If you’re dealing with the discomfort and challenges of H. pylori infection, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog, we will explore the role of functional medicine in addressing H. pylori. We understand that every individual’s journey is different, and through this blog, we aim to empower you with knowledge and strategies to find relief and regain your health. So, let’s embark on this journey together as we navigate the path to overcoming H. pylori.
What is H. Pylori?
Helicobacter pylori, or H.pylori for short, is a spiral shaped bacterium that is found primarily in the stomach but can reside in other areas of the digestive tract. It is estimated that 50-80% of people in the world have H. pylori and are asymptomatic, meaning they don’t feel any ill effects from it. However, It has been linked to various types of digestive disorders, including peptic ulcer disease, gastritis and cancer.
How Do you Get it?
The exact mode of transmission is not fully understood, but it is believed to occur through close contact with an infected individual’s saliva, vomit, or fecal matter. Family members living in the same household are at a higher risk of contracting H. pylori due to the potential for shared living spaces and personal items. Additionally, contaminated food and water sources can play a role in the spread of H. pylori.
Low stomach acid levels can create an environment that is conducive to H. pylori infection. Adequate stomach acid plays a crucial role in preventing the overgrowth of bacteria, including H. pylori, in the gastrointestinal tract. When stomach acid production is low, it weakens the natural defense mechanism against harmful pathogens like H. pylori. Several factors can contribute to low stomach acid levels. Chronic stress, poor diet, and unhealthy lifestyle habits such as excessive alcohol consumption and smoking can all impact stomach acid production. Certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or antacids, can also suppress stomach acid production. Additionally, advancing age and certain medical conditions, such as autoimmune disorders or gastritis, can contribute to decreased stomach acid levels.
What are the Symptoms of H. Pylori?
H. pylori infection can manifest with a range of symptoms, although many individuals infected with the bacterium may not experience any symptoms.
Common symptoms of H. pylori include:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Burning sensation in the stomach after meals
- Bloody stools due to an ulcer or bleeding can occur
H. pylori infection is a significant factor in the development of peptic ulcer disease (PUD). In fact, it’s responsible for around 80 percent of stomach ulcers and over 90 percent of duodenal ulcers. This bacterium is considered the most common cause of PUD worldwide. It is crucial to address and treat H. pylori infection in patients with PUD to effectively manage and prevent ulcer recurrence.
H. pylori can possess certain virulence factors that contribute to its ability to colonize and cause disease. Two prominent virulence factors of H. pylori are Vacuole-forming cytotoxin (VacA) and Cytotoxin-associated antigen (CagA). The presence of VacA and CagA in H. pylori strains enhances the bacterium’s ability to colonize the stomach and cause damage to the host. CagA has been associated with an increased risk of gastric cancer.
Root Cause Functional Medicine Labs for H. Pylori
When it comes to treating H. pylori, functional medicine provides a comprehensive and individualized approach to uncovering the root causes of this condition.
The following tests are some of the most useful for H. pylori:
Comprehensive Stool Test:
Comprehensive Functional Medicine stool tests provide valuable insights into H. pylori infection and various aspects of gastrointestinal health. These tests utilize advanced techniques like Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to detect the presence of H. pylori DNA in the stool sample, offering high sensitivity and accuracy. Additionally, these tests assess markers of digestion and absorption, such as levels of pancreatic elastase and fecal fat, providing information about the efficiency of nutrient breakdown and absorption.
Furthermore, functional medicine stool tests evaluate markers of inflammation, such as calprotectin and lactoferrin, which can indicate the presence of ongoing inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. This information helps identify potential underlying causes or contributors to H. pylori infection.
Immune function markers, such as secretory IgA (sIgA), are also included in comprehensive stool tests. sIgA plays a crucial role in defending against pathogens and maintaining gut health. Abnormal levels of sIgA can suggest compromised immune function and may be indicative of H. pylori infection or other immune-related issues in the gastrointestinal tract.
By combining these various markers, comprehensive functional medicine stool tests provide a broader understanding of H. pylori infection, digestive health, inflammation levels, and immune function. This comprehensive approach allows for targeted treatment plans and personalized interventions to address H. pylori infection and optimize gastrointestinal health.
Organic Acids Test (OAT)
An Organic Acids Test (OAT), plays a crucial role in detecting nutritional deficiencies and their impact on H. pylori infection. These tests analyze metabolic byproducts in urine to provide insights into imbalances and nutrient needs. By assessing organic acids, these tests can identify deficiencies in key nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, which are essential for maintaining a healthy immune system and fighting off infections like H. pylori. Identifying and addressing these deficiencies through targeted interventions and personalized treatment plans can help strengthen the immune system, improve overall gut health, and support the eradication of H. pylori.
H. pylori infection can have an impact on adrenal function, leading to fluctuations in cortisol levels. Cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, is essential for the body’s stress response and immune function. Studies have revealed that individuals with H. pylori infection may experience dysregulated cortisol levels.
Secretary IgA (SigA), is an integral component of the gut’s immune system which is affected by cortisol levels. H. pylori infection and the associated dysregulation of cortisol levels can potentially lead to a decrease in SigA production, compromising the gut’s ability to effectively defend against the bacterium. This highlights the intricate relationship between cortisol, H. pylori infection, and SigA levels, emphasizing the importance of understanding and managing cortisol’s impact on the gut’s immune response.
