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H. pylori, Iron Deficiency and Gluten Sensitivity – Is There A Connection?

H PyloriChronic gluten exposure for those who are intolerant can weaken the immune system’s ability to fight off infection. One of the most common types of infection in the GI tract (stomach) is a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (AKA- H. pylori). This bacteria can bore through the stomach mucus and cause erosion of the lining in the stomach and duodenum leading to ulcers. If the infection persists long enough it can contribute to dysplastic cell growth and stomach cancer. Common symptoms of H. pylori infection are:
  • Gastric bloating
  • Heartburn or acid reflux
  • Nausea
  • Black tarry stools
  • Excessive belching
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
A new research study has discovered another potentially dangerous symptom linked to H. pylori infection – Iron Deficiency Anemia. Adults with the infection as well as persistent iron deficiency were treated. After the bacteria was eradicated, iron deficiency corrected in 38% of the patients being treated (iron levels corrected without supplementation). This study is important because many patients with a history of gluten sensitivity have refractory iron deficiency. Refractory means that their anemia does not correct with iron supplementation. In these patients, H. pylori infection should be ruled out as a contributing factor. If discovered a treatment regimen against the infection should be implemented while iron levels are monitored. For symptoms and problems linked to iron deficiency go here <<< Source: World J Gastroenterol. 2013 Jul 14;19(26):4166-71. Helicobacter pylori infection as a cause of iron deficiency anemia of unknown origin.

The Problem With Traditional H. pylori Treatments

Most doctors prescribe triple therapy – a combination of proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s), clarithromycin, and amoxicillin. This combination of acid blocking and antibiotics has become less and less effective due to antibiotic resistant strains of H. pylori. Additionally, many patients have severe adverse reactions to this therapy – the symptoms of which can be worse than the infection.

Natural Support for H. pylori Control

There are many natural botanicals that have been studied and shown to be effective at destroying H. pylori. Because of antibiotic resistance, these botanicals are often times better options. You should talk with a functional medicine doctor more about this avenue. Common botanicals used for H. pylori include – mastic gum and berberine. Additionally, a number of healthy foods have anti-bacterial effects including garlic, onion, oregano, thyme, and coconut. Liberal use of these foods can be considered in addition to botanicals for those wanting to implement food based support.

Bottom Line

If you have chronic iron deficiency even after supplementing appropriately with iron, you should consider having your doctor rule out an H. pylori infection. If present, I recommend taking a regimen of the following: The above regimen can be taken safely for several months without side effects. If you start feeling better, never assume that the infection is cleared up. H. pylori can be insidious, and much like gluten, it can cause damage without outward symptoms. Always ask your doctor to run the appropriate lab tests to ensure eradication of the bacteria after treatment protocols are complete. Always looking out for you, Dr. O – The Gluten Free Warrior

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