Your Stomach Issues May Be Due to This Tiny Parasite

Have you heard of Helicobacter Pylori? Research tells us that this ancient bacteria may actually be beneficial for some, but for others, it causes digestive symptoms that range from miserable to lethal.

An active H. Pylori infection can go unnoticed for years, so uncovering this crafty bacteria early is the key to avoiding complications down the road. The good news is that H. Pylori is relatively simple to treat once it has been diagnosed. With the help of your doctor, you can combat this tricky bug and restore your gut to ideal functioning.

What Is H. Pylori?

Helicobacter Pylori is a small, spiral-shaped bacteria often seen in the gut. This unassuming bug is quite common and often asymptomatic. It can even be considered a “normal” member of the gut flora. However, when your gut balance is off and H.Pylori proliferate unchecked, it can lead to disastrous results such as ulcers and even cancer.

A Very Common Bacteria
While widespread, many people aren’t aware they have Helicobacter Pylori. Its asymptomatic nature makes it very easy for it to hide. Many times the infection occurs in childhood and persists untreated. It is estimated that up to 50% of people have H. Pylori in their gut. In developing countries, this number jumps even higher — up to 70%.

What Damage can H. Pylori Cause?

Beneath the surface, H. Pylori causes chronic low-grade inflammation in the lining of the digestive system it inhabits. Eventually, this inflammation (called gastritis) starts causing symptoms such as an upset stomach, pain, hiccups, or belching.

Peptic Ulcer
In 10-15% of cases, an H. Pylori infection can develop into a gastric (aka peptic) ulcer. Symptoms of a gastric ulcer include:

● Dull, sharp, or burning pain in the abdomen
● Nausea and vomiting
● Weight loss

Stomach Cancer
This pervasive bacteria is uniquely capable of causing cancer growth. Infections of H. Pylori are the single greatest risk factor for developing gastric cancer. MALT lymphoma (a lymphatic cancer associated with the mucous membrane of the stomach) is also a major concern.

Long Term Health Consequences of H. Pylori
Our bodies respond to an H. Pylori attack by creating inflammation. In some cases, this inflammatory response can lead to insulin resistance, iron-deficiency anemia, or heart disease.

Through this inflammatory process, H. Pylori has also been linked to leaky gut, skin diseases, obesity, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

How Do You Get H. Pylori?

Kissing
For many, H. Pylori transmission occurs orally. The infection is transferred by sharing unwashed utensils or kissing (called an “oral-oral route of transmission”). Sexual transmission is also possible.

Contaminated Water
Another method of transmission is water that has been contaminated with fecal matter and is unknowingly swallowed – this can happen when swimming in lakes or streams.

Animals
Interestingly, H. Pylori is a zoonotic bacteria; it can be transmitted from animals to humans. Sheep, goats, cows, and cats can transfer the infection via both milk and feces.

No matter the cause, it’s important to resolve an H. Pylori infection to avoid further complications. If you’re concerned you may have H. Pylori, reach out to your doctor for testing.

Testing for H. Pylori

There are several ways to test for H. Pylori:
● Urea breath test
● Stool antigen test
● Scope test and biopsy
● Blood testing

Breath Testing
The urea breath test is the most common method of diagnosing an H. Pylori infection. Carbon molecules are placed in a liquid, pill, or pudding solution and ingested by the patient. If Helicobacter pylori are present, the tagged carbon is released by the bacteria’s urease enzymes during digestion. The carbon is then detectable in your breath.

Stool Testing
A stool antigen test can determine if H. Pylori antigens are present in your digestive tract. (An antigen is a foreign particle that stimulates our immune system.) There are numerous types of stool tests, but it is important to make sure that your antigen test specifically confirms the presence of H. Pylori bacteria.

While a urea breath test or stool antigen test are preferred for detecting H. Pylori, there are other methods:

Biopsy
Your doctor can take a biopsy after placing a scope into your digestive tract. This small sample of tissue is then sent to a lab for investigation. While invasive, a biopsy can definitively diagnose H. Pylori.

Blood
Blood testing is the least effective method of uncovering or keeping track of an ongoing H. Pylori infection. This is because our immune system develops antibodies to fight antigens that remain in the blood long after the infection clears.

So a blood sample can’t distinguish between previous infections or a current case of H. Pylori.

How Does H. Pylori Survive?

H. Pylori Alters Stomach Acidity
H. Pylori is a hardy bacteria that has adapted to survive by changing the high acidity of the stomach. The urease enzyme released by H. Pylori (mentioned above) alters your stomach acid to create a more favorable environment. By reducing this acidity, thereby reducing how effective the stomach is at initiating the digestive process, the bacteria can survive comfortably in your gut.

