A Blog For Those Affected By Environmental And Invisible Illnesses Written By Fellow Survivors
The Puzzle of H. pylori: The Science
I'd like to share my recent experiences with a new healing venture – a plan for dealing with H. pylori. I started this little experiment in November and it's proved to be one of the best health improvement projects for me so far. Believe me, I have done a lot of different initiatives over the past 8 years and this one has produced improvements with quite remarkable speed. OK, don't let's get too carried away now, I'm not 'normal' yet, but when you've been pretty incapacitated, any improvement is cause for celebration! This is a fairly long story folks, but if you're not in the mood to sit through the full details, maybe flip through to The bottom line, where I've provided a summary (Part 3).
So what's the problem with H. pylori?
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is an intriguing beast – of the large proportion of people who play host to this bacteria, only some notice any unpleasant consequences. And no-one seems to fully understand whythat might be. In 2006 when my health crisis blew up, I had a blood test which gave the all clear. I never thought any more about it – until 2013-14 when learnt that it can cause stomach issues similar to those I'd been experiencing: delayed emptying, nausea, gastritis etc.
On reading Dr Amy Yasko's book 'Feel Good Nutrigenomics – Your road map to health', this passage really caught my eye:
'Helicobacter pylori is an ulcer-causing gastric pathogen that is able to colonize the harsh acidic environment of the human stomach. [...] Although the stomach is protected from its own gastric juice by a thick layer of mucus that covers the stomach lining, H, pylori takes advantage of this protection by living in the mucus lining itself. In the mucus lining, H. pylori survives the stomach's acidic conditions by producing ammonia.
The ammonia creates a cloud around the bacterium, making it possible for H.pylori to escape the harsh acid environment. Because H. pylori burrows into the mucus layer of the stomach and is very persistent there, it is difficult to get a positive test for it when it is present and is extremely difficult to eradicate. H. pylori affects neurotransmitters and brain neurochemistry. H. pylori infection increases the incidence of food allergy by facilitating the passage of intact proteins across the gastric epithelial barrier. [...] Chronic H. pylori gastritis alters feeding behaviours, delays gastric emptying, alters gastric neuromuscular function, impairs acetylcholine release; these effects can persist for months after the infection has been eradicated.'
Aha I'm thinking – this is sounding just like me! And aargh – why didn't someone tell me about all this sooner?
I began to realise that the disarray caused by pylori sounded like a perfect match-up with my symptoms. I suffered years of severe reflux issues 2006-11, all-day burping from the age of 10 and nausea and general difficulty eating from the get-go. I've also had particular problems with digesting fats. It has always taken me an age to feel like eating again after each meal, suggesting issues with delayed stomach emptying. The past few years I've also been having some very quirky 'stomach squelching' symptoms, with loud noises emanating from my stomach and the sound of liquid sloshing around – even when I haven't drunk a lot!
I've always been perplexed by the connection between my attacks of digestive distress, adverse food and mold reactions, mental agitation and anxiety and spontaneous sweating episodes – all often occurring at once. I already suspected my distinctive and very strong sweat smell was due to high ammonia, so it was beginning to look as if H. pylori could be the common thread linking this bizarre package of symptoms. There's a strong connection with stomach ulcers too and 2 of my grandparents (one each side) had ulcers. Genetics does apparently predispose people to problems with pylori infection and this potentially sounded like a pretty high incidence in my family.
Besides the stomach connections, pylori can have far-reaching consequences for your entire body. I found myself ticking boxes here too: osteopenia/osteoporosis, Raynaud's syndrome, adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues, low iron, low vitamin D, leaky gut, chronic fatigue, muscle twitching, cadmium toxicity... And in my wider family: cardiovascular disease, poor dental health, Parkinson's, vitamin B12 deficiency.
H. pylori impairs your detox pathways and facilitates heavy metal build-up – a connection with potent relevance to MCS. It's also seen as a risk even for developing autoimmune disorders. I'm just listing selected issues here, but there are many others. For more comprehensive lists, please see:
I can also recommend the info in the book: Digestive Wellness by Elizabeth Lipski.
The science question
With all these apparent connections, I decided to dive into a treatment plan and wow, am I glad I did! Please bear with me here folks – I know you could well be alarmed by the lack of solid science behind my approach and if I'm honest, I'd ideally love to have something more concrete to back up my healing projects too. But in our totally unideal world and with my lack of professional input and funds, I'm afraid I just have to make the most of my powers of deduction. Ultimately results matter more to me than scientific perfection.
I should say at this point that a range of tests are available for pylori, but none totally fool-proof – this crafty critter has a great talent for remaining hidden. However, Dr Yasko feels she's been able to connect up pylori issues with other biochemical markers, so if you happen to have access to this kind of testing, perhaps that's a smart way to go. My own testing has been limited, but I did even so match up several parameters with those that Dr Yasko identifies. For more on the techie detail, please take a look at Part 3.
In Part 2 I will describe 'My Personal Pylori Project'.