spiral shape makes it easier for the bacteria to penetrate the mucous lining of the stomach where it creates a home for itself. Once it’s in your stomach, H Pylori releases a chemical that neutralizes your stomach acid so the acidity won’t harm the bacteria. It’s essentially making your stomach a cozier environment for itself, while effectively disabling your digestive capacity.
This is great for the bacteria but very bad news for you – because when your stomach loses its acidity your body can’t digest food properly. This is when you may begin to experience symptoms like heartburn, indigestion, nausea, bloating, and even diarrhea.
Symptoms of H Pylori
As H Pylori continues to disable your digestion, several common symptoms will start to occur.
Heartburn is actually one of the most common symptoms of having an H Pylori infection. It seems counterintuitive because most people think that if you’re having heartburn it’s because you have too much acid, but that’s actually not usually the case.
When H pylori reduces your stomach acidity it slows down the digestive process which allows food to linger in your stomach for much longer than it should. As your food sits in the hot, wet environment of your stomach it begins to ferment and create gasses. These gasses eventually build up enough to put pressure on your cardiac sphincter.
When the pressure gets great enough it can “push” the cardiac sphincter open slightly, which allows a tiny bit of stomach acid into your esophagus. Even though this acid is too weak for proper digestion it’s still way too acidic for your esophagus, so it causes a burning sensation that we call heartburn.
Improper or “disabled” digestion can also make you feel nauseous. I know from personal experience that one of my main symptoms of H Pylori infection was feeling nauseous when I was eating.
You also may experience “early satiety”, or the feeling of not being able to eat very much before you feel full.
This can lead to a weird experience of feeling both full and really hungry at the same time, because your stomach is full but your caloric needs haven’t been met.
Over time these difficulties can lead to malnutrition and unintentional weight loss which are really challenging side effects.
Burping, belching, and gas are also common side effects of disabled digestion caused by H Pylori.
And oftentimes in my clients I see diarrhea as a side effect when H Pylori is overgrown. This is because the undigested food is causing irritation later on down the digestive tract and the body just needs to get it out, so it opts for “rapid evacuation”.
From a big picture perspective, all of these symptoms are a result of your body’s inability to digest food when your stomach acid is diminished by H Pylori, in addition to the inflammation and irritation it inherently causes in your stomach lining.
Is H Pylori dangerous?
Well, one major potential danger of H Pylori is that it has also been implicated in 70-85% of gastric ulcers, and up to 95% of duodenal ulcers.
When the bacteria was discovered and the connection to ulcers was confirmed in the 1980’s, medical approaches to ulcer treatment changed completely and became much more successful.
If left untreated, ulcers caused by H Pylori can cause internal bleeding that requires more intense medical intervention, and in some cases it has even been connected to stomach cancer.
H Pylori Testing and Treatment
So the big question now is: how do you find out if you have H Pylori? Well, you test for it!
Two common methods of testing are breath tests and stool tests, though you can also use a blood test to detect it. I typically use stool tests with my clients and we get good in-depth information.
Getting good information is important because, like I mentioned, you can have H Pylori present in your system but it may not be causing you any problems. It’s important to run a comprehensive test to get all the information needed to make an informed decision about how to approach the infection. You may need to eradicate the H Pylori all together, or alternatively, simply supporting your digestion may be enough to rebalance the bacteria.
If you’re dealing with a more severe infection or have ulcers, you can easily treat ulcers by working with a doctor and treating the H Pylori with a combination of prescription antibiotics and antacid medication.
If you’re not quite ready to carpet bomb your system with antibiotics, I also successfully work with clients regularly to address H Pylori using food-based and herbal supplements that are equally effective as antibiotics, so keep in mind that you have multiple options to address H Pylori if you do indeed have an infection.
And if there’s anything I can reinforce to you based on my own experience, one of the most important things you can do is make sure that gut infections don’t have an environment to thrive in. One of the best ways to support your digestive system and your gut is with the foods you eat!
Different foods can affect your health both positively and negatively….but small adjustments can lead to big changes. Make sure to download my free 101 Gut Healing Foods list here.
With this list of 101 foods, you’ll know exactly what to focus on to begin to heal and strengthen your digestive system so you can eliminate bloating, headaches, skin conditions, alleviate autoimmune flare-ups, and overall feel better.