H. pylori – A Functional Medicine Approach
H. pylori – A Functional Medicine Approach
Helicobacter pylori, known as H. pylori, is a pathogenic bacterium that lives in the gut of more that half the world’s population.
It’s been around for at least 200,000 years and for most of us, at microscopic levels it causes no issues. However, 10 – 20 percent of people will develop unwanted symptoms from its presence and a small number of us will develop serious problems from it.
H. pylori has been classified as a class I carcinogen by the World Health Organization and recognised as the causative agent for peptic ulcers, duodenal ulcer, gastritis, mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphomas, and gastric cancer. 
So, what is H. pylori exactly, what symptoms does it cause and how do you get rid of it?
What is H. pylori?
H. pylori can stay in your stomach your entire life and you may not even know it’s there. The “helico” in helicobacter means spiral, which refers to the shape of the bacteria. This shape allows the bacterium to penetrate the stomach lining by burrowing into it.
Ulcers were thought to be caused by stress, smoking, spicy foods and acidic foods but in 1982, two Australian researchers, Professor Barry Marshall and Dr Robin Warren, discovered that a bacteria caused a weakness in the stomach ling which then, in turn, caused holes in the lining – ulcers.
The two researchers were awarded a Nobel Prize in 2005 for their important discovery that H. pylori had a role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease. This discovery meant that nonsurgical treatments could be used to treat ulcers and other stomach problems.
H. pylori are responsible for causing around 85 to 95 percent of duodenal and peptic ulcers in countries that are developing and between 30 to 50 percent of duodenal and peptic ulcers in developed countries. 
H. pylori has the ability to reduce the acidity in its environment and has also adapted to live in the harsh, acidic environment of the stomach so it survives more easily. The acidic stomach contents act as a trigger to start digestion in your small intestine. So, if there isn’t enough acid, your gallbladder won’t receive the signal to release bile, essential for fat digestion.
When the level of stomach acid decreases, it can cause a number of different problems for the body overall including poor absorption of nutrients such as magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium and B complex vitamins, poor protein digestion, low bile and enzyme secretion, and slow gut motility. 
Low stomach acid will also have a knock-on effect on the bacteria living in your intestines and can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria where they shouldn’t be, called SIBO. 
What causes H.pylori?
H. pylori infection occurs when H. pylori bacteria infect your stomach. H. pylori bacteria are usually passed from person to person through direct contact with saliva, vomit or stool. H. pylori may also be spread through contaminated food or water. The exact way H. pylori bacterium causes gastritis or a peptic ulcer in some people is still unknown. 
Risk factors for H.pylori include:
- Family history of stomach cancer
- Low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria), which can be caused by aid-suppressing medication for GERD
- Antacid use
- Lifestyle factors (such as smoking, alcohol, coffee, diets high in sugar and trans fats and stress can increase your risk for the development of an ulcer from H. Pylori.
- Low nutrient status (low levels of Vitamin C and E can promote growth of H. pylori
- Lowered immune system activity 
- Living in crowded, unsanitary conditions
- Drinking unsafe water
- Sharing utensils and cups/glasses
- Consuming poorly prepared food
Children are the most likely to get an infection from H. pylori, but you can contract it at any age.
What are the symptoms of H.pylori?
Most people with H. pylori never have symptoms however it can damage the lining of the stomach and cause other diseases, most commonly a peptic ulcer.
Symptoms of a peptic ulcer from H. pylori include:
- dull or burning stomach pain (especially when you have an empty stomach)
- unexplained weight loss
- poor appetite
While rare, stomach cancer is also an increased risk for people with H. pylori. Stomach cancer symptoms include:
- poor appetite
- unexplained weight loss
- blood in the stool
- feeling full early in a meal
- discomfort or swelling in the abdomen
- stomach pain
- fatigue or weakness 
Furthermore, helicobacter pylori has been linked with:
- Acne rosacea and other skin conditions
- Iron and B12 deficiency
- Migraines and headaches
- Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia
- Cardiovascular disease
- Autoimmune conditions
- Anxiety and depression
- Hormone imbalances
- Asthma 
Testing for H. pylori and conventional treatment
If you are displaying any of the above symptoms, your doctor may give you a blood test, stool test or breath test that will uncover whether or not you have the infection.
