Inflammation And H. Pylori
Inflammation is the new buzzword in the medical world because in recent years we’re understanding how inflammation can be a catalyst of many chronic diseases. So, what causes inflammation? Well, one of the causes of inflammation is infection. One particular infection that’s very contagious and prominent throughout the world is H. pylori. H. pylori is a bacterium found in the stomach. 50% of the world’s population and 25% of the Western world harbor this bacterium. In developed nations it’s currently uncommon to find infected children, but the percentage of infected people increases with age. For those over 60, about 60% are infected.
H. pylori is present in virtually all cases of duodenal ulcers and 80% of those with gastric ulcers. Virtually all people with chronic superficial gastritis are infected with this organism. One study demonstrated a significant decrease in blood pressure values, in particular diastolic blood pressure values after H. pylori eradication in hypertensive patients, reinforcing the connection between infection and inflammation.
To avoid the acidic environment of the interior of the stomach, H. pylori uses its flagella to burrow into the mucus lining of the stomach to reach the epithelial cells underneath where there’s a more neutral pH. H. pylori is able to sense the pH grading the mucus and move towards the less acidic region. H. pylori also have the ability to neutralize the acid in its environment.
H. pylori harms the stomach and duodenum, which is the first section of the small intestine. And certain biochemical byproducts from H. pylori contribute to systemic inflammation.
Based on its ability to neutralize hydrochloric acid, chronic H. pylori infection compromises the amount of hydrochloric acid needed for healthy digestion. Also nutrients like protein, iron, copper, B12, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, specifically need hydrochloric acid in order to be absorbed. So you can see that H. pylori not only affects digestions, but will hinder your body’s ability to absorb vital nutrients.
Testing For H. Pylori
We can test non-invasively for H. pylori infection with a blood antibody test, stool antigen test, or with a carbon urea breath test. In blood and stool antibodies can remain long after the infection has been cleared up. With the carbon urea breath test, patients drink a carbon labeled urea which the bacterium metabolizes producing labeled carbon dioxide that can be detected in the breath.
The carbon urea breath test seems to be the most sensitive for detecting the presence and ultimately the absence of infection after treatment. For stomach and upper digestive problems particularly bacterial issues like H. pylori, the use of nutritional supplements can be effective. We increase the integrity of them mucosal barrier with things like deglycyrrhized licorice and slippery elm, as well as creating an environment that’s not conducive to the growth of bacteria.
Treatments For H. Pylori
Supplements with components like bismuth, berberine, myrrh and clove are very effective in reducing bacterial growth. Bentonite clay is also used to bind up the bacteria dead or alive, and escort them through the GI tract so they can’t cause further harm.
With upper gastric infections, botanicals with antimicrobial properties are used to heal the stomach. Essential fatty acids, probiotics and chlorophyll are great supplements to heal and restore stomach health. For my patients, I recommend combinations of herbal formulas designed especially for H. pylori infections.
Your wellness professional is familiar with nutritional supplements, botanicals, herbs and formulas that are used to eradicate H. pylori. With testing, your clinician will know which supplements work best for you.
Remember, infections whether in the stomach or anywhere else can result in elevated levels of inflammation. H. pylori has been shown to increase the body’s markers for inflammation. And keep in mind inflammation in one part of the body due to H. pylori increases systemic inflammation, thereby creating all kinds of seemingly non-related symptoms. H. pylori, especially as we age, is more common than you would suspect. If you experience unexplained inflammation, pain, gastritis or ulcers, ask your wellness clinician about H. pylori.