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So here we are folks with the third and final part of my 3-part blog series about my journey linking Helicobactor pylori (H. pylori) infection to my environmental illness. To get up to speed please take a look at Part I (The Science) and Part II (My Personal Pylori Project).
H. pylori and EI
The general theme of bad bug overgrowth wasn't new to me – I'd already been dealing with Candida and SIBO issues. Obviously, it won't be new to most people with EI either. It seems that lurking infections of all kinds – Lyme, EBV, herpes, strep, pylori, candida and many others – can often be 'the elephant in the room' that we need to address to fully recover. Maybe sometimes when we work on resolving some of these other infections, we make progress with any lurking pylori issues too, as many herbs and probiotics
are effective against multiple bad bugs.
People with poor methylation function are apparently at risk of all kinds of chronic infections and a high total microbial burden. I wonder for myself – how much of this pylori issue is the cause of my health problems and how much just the consequence of other underlying issues like nutritional deficiencies. Hard to say, though what I can see is that my very poor gut immunity (SIgA of 8mcg/ml when normal is over 100) has opened me up to these issues bigtime.
I've also read about an intriguing connection involving mast cells. Pylori causes mast cells to proliferate, which then maintains a state of inflammation and presumably, makes you more prone to mast cellmediated allergic reactions. Various sources describe a connection with histamine-related allergies. There definitely does seem to be something like this going on for me, as I've noticed that environmental exposure to perfume or mold sometimes sets off an attack of gastritis, an inflammatory state that could, from my understanding, be triggered off by mast cell activation.
I'd encourage anyone with EI to give this issue a second glance, especially if theirs feels like an intractable case. The great thing is that a program can be inexpensive and simple and in the scheme of things, seems pretty safe. Of course, it's possible to be allergic to some of the herbs, so I don't need to remind anyone to tread cautiously – I'm guessing you already do, right! And as with anything, it's best to take it steady, as die-off can be dreadful.
I still have no actual proof that I've had a pylori problem, but if I haven't I'd say there's been some darn impressive mimicry going on! Though I'm not ruling out the possibility of the benefits coming from a general reduction of bad bugs, I'm still feeling convinced that the specific improvements I've experienced tie in with a reduction in pylori load.
I had already done a lot on heavy metal detox, methylation support and dysbiosis in general, so maybe this has paved the way for better results with my current plan. Would I have saved myself time by coming to this particular program sooner? Difficult to tell – unfortunately, I don't know enough to say whether there's an ideal plan of attack and order to tackle things.
Can I just say hats off to Caroline Lunger for researching the topic so comprehensively – please visit http://www.mygutsy.com/is-h-pylori-the-cause-of-allergies-brain-fog-hypothyroid-autoimmune-disorders-adrenal-fatigue/ for more info.
I would love to hear from anyone who has had similar symptoms or experiences. Wishing you all the best of luck in unravelling your own health issues and I sincerely hope that this information can help someone else too.
The (almost) bottom line
- H. pylori can produce not only the well-known stomach and GI symptoms, but also an assortment of more insidious health problems elsewhere.
- There is no test which picks up the bacteria in all cases of infection, so it can be helpful to look atother biochemical indicators in conjunction with symptoms. Unfortunately, the pylori possibility remains unexplored by many practitioners.
- Difficulties with reliably detecting H. pylori mean that the scale of the issue is likely to be hugely under-estimated. There would seem to be great scope for some patients with 'unexplained' symptoms to benefit from an anti-pylori program.
- This has definitely been the case for me – I have been amazed by the benefits of just 6 weeks of taking anti-pylori foods and herbs. Bearing in mind the match-up with my symptoms and the innocuous nature of this treatment, I personally have been happy to explore this idea without seeking definitive test results.
- For EI in particular, there are potential tie-ins with: impaired detoxification, poor methylation, heavy metal toxicity, nutrient depletion, fatigue, altered neurological function, leaky gut, food allergies and mast cell proliferation (as consequences) and poor methylation, low immunity, nutritional deficiencies and toxic stress (as possible predisposing factors).
The technical detail – test results you might expect
Arginine levels standing out from the other aminos – pylori uses up this one in particular
B12 abnormalities – a deficiency may present as low or high levels
Low vitamin C
GABA/glutamate imbalance (i.e. too much on the glutamate side)
Out of range (high or low) bismuth – this mineral impairs pylori
High ammonia, which can be indicated by low creatinine
For more of the technical stuff, could I recommend the online videos available via Dr Amy Yasko's website. I hope I'm relaying all this correctly but please, do double check the nitty-gritty! I am just a patient who likes to research :-) Also, the testing complexities are too complicated to cover here in full and the specifics of what to look out for will depend on the exact kind of tests you use.