H. Pylori Burrows Into the Gut Lining
H. Pylori is also mobile. A long whip-like tail — called a flagellate — helps the bacteria careen toward the gut lining. Once it lands, this acidophilic (acid-loving) bacteria burrows deep into the lining of the stomach and locks in place, quickly colonizing the gut lining.

How Does H. Pylori Spread In the Body?

From the safety of the gut lining, H. Pylori releases toxins. These toxins attack and kill stomach cells. But the bacteria doesn’t stop there. It detaches from its previous position and migrates forward to kill more cells. One by one, holes begin to form in the gut lining.

Our immune system notices and fights back. This leads to more inflammation and gut damage.

While H. Pylori largely inhabits the lower portion of the stomach (the antrum), it can also make its way to the intestines. The duodenum, the first portion of the small intestine that is closest to the stomach, is often affected.

How Do You Treat H. Pylori?

Step 1: See Your MD
It can be tricky to treat an H. Pylori infection as this bacteria is very adaptable. To combat the potential for resistance, a cocktail of multiple antibiotics under the supervision of your medical doctor is usually necessary. Treatment varies considerably depending on whether the infection has progressed to peptic ulcers or other gastric issues.

Step 2: Once H. Pylori is Gone, the Healing Starts
Once you have successfully eradicated the problem, it is vital to do the necessary work to bring your body back into balance. A Naturopathic Doctor can help you to replenish your gut microbiome after the heavy antibiotic treatment.

Your practitioner is also well equipped to help soothe and heal the damage H. Pylori may have caused to the lining of your stomach and small intestine, as well as uncovering and addressing any auto-immune issues that may have developed.

If you suspect you have H. Pylori, don’t hesitate to contact your health care professional. Working in conjunction with your medical doctor and naturopathic doctor is your best line of defence for eradicating the bacteria and preventing serious damage.

References:

Bravo D, Hoare A, Soto C, Valenzuela MA, Quest AF. Helicobacter pylori in human health and disease: Mechanisms for local gastric and systemic effects. World J Gastroenterol. 2018;24(28):3071-3089. doi:10.3748/wjg.v24.i28.3071

Diaconu S, Predescu A, Moldoveanu A, Pop CS, Fierbințeanu-Braticevici C. Helicobacter pylori infection: old and new. J Med Life. 2017;10(2):112-117.

Ghasemian Safaei, Hajieh & Rahimi, Ebrahim & Zandi, Ashkan & Rashidipour, Alireza. (2011). Helicobacter pylori as a zoonotic infection: The detection of H. pylori antigens in the milk and faeces of cows. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences. 16. 184-7.

Parikh NS, Ahlawat R. Helicobacter Pylori. [Updated 2020 Aug 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan.

Naturopathic Support for Arthritis

If you’ve ever suffered from joint pain, you know how much of a headache it is. All the aches and pains of arthritis make moving your joints unnecessarily difficult, and the prospect of your symptoms worsening over time is daunting, to say the least.

What if I told you there are therapies available that are both natural and effective?

In this article, we’ll take a look at what the latest research says about supporting arthritis naturally.

What is Arthritis?

There are a number of reasons arthritis can develop: from autoimmunity to gout, infectious bacteria, and even Lyme disease… the list goes on, and there are as many varying symptoms as there are causes.

Today, we’ll focus on the two main categories of arthritic pain:
● Autoimmune
● Degenerative

Autoimmune Arthritis

Autoimmune arthritis is what we see in Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, and Lupus.

These conditions are systemic — meaning the entire body is affected. Inflammation courses throughout the body and disturbs the delicate joint cavity. Often, the body’s own immune system malfunctions and directs excessive inflammation to the joints.

Antibodies Attack Your Own Tissues

In rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-antibody (called rheumatoid factor) is created which mistakenly attacks one of the body’s natural antibodies: IgG. Only a portion of IgG is targeted, but it leads to a larger problem: cross-reactivity – an antibody attack on your own tissues.

Once this auto-antibody attack has occurred in the body once, rheumatoid factor can no longer distinguish between IgG and the synovial membrane of the joint. As a result, the joint itself will be slowly destroyed.

How Autoimmune Arthritis Progresses

Autoimmune types of arthritis often affect joints symmetrically (meaning both sides of the body are equally affected). This chronic disease leads to pain, stiffness, swelling, and limited range-of-motion in multiple joints. But it may start slowly with just a few small joints – stiffness in the hands is a typical early symptom.

