A successful client case study sheds light on how a gut infection can cause recurrent, diverse, and seemingly unrelated symptoms.
If you are someone with a diverse collection of symptoms that most doctors can’t help with, always consider turning your attention towards the gut. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said “All disease begins in the gut.”
Many medical mysteries can benefit from some health detective work focused on digestive function. Testing for infections is number one. Because of bio individuality, people will have different symptoms of gut infections, some of which seem completely unrelated to the gut.
Let me give you an example of one of my current patients, Lizette. She came in to see me with chronic anemia, fatigue, cold hands and feet, irregular periods, and skin clarity issues.
She had been suffering with recurrent anemia since 2004, even after being treated for it with iron supplementation.
She also wondered if chronic coldness in her hands, feet, and nose, even in hot weather, and skin issues like melasma and acne were related to her other symptoms. And because she’s a young woman, she wanted her energy back so she could live a full and active life.
Testing revealed an H. pylori infection. This is a bacterial infection that lives in the lining of the stomach, and causes a variety of health issues.
H. pylori burrows deep into the stomach to inflame the mucosal lining and slow down the activity of the parietal cells, which produce stomach acid. H. pylori is well known for causing gastritis, ulcers, and heart burn, but it can also cause a variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms, like the ones that Lizette experienced, through the reduction of stomach acid.
Stomach acid is extremely important for digestive and overall health because it’s the primary line of defense against pathogens entering into the intestines. Strong acid will kill invaders such as bacteria, yeast, and parasites in the stomach. Adequate stomach acid is also needed to properly digest food, particularly hard to digest foods like animal protein.
Without proper protein digestion, it is hard to absorb iron and other critical nutrients for energy such as zinc, vitamin B-12, and amino acids.
To fix Lizette’s anemia and energy issues, we had to treat the H. pylori infection, which succeeded in fixing her fatigue and her other symptoms concurrently.
A sign that our H. pylori treatment was working well was a worsening of Lizette’s symptoms in the initial weeks of treatment. A flare up of her skin issues signaled that the bacteria was dying off.
This is a well-known phenomenon in the functional medical world and often referred to as a herxheimer reaction, meaning “healing crisis” or “die off.” Things often get worse before they get better.
There are four ways to test for H. pylori. These are the breath test, blood test, stomach biopsy, and stool test.
The conventional way to treat H. pylori is antibiotic therapy. But antibiotics are not 100 percent effective due to antibiotic resistance and the nature of H. pylori.
H. pylori burrows deep into the stomach lining and forms a protective shield from the body’s own biological materials. This protective layer is called a biofilm. In stubborn cases, it’s important to break up the biofilm with herbs or medications.
Natural treatments for H. pylori include sulfurophane (found in broccoli sprouts), matula tea, mastic gum, bismuth, and turmeric. But because H. pylori, like other gut infections, is a complicated condition to treat, it’s always best to work with a trained functional medicine practitioner to avoid doing more damage.
For example, digestive support in the form of enzymes and bitters may be suggested to optimize digestion and absorption, while hydrochloric acid can present a risk to some due to a compromised stomach lining. Repairing the stomach lining may also be necessary with herbs like DGL licorice.
While diet is not a major factor in the eradication of H. pylori, some foods can irritate symptoms, such as coffee, carbonated beverages, and pickled and spicy foods.
Because H. pylori lowers stomach acid as the first line of defense against pathogens, it can be accompanied by other gut infections, such as candida and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), so it is recommended to test for a wide variety of gut bugs.
What do you think? I would like to hear your thoughts or experience with this.
Dr. Ruscio is your leading functional and integrative doctor specializing in gut related disorders such as SIBO, leaky gut, Celiac, IBS and in thyroid disorders such as hypothyroid and hyperthyroid. For more information on how to become a patient, please contact our office. Serving the San Francisco bay area and distance patients via phone and Skype.