If you’re feeling tired, weak or just generally not yourself, you could have H pylori or Parasites because they can cause Iron-Deficiency Anaemia as well as vitamin B12 deficiency. Fatigue is not a symptom that would generally be associated with H pylori infection, but believe me, any digestive infection can leave you feeling tired.
There is a wealth of research indicating a strong association between H pylori infection and the development of iron-deficiency anaemia.
H pylori infection is known to influence your ability to digest food. In some folk, H pylori can create an autoimmune response against the parietal cells of the stomach. These cells are responsible for the production of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid).
If the H pylori bacteria cause damage to the parietal cells, stomach acid levels can decrease significantly. When acid levels in the stomach are low, food may not be broken-down properly. In particular, you’ll have a hard time breaking down proteins and releasing minerals such as iron so that they can be absorbed into your body via the intestine.
H pylori may be able to cause anaemia (and its symptoms – fatigue, weakness, malaise) without causing any digestive symptoms whatsoever. This is one of the reasons why H pylori infection is so insidiously dangerous.
Anaemia & Wikipedia
Believe it or not, there are many different sub-types of anaemia but I am only going to cover iron-deficiency anaemia here. Here’s what Wikipedia says about it – I have underlined the relevant parts for the purposes of this article:
Iron deficiency anemia is caused by insufficient dietary intake or absorption of iron to replace losses from menstruation or losses due to diseases. Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, and low iron levels result in decreased incorporation of hemoglobin into red blood cells. In the United States, 20% of all women of childbearing age have iron deficiency anemia, compared with only 2% of adult men. The principal cause of iron deficiency anemia in premenopausal women is blood lost during menses. Iron deficiency is the most prevalent deficiency state on a worldwide basis.
Iron deficiency anemia can also be due to bleeding lesions of the gastrointestinal tract. Faecal occult blood testing, upper endoscopy and lower endoscopy should be performed to identify bleeding lesions.
Worldwide, the most common cause of iron deficiency anemia is parasitic infestation (hookworm, amebiasis, schistosomiasis and whipworm).
I find it very interesting that, despite the mention of parasites at the end of this piece, there is no mention of H pylori infection. The Wikipedia piece does go on to mention that iron-deficiency anaemia can be the result of autoimmune reactions against the parietal cells, but it doesn’t talk about that being caused by H pylori, which is rather odd!
Symptoms that are typically associated with anaemia are:
- Fatigue and low energy levels
- General malaise
- Poor Concentration
- Shortness of breath
- Restless leg syndrome
- Pale skin, nail beds and gums
- Faster heart beat (tachycardia)
A complete symptom list can be seen in the diagram, below. If you have any of these symptoms, we can help.
H Pylori & Anaemia Research
Here is a list of scientific and medical studies on the subject. The list is far from exhaustive:
Sarker et al. Anti-Helicobacter pylori Therapy Improves Iron Status and Gastric Acid Output in Young Bangladeshi Women with H. pylori-Associated Hypochloridia and Iron Deficiency Anaemia. Helicobacter 2006 (A06.01); 11: 321-415.
Sarker et al. Serum Ferritin, Haemoglobin, Soluble Transferrin Receptor and Helicobacter pylori Infection in Peri-Urban Community Children in Bangladesh. Helicobacter 2005 (A09.06); 10: 458-556.
Munoz-Codoceo. Iron deficiency anaemia in paediatric patients with Helicobacter pylori infection. Helicobacter 2004 (A09.21); 9: 487-604.
Russo-Mancuso et al. Iron Deficiency Anaemia as the only sign of Infection with Helicobacter pylori: A Report of 9 Paediatric cases. Int J. Haemat. 78: 429-431.
What Can You Do?
The way we deal with anaemia and its symptoms in Functional Medicine differs from the way it’s treated in “western medicine”.
The biggest difference is that we are always looking for the root cause of the problem rather than simply giving iron supplements:
- If you were to come to us with fatigue, paleness and digestive complaints, the first thing we would do is run a comprehensive stool test to determine the presence of H pylori infection or parasites and to discover whether you were digesting and absorbing your food properly. You would be able to run this stool test in the comfort of your own home.
- If H pylori or parasites were present, we’d make recommendations on how you could remove them, often with the help of your doctor and we’d make sure that we helped you support your digestion using digestive enzyme, betaine hydrochloride and gut repair supplements such as glutamine, DGL and zinc-l-carnosine.
- We would also carefully analyse your diet and make some recommendations to help you avoid key foods that may be causing stress to your digestive system and preventing you from absorbing iron.
- In addition, we may look at a simple blood test and/or hair mineral analysis to identify iron levels as well as all the other minerals required for optimal health (e.g. magnesium, zinc, calcium).
- Of course, you may need to supplement carefully with iron, but it’s little use doing this if you don’t remove the root cause of the problem and restore proper function in your digestive system.
Can We Help?
The bottom line is that H pylori and digestive parasites such as hookworm, whipworm and amoebic infection can lead to anaemia as well as vitamin B12 deficiency. This can leave you feeling tired and weak. Taking iron supplements can help, but you really must identify the root cause of why the anaemia is occurring.
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