If you have autoimmune arthritis, it’s important to work closely with your healthcare team to obtain a diagnosis and develop an ongoing maintenance and prevention plan. Some arthritic conditions, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), can be life-threatening.

Degenerative Arthritis (aka Osteoarthritis)

Degenerative joint disease — or osteoarthritis — is the most common disorder of the joints, occurring in about 10% of people over the age of 60.

Why Do Some People Develop Osteoarthritis?

Previous Joint Issues
Often considered an “inevitable” part of aging, osteoarthritis is a bit of a misnomer. While there is inflammation (hence the “-itis”), the inflammation occurs after joint damage or in a naturally malformed joint.

Metabolic Conditions
Most people suffering from osteoarthritis typically have no precursing conditions. It can, however, develop as a result of metabolic disorders (such as diabetes).

How Does OA Attack the Joints?
The wear and tear seen in degenerative joint disease targets the “hyaline cartilage”, which is there to ensure friction-free movement and proper dispersal of weight across the bone.

Protective chondrocytes
For years, this damage is mitigated by chondrocytes. These helpful little cells replace the worn-out cartilage with fresh, strong hyaline cartilage. As we age, however, it’s hard for them to keep up.

Conventional Treatments for Osteoarthritis Increase Degeneration
It’s common for doctors to prescribe NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for arthritic pain. Unfortunately, these NSAIDS prevent chondrocyte formation — this only exacerbates the loss of cartilage.

So what other therapies are there to treat arthritis?

We’re glad you asked!

Supporting Arthritis with Naturopathic Medicine

While conventional treatment options for your arthritis may differ depending on whether it’s autoimmune or degenerative, some natural therapies prove helpful regardless of the type of arthritis causing the pain. We’ll go over a few of these today.

Arthritis is different for everybody, and every body is unique, so make sure you talk to your naturopathic doctor to determine which options are best for you.

Herbal Support for Arthritis

Anti-inflammatory Herbs

We can’t emphasize the impact inflammation has on arthritis enough. So how do we prevent further joint degeneration by inflammation? One of the most well-researched anti-inflammatory herbs is… (drum-roll please) — Turmeric!

Turmeric
Turmeric, or Curcuma longa, has a well-established track record for fighting inflammation in the body. But the bioavailability of turmeric (how much enters the circulation and thus affects the body) is often poor.

Fortunately, recent research indicates how to get the biggest bang for your buck. You’ll want to take a nano-particle turmeric supplement. Your naturopathic doctor can help you find the right version.

Analgesic Herbs

Analgesic medications relieve pain. The same is true of botanical analgesics which come in all shapes and sizes.

Cayenne Pepper
Topical analgesics can be extremely helpful for your arthritic pain. One prominent botanical is cayenne pepper. Often delivered as a salve, cayenne pepper can be rubbed onto the skin over sore joints.

Essential Oils
Wintergreen, camphor, and eucalyptus also make excellent topical analgesics. The volatile oils in these herbs absorb easily through the skin and have been researched for their effectiveness in reducing pain.

CBD
One increasingly popular analgesic botanical is cannabidiol (or CBD). This non-psychoactive compound is a close cousin of THC. Found in cannabis and hemp, CBD is particularly effective as a topical analgesic for joint pain (especially in rheumatoid arthritis).

Navigating the new world of CBD products can be daunting for some. Feel free to reach out to your naturopathic doctor for help.

While pain relief doesn’t address the underlying cause of your arthritis, it can help you get back on your feet and into the world you love.

Hydrotherapy

Speaking of pain relief, one fast-tracked route to happier joints is hydrotherapy.

Hydrotherapy uses contrasting water temperatures to circulate blood and lymph throughout the body. Warm water is a vasodilator: it relaxes blood vessels (which lowers blood pressure). Cold water, on the other hand, is a vasoconstrictor: the blood vessels narrow and pressure jumps.

By alternating the water temperature, the blood vessels around your joint first relax and dilate, and then quickly (under cold water) tighten and constrict. By repeating this back-and-forth, you can effectively flush the blood, lymph, and inflammation that has accumulated around the joint.

How to Get Started with Hydrotherapy at Home
The technique is very simple.

Place your painful joint under the faucet or showerhead. Start with warm water (enough heat to make your skin pink). Once the skin shows a flushed tone, switch the temperature to cold — as cold as you can handle. Blast the chilly water for 20-30 seconds.

That’s all there is to it!

Repeat the warm-cold sequence for about two minutes. You may find yourself at the faucet several times a day. It’s quick, free, and easy to do when you’re in pain.

Lifestyle Factors That Can Support Arthritis

More than ever before, researchers are uncovering direct links between auto-immune conditions and gut health.