Comprehensive Thyroid Testing
Thyroid hormone levels have a significant impact on various bodily functions, including digestion and acid production in the stomach. When the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone, a condition known as hypothyroidism, it can lead to a decrease in stomach acid production. This reduction in stomach acid creates an environment that is conducive to the overgrowth of bacteria, including H. pylori. Additionally, hypothyroidism may cause digestive dysfunction and inflammation, which can further contribute to the development and persistence of H. pylori infection. Comprehensive thyroid testing involves assessing several markers, including Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), Free T4, and Free T3. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland and stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. A high TSH level indicates an underactive thyroid, which may contribute to low stomach acid. Free T4 and Free T3 are two main thyroid hormones, with Free T4 being converted into Free T3, the active form of the hormone. Low levels of Free T4 and Free T3 are commonly associated with hypothyroidism, which can impact stomach acid production. Addressing hypothyroidism through appropriate treatment can help restore normal thyroid hormone levels, improve stomach acid production, and reduce the risk of developing an H. pylori infections.
Pernicious Anemia Screening
Pernicious anemia is a type of anemia that occurs when the body is unable to absorb an adequate amount of vitamin B12, which is essential for the production of healthy red blood cells. This condition can increase an individual’s susceptibility to H. pylori infection. Pernicious anemia often develops due to an autoimmune condition where the body destroys the cells in the stomach that produce intrinsic factor, a protein necessary for the absorption of vitamin B12. Intrinsic factor is also involved in maintaining the acidic environment of the stomach, which helps to inhibit the growth of H. pylori bacteria. When pernicious anemia disrupts the production of intrinsic factor and reduces stomach acid levels, it creates a more favorable environment for H. pylori to thrive. Additionally, the chronic inflammation associated with H. pylori infection can further impair the absorption of vitamin B12, exacerbating the deficiency and perpetuating the cycle of anemia. Therefore, individuals with pernicious anemia should be vigilant about H. pylori infection, as it can further complicate their condition. Regular screening and appropriate treatment for H. pylori infection are crucial to manage and prevent complications in individuals predisposed to pernicious anemia.
Complete Blood Count
The Complete Blood Count (CBC) test provides valuable information about various components of the blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. While the CBC test itself does not directly detect H. pylori, it can help identify certain abnormalities that may be associated with the infection.
Functional Medicine Treatment Protocols for H. Pylori
Once the results of the functional medicine labs have been evaluated, an individualized treatment plan can be created to address the root cause of H. pylori and restore balance to the digestive system. Treatment plans may involve dietary changes, targeted supplementation, stress management, and other lifestyle modifications.
- Diet: A nutritionally balanced diet is essential for a strong immune system and healthy gut microbiome. Foods high in fiber, probiotics, and prebiotics can help support the body’s natural defenses against H. pylori infection. Additionally, individuals should limit their intake of processed foods and sugar that could further contribute to bacterial overgrowth and gut inflammation.
- Stress Management: Stress can have a significant impact on the body’s ability to effectively fight bacterial infections. Identifying and managing sources of stress is essential for mitigating its negative effects on the immune system. Mind-body activities such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation can help reduce stress levels and boost the body’s natural defenses against infection.
- Supplements: When it comes to addressing H. pylori infection, the use of supplements can be beneficial, but it is crucial to base their usage on test results rather than guesswork. H. pylori supplements should be approached with a targeted and personalized approach, as the effectiveness of different supplements can vary depending on the individual’s specific H. pylori strain and overall health. Testing provides valuable insights into the presence of H. pylori and its virulence factors, allowing the treatment plan to be tailored accordingly. By identifying the specific strain and assessing its characteristics, such as antibiotic resistance or presence of virulence factors like VacA and CagA, supplements can be recommended that are most likely to be effective. It’s important to note that besides antibiotics, there are also natural options available that have shown effectiveness in combating H. pylori infections. These natural options, such as probiotics, and herbal remedies, can be considered as part of a comprehensive approach to addressing H. pylori. Taking a “test and not guess” approach ensures that the chosen supplements align with the individual’s unique needs, maximizing the chances of successful eradication of H. pylori and promoting optimal gut health.
In conclusion, H. pylori is a common bacterial infection that can cause serious digestive issues if left untreated. Functional medicine tests can provide valuable insight into an individual’s digestive health and provide a more comprehensive approach to treatment. By combining dietary changes, stress management, targeted supplementation, and other lifestyle modifications, individuals can take an evidence-based approach to treating and managing H. pylori infection while optimizing their overall health. With the right guidance and treatment plan, individuals can experience relief from symptoms of H. pylori infection and restore balance to their digestive system.
If you are struggling with H.pylori or other digestive issues and are looking for personalized guidance, I invite you to take advantage of a Free Session with Dr. Ryan. During this session, you will receive a Free Digestive Blueprint outlining the exact next steps you need to take for your gut health. Don’t let digestive issues hold you back any longer – take control of your well-being and embark on a journey towards optimal digestive health. Schedule your Free Digestive Blueprint Session with Dr. Ryan here and start feeling your best now.
Pathogenesis of Helicobacter pylori Infection. Read more here.