What is H. Pylori, and What Does it Have to Do with Thyroid Disease?
Flash forward to this winter – my family got hit with some crazy stomach bug and after my intestines were literally emptied by this thing, I found myself dealing with a bout of major constipation. Have you ever dealt with constipation for 17 days? I did. And, I wanted to die – it was so uncomfortable and I wasn’t sure why nothing I did to alleviate it would work. So, I got in with my doc who suggested we test for a host of yeasts of bacteria including H. Pylori.
While my test came back negative for H.Pylori, it did show another little invader had come to live and grow in my intestines. So, we’re dealing with that but what’s more common, is for there to be H. Pylori – as usual, there’s nothing common about me!
So, let’s look at H. Pylori, which is something many people with thyroid imbalance are also dealing with.
What is H. Pylori?
Helicobacter Pylori is a bacterial infection that causes ulcers. The reason it’s associated with autoimmune diseases is because of a theory called molecular mimicry. The theory suggests that some bacteria have evolved to look like other cells in our body to the immune system.
The most well known instance of molecular mimicry is Streptococcus pyogenes—the bacteria that causes strep throat. If strep throat goes untreated, it can turn into rheumatic fever, because the body’s immune system starts to attack the cells of the heart valves—which, to it, look like Strep.
So, it’s suggested that because H. Pylori looks like other cells in your body, it can actually trigger (or aggravate) autoimmune thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s and Grave’s disease.
H. Pylori is easy to get, too. Most transmissions occur orally, and children are most susceptible to it—but if you give them a kiss after they’ve got it, you’ve got it too. You can also contract it from contaminated dental equipment, contaminated water and food, and even animals.
And, it’s incredibly common. One study put the infection rate in industrialized countries at 20–50%! Many of the symptoms are common digestive troubles including heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux, and ulcers.
How to test for and treat H. Pylori
While H. Pylori is a stubborn infection to treat, it’s relatively easy to test for. Your doctor can order a blood test, stool test, or even a breath test to check for H. Pylori. You can also order your own tests from reputable labs if necessary.
I did a stool test.
My doc finds that running a stool test and sending it to two different labs is best for finding out what’s living in your gut. He explained that each lab is good at picking up different types of organisms and unfortunately, there isn’t a lab that is great at giving one comprehensive set of results. Argh. But, it was well worth getting the tests done for sure.
Once you determine that you do have an H. Pylori infection, treatment can be intense. Western medicine will prescribe a course of two or more antibiotics, plus a proton pump inhibitor, as well as good old Pepto Bismol. *wide eyes*
If you decide to treat with antibiotics, be sure to also take a probiotic that can survive alongside the antibiotics in order to help balance out your gut.
Many standard probiotics can’t withstand and antibiotic and sometimes confound the treatment but this one does. Work with a health coach or functional practitioner to create a supportive plan for your gut during antibiotic treatment.
Now you know, I like to look at natural solutions first before going on the hard stuff. Integrative physicians have shown great success treating H. Pylori naturally.
Here is a list of suggestions from my doctor:
(as always, check with your personal physician to make sure any supplements recommended are safe for your body and unique needs)
- Oregano Oil
- Licorice Root
- Aloe Vera Juice (this is my favorite one!)
Combined with an anti-inflammatory diet, these supplements can help eliminate infection. But whatever protocol you choose to follow, be aware that your entire family should be tested and treated for H. Pylori, because the risk of reinfection is high.
Remember, no matter what diagnosis you’re facing, a health coach or functional practitioner can help you to create a plan to support you the way you need most.
Jen Wittman is a Certified Holistic Health Expert, Chef, Author & Vitality Coach, who teaches women how to reverse thyroid and autoimmune conditions naturally. She’s helped hundreds of women decrease (or even eliminate) their thyroid medications and has helped others stay off thyroid medication entirely.
Through her free Thyroid Healing Type Assessment, Jen teaches easy and simple steps to thyroid healing that can fit into your busy day. She also provides print outs to bring to your next doctor’s appointment so you can get the support and respect you deserve.