Gut Health

Recent studies on rheumatoid arthritis reveal changes in the gut microbiome (the diverse bacteria in our GI tract). Two species in particular show specific alterations in RA. The Haemophilus species are depleted, while the lactobacillus salivarius species are over-represented.

What do these changes mean?

In cases of auto-immune arthritis, it means that the gut microbiome may be involved in the development of the condition. This can translate into actionable therapeutic options in light of other recent studies.

Probiotics & the Microbiome
The use of probiotics to alter the gut microbiome, for example, is a hot topic in the health community.

Probiotics have shown therapeutic benefits for rheumatoid arthritis. Comprised of tiny exogenous bacteria, probiotics have immune-modulating effects (helping the immune system function appropriately) and can help decrease inflammation. Talk to your ND to see if probiotics are a sensible option for you.

Reducing Arthritis Triggers With an Elimination Diet

Along a similar vein, let’s examine elimination diets.

If you have autoimmune conditions, your food sensitivities can affect the overall reactivity of your immune system. The idea is that by identifying and removing food triggers, your immune reaction (read: inflammation) may decrease.

You can start an elimination diet with the help of your naturopathic doctor. Your ND can give you a list of foods that are potential triggers. You’ll stop eating these for a while, and then (one by one) re-introduce each food. Any sensitivity or reaction is noted and addressed.

Food Sensitivity Testing
Your naturopathic doctor may decide to order food-sensitivity tests as well, which can provide you with a list of potential suspects unique to you which may not be on the list of typical trigger foods.

Some foods are easier to avoid than others. A diet plan can help you find the right recipes and natural ingredients to help you enjoy your meals while reducing the risk of an overactive immune response.

The Role of Exercise In Arthritis

When you suffer from joint pain, exercise and physical movement can be rather difficult. But remaining physically active is an important component for your overall health. It is important to try and stay active even with arthritis.

If you experience a flare-up of your arthritic pain, scale back your daily exercises. No harm, no foul.

Functional Movement
Functional exercise trains the body for the everyday movement and activities performed in real life and boasts many benefits for arthritis. It can delay Rheumatoid Arthritis disease development, according to recent studies. These exercises also enhance joint function and reduce painful joints, including morning stiffness.

Rest
In general, rest helps swollen and inflamed joints. If you feel fatigued, it’s also important to rest and recuperate. However, during these times, gentle range-of-motion (ROM) exercises help keep your joints flexible.

Final Takeaway

As you can see, there are many natural ways to support your body when suffering from arthritis. You have options! Naturopathic and lifestyle therapies have been shown to offer significant, medication-free relief for those dealing with arthritis. Use caution when starting a new regimen even with natural therapies, it’s always best to work with a professional for guidance specific to your unique body and health issues.

Your Naturopathic doctor can help you find solutions for your arthritis. Acupuncture, laser therapy, and even liver support may all play a role in your individualized treatment plan. Reach out for more details today!

References:

Daily JW, Yang M, Park S. Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. J Med Food. 2016;19(8):717-729. doi:10.1089/jmf.2016.3705

Mohammed AT, Khattab M, Ahmed AM, Turk T, Sakr N, M Khalil A, Abdelhalim M, Sawaf B, Hirayama K, Huy NT. The therapeutic effect of probiotics on rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized control trials. Clin Rheumatol. 2017 Dec;36(12):2697-2707. doi: 10.1007/s10067-017-3814-3. Epub 2017 Sep 15. PMID: 28914373.

Wang L, Gao C, Zhu D, Chen LH. [Effect of functional exercises on patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a meta-analysis]. Beijing Da Xue Xue Bao Yi Xue Ban. 2018 Dec 18;50(6):991-997. Chinese. PMID: 30562770.

Zhang X, Zhang D, Jia H, Feng Q, Wang D, Liang D, Wu X, Li J, Tang L, Li Y, Lan Z, Chen B, Li Y, Zhong H, Xie H, Jie Z, Chen W, Tang S, Xu X, Wang X, Cai X, Liu S, Xia Y, Li J, Qiao X, Al-Aama JY, Chen H, Wang L, Wu QJ, Zhang F, Zheng W, Li Y, Zhang M, Luo G, Xue W, Xiao L, Li J, Chen W, Xu X, Yin Y, Yang H, Wang J, Kristiansen K, Liu L, Li T, Huang Q, Li Y, Wang J. The oral and gut microbiomes are perturbed in rheumatoid arthritis and partly normalized after treatment. Nat Med. 2015 Aug;21(8):895-905. doi: 10.1038/nm.3914. Epub 2015 Jul 27. PMID: 26214836.