This article explores the well researched and scientifically proven ways in which H pylori infection creates seemingly unrelated symptoms such as fatigue, lethargy and listlessness that are often ignored by doctors.
It then provides a summary of how to negotiate the minefield of information on overcoming such symptoms to help you restore optimal digestive and overall health.
It is now firmly established that H pylori infections cause iron deficiency in both adults and children. Because iron deficiency causes many symptoms in its own right, we can only conclude that H pylori infection causes the symptoms that are generally ascribed to iron deficiency anemia.
The 2012 Maastricht Consensus on H pylori states:
“The association of H pylori with unexplained iron-deficiency anaemia has been conclusively proved in adult and paediatric populations. Two separate meta-analyses in recent years have supported this association, with one illustrating a clear link between H pylori infection and iron-deficiency anaemia1 and the other showing that H pylori eradication increases haemoglobin levels in these patients.2”
When an investigation into the symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia is conducted on standard medical websites such as PubMed, the NHS, Medscape and others, the following symptom lists appear:
- Feeling grumpy
- Feeling weak or tired more often than usual, or with exercise
- Problems concentrating or thinking
Interesting, isn’t it? Given that H pylori causes iron deficiency anemia, surely symptoms such as grumpiness, weakness, fatigue, headaches, problems in focus and concentration and others are actually H pylori symptoms.
Why then, do we not see these symptoms listed next to H pylori on the medical websites? I honestly do not know the answer to this question, but I do see this lack of connection between H pylori, iron deficiency and symptoms as a major problem that will deny patients vital information.
The reason why H pylori infections create iron-deficiency anemia is obvious and well-documented in the medical literature. It is simply that in many people, inflammation in the stomach lining caused by H pylori damages the parietal cells that are responsible for producing stomach acid.
Low stomach acid, technically known as hypochlorhydria prevents the proper digestion of food. If minerals such as iron are not released from food due to low stomach acid levels, iron deficiency can develop. It’s a very simple concept. Furthermore, the affected minerals and nutrients extend far and beyond iron.
The Pubmed website goes on to state that as anemia worsens, additional symptoms may include:
- Blue color to the whites of the eyes
- Brittle nails
- Light-headedness when you stand up
- Pale skin color
- Shortness of breath
- Sore tongue
Wow – now we see a further list of symptoms open up in front of us, all of which have to be considered H pylori symptoms because the infection is known to cause anemia.
Unfortunately, when folk are feeling tired, low, lethargic and experience other symptoms from the lists above, standard medical websites do no link the symptoms with digestive infections such as H pylori. Furthermore, most doctors are trained to consider H pylori when folk have heartburn, acid reflux and other common digestive symptoms.
It’s important to note that H pylori infections can cause symptoms such as fatigue, depression, lethargy and others mentioned here without causing any digestive symptoms whatsoever. I hope this article provides a “missing link” of sorts, and helps you realize there’s a lot more to H pylori than a little bit of heartburn.
A further consideration in this debate is that H pylori infections have been shown to affect vitamin B12 levels in infected individuals. Recall that H pylori can damage the stomach cells responsible for producing acid. These cells are also responsible for producing a substance called intrinsic factor, without which vitamin B12 cannot be properly absorbed.
Indeed, H pylori infected individuals have been conclusively shown to have a tendency towards lower B12 levels and B12 deficiency in the scientific literature. When we explore the symptoms associated with insufficiency in this important nutrient, we once again come across fatigue, depression, lethargy, neurological complaints and others.
In one of my favourite books – Why Stomach Acid is Good For You – by Dr. Jonathan Wright, MD and Dr. Lane Leonard, MD, the authors tell us how, in their respective clinics, there is virtually no nutrient that hasn’t increased in patients who corrected their stomach acid level. In other words, vitamin and mineral status as a whole improves when stomach acid levels are optimized. Because H pylori infection is a major cause of low stomach acid, we have to consider the infection as having the potential to cause significant nutrition and malnutrition, which in turn can lead to pretty much any symptom in the body.
Having experienced and overcome the unpleasant symptoms of H pylori myself, having researched the infection in extreme detail over the last half-decade and having helped literally thousands of people understand and overcome their H pylori-related health challenges, I am concerned about the lack of information linking H pylori to symptoms outside the gut.
Fifty per cent of the world’s population carries H pylori and 75% of those people won’t experience any obvious symptoms. Nonetheless, H pylori can cause significant changes in metabolism even in the absence of obvious symptoms and I feel the bacteria should be considered in all cases of general malaise, depression and chronic fatigue, as well a host of other symptoms.
It is my hope that this article has helped you realize that H pylori can cause a lot of problems. If your doctor questions this information, refer him or her to the “Management of Helicobacter pylori infection—Maastricht IV/ Florence Consensus Report” online. This is the most up to date medical information on H pylori and is publicly available for all to see.
What can you do to ensure your energy levels are optimized? Well, if you have H pylori already, it’s best to make sure you eradicate it as quickly as possible. Medical treatment using triple therapy is approximately 70% effective and is certainly worth trying. Be aware, however, that the treatment can cause side effects.
Herbal treatments are available for H pylori and they work, as long as they are used appropriately and with a full understanding of their limitations. Mastic gum, vitamin U, Matula Herbal Formula, berberine, bismuth and garlic extract and probiotics can all be combined to safely and effectively remove H pylori.
Consumption of a nutrient-dense diet is also important. In my practice, I frequently have to coach clients to help optimize their diets. Even when H pylori has gone, there is no guarantee folk will feel better if food intake is not optimized. Foods such as soya, gluten, processed cow’s milk and polyunsaturated vegetable oils directly irritate the gut and compromise digestion. Therefore, dietary optimization also ensures optimal healing of the damaged stomach and intestinal tissue.
1. Qu X.H, Does Helicobacter pylori infection play a role in iron deficiency anemia? A meta-analysis. World J Gastroenterol 2010;16:886–96.
2. Muhsen K & Cohen D. Helicobacter pylori infection and iron stores: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Helicobacter 2008;13:323–40.