I recently read that intestinal permeability, sometimes called leaky gut syndrome, contributes to at least 50% of chronic complaints, as confirmed by laboratory tests. This is when the lining of our small intestine gets all inflamed and irritated.
When this happens the liver and lymphatic system can be compromised, and our immune system gets weakened. Some of the difficult diseases to cure are caused by this very situation, one where our body begins attacking its own tissues. This is called auto-immunity.
One very prevalent contributor to leaky gut is Helicobacter pylori. This is a type of bacteria that can live in your digestive tract and, if out of control, attacks the lining of your stomach. It is estimated that this affects half the population in the U.S. age 60 and over.
Keep in mind this lining is a protective barrier against stomach acid. Damaging it leads to ulcers which may bleed, cause infections, or keep food from moving through your digestive tract. It is very common in people who have GERD or heartburn.
H. pylori can live for years in our stomach before symptoms start. It can also travel and infect any organ it likes to. Many people get it during childhood through contact with saliva or other body fluids. But adults get this too. There are tests available for identifying this infection.
Stress, particularly chronic, effects cortisol levels and the resulting imbalances can lead to triggering digestive disorders. Sources of stress includes dietary, emotional, pain, environmental, biological, and hidden inflammation.
Dull burning pain in your belly may be a sign of an out of control H. pylori infection. Other signs include bloating, burping, nausea, and weight loss. Though there are other things that can cause these same symptoms, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
More subtle clusters of symptoms like brain fog, allergies, fatigue, and other chronic illnesses are often related to H. pylori. Thyroid production is affected because the body is stressed by the infection. This reduces your body’s ability to manage mood and weight.
This bacteria can drill holes in your gut, allowing big food molecules into the blood stream. The body will react to try and dilute, or get rid of, these toxins. When it can’t, they will settle somewhere which can lead to auto-immune disorders.
It will also take away certain vitamins and amino acids necessary for detoxification to happen through biochemical pathways referred to as methylation. This shuts down these processes and can make things bad really quick when toxins keep recirculating in our body.
H. pylori also consumes nutrients from our body to keep itself alive, like vitamin B12 and manganese. It neutralizes stomach acid which results in blocking absorption of important minerals, thus affecting cell mitochondria. This can reduce our overall energy levels.
There are different approaches to treatment of H. pylori, like multiple antibiotics, and medicines that block the chemical histamine or reduce the amount of acid in your stomach. There is some concern about these working long term though and their side effects. Other herbal supplements are showing promise in some studies, like berberine, mastic gum, bismuth, zinc carnosine, and geglycyrrhizinated licorice root.
I think it’s a good idea to start by attending to stress and correcting adrenal hormones. Then move on to repairing your digestive system, supporting detoxification, and replacing missing nutrients.
H. pylori is stubborn. It can cover itself with a protective barrier and bury itself in the mucus layer of the stomach lining. Once it’s back in balance, it can take up to six months to finally start feeling really normal again because of the amount of damage it does.
Stop on by if you want to hear more.
Scott Porter is a Functional Medicine Pharmacist at Sandpoint Super Drug. He is a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council.
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