Some anti-pylori foods and herbs
Brassicas in general and especially broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Also broccoli in the form of sprouted seeds contains especially good levels of sulforaphane
* Just want to flag up a little caution here folks. Cranberries can apparently chelate iron. I'm not sure how big a deal that is in practical terms, but perhaps best to take it easy if you're already prone to low iron.
I hope my experiences, research and experimentation may help some of you out there in your own healing journeys and wish you all the very best of health!
Hi again! In Part 1 (The Puzzle of H. pylori: The Science) I explained what Helicobacter pylori is, how it invades the body, the symptoms it causes - basically, all the science stuff. Here in Part 2 of my trilogy of posts on my H. pylori experience I'm going to talk about my own personal H. pylori project i.e. my experiments with various foods and herbal remedies in my efforts to come up with my own treatment and eradicate the little pest from my body!
My personal pylori project
The core of my plan has been the rather fantastic mastic gum, a herbal remedy from a Greek pistachio tree with potent anti-pylori activity. A little goes a long way – my pot of 13g lasted me 3 weeks. I'd just like to run through some more of the details of my plan, to give you an idea of the natural products that can be used to discourage pylori.
When you chew the 'bobbles' they turn into a gum!
Most people seem to recommend cycling on/off, but the length of your on/off periods doesn't seem too critical. Personally I've been doing 3 weeks on, then anything from 2 weeks upwards off. As well as the mastic, I've been making a point of eating as many other anti-pylori foods and herbs as I can manage such as: brassicas (especially Brussels sprouts and flower sprouts), cranberries, triphala and lemon balm. So far I've done two rounds of treatment, building up the dose of all of these products gradually. I've found that combining 250mg of mastic with ½ teaspoon of triphala and taking this first thing in the morning seems to have the most powerful effect, judging from the die-off. I'm also trying to have as many stomach soothing foods as possible including: carrot, fennel and green juices, unripe plantain powder, cherries, persimmon smoothies, chia seeds and coconut. This apparently is important to repair the damage that pylori has done to the stomach lining. Judging from my symptoms of gastric irritation, my lining has indeed been left in a pretty ravaged state.
Some of my anti-pylori agents – brassica veg (Brussels and flower sprouts) and home-dried cranberries. Functional and fun!
Killing off the pylori overgrowth and repairing the stomach lining can be a fairly long-term project. Dr. Yasko says it may take months or years to address and also that once you've eradicated the pylori, symptoms can persist for perhaps 6 months afterwards. Obviously, this can make tracking progress a bit tricky, but I'm guessing it's wise to keep up with some kind of pylori control measures until you're feeling sure things are in a better state of balance. Some people say that the mastic also kills good bacteria, but instinctively, I feel comfortable with taking a low dose (500-750mg per day) and reassured that it's a daily part of the diet for many people in Greece and the Middle East.
Herbal helpers – mastic gum and triphala (an Ayurvedic remedy comprised of three sour fruits)
What happened next?
Some very wild die-off in the first few days which lessened as time went on, though even at the start, I felt remarkably better in between all the die-off. My symptoms included: severe nausea and reflux, the worst episodes of facial, arm and leg twitching and shaking I've ever experienced, feeling very fed up, bladder problems, especially bad delayed stomach emptying and more of a saliva shortage than usual. Plus a lot of episodes of the smelly sweating. And nope – I could not tell you what the connection might be with all of this!
On the plus side, I felt: improved energy, calmer, happier mood, significantly less burping and 'stomach squelching'. And once the dust had settled: generally smoother digestion, less irritable bladder symptoms and fewer twitching and sweating attacks. I have been so excited to start getting a sense in the past few months of what 'normal' feels like, when I've been having pretty extreme difficulties for the past 10 years! Improvements in the digestive department have been less pronounced so far than the general energy boost, though from Dr Yasko's info, that would be usual for the stomach to be catching up later. For now, I think my system is just relieved not to be permanently overwhelmed with ammonia.
I was hoping to try and add in some other herbs to alternate, but unfortunately my experiments with rosehips and broccoli sprouts haven't been a success. The others I've tried also haven't seemed to have such potent effects as the mastic, so I suspect I'll go back to this star-performing herb. As I'm sure you'll notice, this is really a make-it-up-as-I-go-along approach!
In the third and final part of 'The Puzzle of H. pylori' I'll look at the connection between H. pylori and environmental Illness (EI).
You can also find more info on the best blenders for smoothies on Wife Knows.
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'.