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H pylori and inflammation – a crucial whole body connection

H pylori and inflammation – from heartburn to heart disease?

In this post – the fifth in my series on how H pylori might cause heart disease, we’re going to explore the relationship between H pylori and inflammation.

Not just inflammation in the stomach where H pylori lives, but also inflammation in other parts of the body, notably the cardiovascular system.

So far in this blog series we’ve looked at how  H pylori infections can:

  • Increase the risk of developing heart disease
  • Increase the risk of developing high blood pressure
  • Affect insulin and blood sugar levels, possibly resulting in insulin resistance and even type II diabete
  • Cause increased oxidative stress levels

In this post we’ll specifically look at the relationship between H pylori and inflammation.

What is inflammation?

As mentioned last time, inflammation is one of the root or core processes leading to the myriad of diseases seen in society.

All conditions you see that end in the four letters “itis” represent inflammation in different parts of your body.

For example:

  • Uveitis (eyes)
  • Arthritis (joints)
  • Colitis (colon)
  • Tendonitis (tendons)
  • Vasculitis (blood vessels

There are strong associations between H pylori and inflammation, not only in the stomach, but also elsewhere in the body.

A recap of oxidative stress, H pylori and inflammation

In the previous post – which I recommend you read by clicking here – you learned about the idea of oxidative stress and oxidative damage.

Here, free oxygen radical that have lost an electron – and their stability – bounce around like a pinball and cause damage to various cell components.

Oxidative damage goes hand-in-hand with inflammation – where there’s one, there’s always the other.

Inflammation and oxidative stress are natural defense mechanisms that the body uses to deal with injury.

It’s perfectly normal for these processes to switch on in response to a perceived threat or injury, but they are only meant to be switched on for short periods of time.

For example, gastritis is a condition of stomach inflammation that is caused by, among other things, H pylori infection.

In H pylori infection, both inflammation and oxidative stress levels in the stomach are triggered.

Oxidative stress markers and antioxidant levels (such as vitamin C) fall during H pylori infection.

If H pylori is not dealt with properly, inflammation and oxidative stress can remain switched on for a long time.

A prolonged inflammatory and oxidative response can be very damaging and may lead to serious problems, not only in the stomach, but also elsewhere in the body.

This is one reason why H pylori ends up leading to symptoms elsewhere in the body, including problems with the cardiovascular system.

C-reative Protein, H pylori and Inflammation

One of the main blood markers doctors use to identify systemic (body wide) inflammation in the body is C-reactive protein, or CRP.

CRP is one of several proteins involved in something called the acute phase response, which we might also call the “stress response”.h pylori and inflammation

The stress response can kick-in as a result of trauma and injury, psychological stress, toxin exposure, bacterial, viral, or fungal infections.

Elevated C-reactive protein is an independent risk factor for heart disease and is recognized as an independent heart disease risk factor.

Patients with high CRP are more likely to develop strokes, heart attacks and severe peripheral vascular disease.

Studies on CRP, H pylori and inflammation

Several studies have shown associations between H pylori and elevated CRP levels, providing further insight into the mechanisms by which H pylori infection may contribute to heart disease.

A Japanese study examined the relationship between H pylori seropositivity and CRP levels.

They found that people with H pylori had statistically significant higher levels of CRP and concluded:

In three groups, hs-CRP was higher among the infected individuals. The summary odd ratio indicated that H pylori infection could influence the serum hs-CRP level.” 1

Another Japanese study, this time from 2010, also found that patients with H pylori had higher CRP levels.

All subjects in this study were lifelong non-smokers and had no symptoms, no history of cardiovascular disease, blood pressure or high cholesterol.

The authors concluded:

We hypothesize that chronic infection with H pylori directly or indirectly induces a persisting systemic and vascular inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.” 2

In a study I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Kanbay and colleagues studied patients who tested positive for H pylori using a stool antigen test.

H pylori treatment was then administered for 14 days.

Inflammation and blood fat/lipid markers were measured before treatment and 8-weeks following its completion.

The researchers reported the following results:

  • Total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides remained the same in both the successfully treated group and those who did not eradicate H pylori.
  • CRP and HDL cholesterol did not change after treatment in the group that failed to eradicate H pylori.
  • CRP decreased significantly and “good” HDL cholesterol increased significantly in the group who successfully eradicated H pylori.

In this study, H pylori eradication led to a reduction in CRP level, indicating a decreased level of body-wide inflammation.3

The findings of Kanbay and colleagues are by no means isolated.

In a similar study, Gen et al also reported significantly decreased CRP levels in patients who successfully eradicated H pylori compared with those who did not. 4

Other blood markers of H pylori and inflammation

C-reactive protein is not the only marker of inflammation used by doctors.

Other markers such as Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) are also useful chemicals to assess and monitor.

A 2012 study examined the relationship between IL-6, TNF-α and CagA-positive H pylori infection.

The research team looked at patients with Cardiac syndrome-X, which is a condition in which patients have the pain of angina despite a normal coronary angiogram.

The study’s conclusion was:

“The CagA strain of H pylori, can not only be a trigger, and may also have a role via chronic inflammation in the pathogenesis of CSX.” 5 or 5

H pylori and Inflammation Summary

There is clearly a link between H pylori and inflammation, and we’re not just talking about inflammation in the stomach.

Inflammatory markers such as CRP, IL-6 and TNF-α appear to be associated with H pylori infection.

The CagA H pylori strain, in particular, appears to create a lot of inflammation.

Blood levels of C-reactive protein – an independent heart disease risk factor – drop when H pylori infection is successfully eradicated.

Once you get rid of H pylori, the inflammation levels in other areas of your body will typically respond favourably unless you have other factors such as diet, other infections or toxins contributing to that inflammation.

It is not rocket science, yet this information doesn’t make it into the mainstream media, despite the fact that chronically elevated CRP is an independent risk factor for heart disease.

I personally think this is crazy because the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular disorders could be significantly reduced by getting H pylori under control!

How to combat H pylori and inflammation

If you would like to learn more about this topic, I urge you to grab a copy of my book, H Pylori: From Heartburn To Heart Attacks.

It’s not the most pleasant of titles but it teaches you all about how H pylori and inflammation can influence heart disease.

The book also contains a heart healthy diet and supplement program to help you minimise your risk.

If you’re unsure whether you have H pylori and you’re struggling to get tested, check out your home stool testing options here.

Finally, if you want to know how to get rid of it without antibiotics, my H pylori Diet e-book will be of great help to you.

If I can help further, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.

Read the other posts in this series on H pylori and cardiovascular disease

  1. H pylori and heart disease – a surprising connection
  2. H pylori and cardiovascular disease – surely not?
  3. H pylori and high blood pressure (hypertension)
  4. H pylori and insulin resistance, diabetes and cholesterol (metabolic syndrome)
  5. H pylori and inflammation [you’re reading this post now)
  6. H pylori and oxidative stress
  7. H pylori, vitamin B12, folic acid and homocysteine

Now it’s your turn

Do you have any info or a story that could help or inspire others? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

If you do, please leave a comment and join the discussion!

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