Usually, antibiotics are prescribed to kill the bacteria, as well as acid reducers. Triple therapy consisting of a proton pump inhibitor, clarithromycin, and either amoxicillin or metronidazole, is usually the recommended standard for the treatment of H. pylori infection.
H. pylori is known for its reoccurrence. Once you’ve had a round of antibiotics, you will need to be re-tested to ensure the bacteria has been eradicated. If the bacteria are still present, you may need to take another round of antibiotics.
Although antibiotics are often effective at getting rid of the ‘bad’ bacteria, they are also very effective at eradicating the ‘good’ ones too. There are so many good bacteria in your gut that are beneficial to your overall health that when they are wiped out by antibiotics to treat H. Pylori, you will need to replenish their populations.
Antibiotics have a number of other downsides too – the development of antibiotic resistance and associated negative effects such as diarrhea, nausea and loss of appetite, as well as the risk of re-infection.
Natural treatments to treat H. pylori
A 2020 study confirmed that using probiotics helps maintain the balance between good and bad gut bacteria. Taking probiotics with standard H. pylori treatment makes the antibiotics more effective because antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria in your stomach.
Probiotics not only help replenish good bacteria but Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, and Saccharomyces boulardii can effectively eradicate H. pylori infection.
Studies also show that these probiotics not only decrease gastrointestinal symptoms, but can reduce the side effects of antibiotics (especially diarrhea) by altering the intestinal microbiome.  They may also reduce your risk of developing yeast overgrowth.
Anti-microbial and antioxidant natural treatments to combat h. pylori
Nigella sativa, also known as black seed, is an annual flowering plant native to the south and southwest Asia and has been shown to combat H. pylori infections. A study conducted in 2010 found that giving H. pylori patients two grams of ground black seeds daily along with omeprazole was more effective than standard therapy alone. Black seeds also have acid reducing and gastro-protective abilities. 
Olive oil has been shown to be effective in reducing the growth of H. pylori and preventing the infection. It also reduces inflammation.
This is a resin obtained from the Pistacia lentiscus tree, and there are several studies showing positive effects against H.pylori.
Broccoli and broccoli sprouts
Broccoli and broccoli sprouts contain a compound called sulforaphane that is effective against H. pylori. Sulforaphane contains sulphur and is known for its detoxification ability. Broccoli seed oil can be taken to help combat infection.
Turmeric is known for its many health properties – it is anti-inflammatory and protects the gut lining and it also has the ability to disrupt H Pylori biofilms.
Green tea has been shown to inhibit the growth of H. pylori bacteria. Its active ingredient, catechins, have powerful antibacterial properties that can combat the bacteria, as well as high levels of antioxidants that fight inflammation.
Garlic has proven effects against a wide range of bacterial, viruses and yeast. Consume both cooked and raw garlic to help kill h. pylori bacteria.
Honey is known for its antibacterial properties and one study showed that Manuka honey suppressed the growth of H. pylori in gastric epithelial cells. 
A 2020 review found that liquorice root increased the eradication rate of the bacteria and has an antibacterial effect. It also seems to help prevent H. pylori from sticking to cell walls and helped promote ulcer healing. 
Eradiate H. pylori with the help of a Functional Medicine health practitioner
At Advanced Functional Medicine, our team of experts can help you identify the presence of H. pylori in your body and support you to decide the best approach for treatment, whether that me traditional or natural.
Anti-inflammatory foods can help healing and probiotic supplements can restore a healthy microbiome. After thorough testing, we will be able to devise a plan complete with tailored probiotics, natural herbs, oils and supplements to eradicate the bacteria and get you back on the path to wellness.
Contact us to find out more on how we support you with holistic, natural treatments tailored to suit your needs.