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How H. pylori causes iron deficiency and pregnancy problems

H. pylori, iron deficiency and fertility/pregnancy problems

This article is taken from my e-book, How H. pylori Causes Fertility and Pregnancy Problems, which you can download here for free.

Iron deficiency is a well-known consequence of H. pylori, but it doesn’t occur in everyone. Some people can have H. pylori and maintain healthy iron levels.

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world and results in the impairment of energy levels, strength, immune function, mood and cognition, and reproductive functions.

Anyone who’s been iron-deficient knows that it makes you feel tired, run down and depressed. It is a deficiency associated with “hypo” functioning of the body and mind.

Iron deficiency and pregnancy

Low iron isn’t ideal under normal circumstances, let alone when you’re a pregnant lady charged with the responsibility of nourishing a growing fetus!

Iron is needed for many functions in the body. It is involved in oxygen transport in the blood (hence the name hemoglobin—heme = iron), and as an enzyme cofactor in detoxification and other important metabolic activities.

During pregnancy, iron levels are of paramount importance for optimal fetal development. Healthy iron status means oxygen gets to the growing fetus.

Low iron may reduce oxygen reaching the fetus, so it’s massively important. Here’s a typical medical explanation on the topic of iron and pregnancy:

“When you’re pregnant, you may develop anemia. When you have anemia, your blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your tissues and to your baby.

During pregnancy, your body produces more blood to support the growth of your baby. If you’re not getting enough iron or certain other nutrient, your body might not be able to produce the amount of red blood cells it needs to make this additional blood.

Anemia can leave you feeling tired and weak. If it is severe but goes untreated, it can increase your risk of serious complications like preterm delivery.”

We’re interested in the last sentence, which links serious iron deficiency with preterm delivery. Some medical sites also mention that low birth weight is a consequence of iron deficiency.

H. pylori, iron, deficiency, preterm delivery and low birth weight

In 2017, Hudak et al published a meta-analysis on the association between H. pylori and iron deficiency. They looked at more than a dozen studies and wrote the following conclusion:

“Current evidence indicates increased likelihood of depleted iron stores in relation to H. pylori infection. H. pylori eradication therapy, added to iron therapy, might be beneficial in increasing ferritin and hemoglobin levels.”

Hudak, et al. An updated systematic review and meta-analysis on the association between Helicobacter pylori infection and iron deficiency anemia. Helicobacter. 2017 Feb;22(1). doi: 10.1111/hel.12330. Epub 2016 Jul 13.

Another paper––this time from 2016––and presented in Dr. Peter Malfertheiner’s prestigious “Management of Helicobacter pylori infection Consensus Report”, which is Europe’s leading H. pylori conference, states:

“The association of H. pylori with unexplained iron-deficiency anaemia has been conclusively proven in adult and paediatric populations. Recent meta-analyses have shown that H. pylori eradication improves anaemia and increases haemoglobin levels, in particular in those with moderate to severe anaemia. Indeed recent national guidelines on the management of IDA recommend eradication of H. pylori, where present, in patients with recurrent IDA with normal OGD and colonoscopy results.”

Malfertheiner P, et al. Gut 2017;66:6–30. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2016-312288

The question is not whether H. pylori leads to iron deficiency because it certainly can in some people.

Rather, it is whether H. pylori can cause a level of anemia powerful enough to cause pregnancy problems.

Dr. Malfertheiner’s comment, “… recent meta-analyses have shown that H. pylori eradication improves anaemia and increases haemoglobin levels, in particular in those with moderate to severe anaemia…” suggests that H. pylori may possess an ability to create anemia severe enough to affect pregnancy.

Another study suggests that H. pylori may, indeed, contribute to a level of iron deficiency that affects pregnancy outcomes:

“In a cross-sectional study, out of 117 pregnant women, 27 had anemia and all of the anemic patients were shown to be H. pylori infected, and with a high chance of fetal growth restriction.”

Mulayim B, Celik NY, Yanik FF. Helicobacter pylori infection detected by 14C-urea breath test is associated with iron deficiency anemia in pregnant women. J Obstet Gynaecol Res 2008; 34: 980-985.

What to do…

Through the mechanism of iron deficiency anemia, there’s a clear association between H. pylori and preterm birth / low birth weight.

It would be wise, therefore, to screen for H. pylori in cases where ladies are iron-deficient and seeking to fall pregnant.

Just supplementing with iron doesn’t address the underlying cause of the deficiency.

H. pylori can lead to other detrimental effects on fertility and pregnancy, so it’s wise to test and eradicate it if necessary.

It’s also important to realise that other factors can cause iron deficiency:

  • Inadequate dietary intake (we sometimes see this in people following vegan diets)
  • Poor digestion caused by low stomach acid
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Intestinal damage from other infections such as SIBO and parasites
  • Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease

In cases where H. pylori is not detected, it’s worth investigating these factors.

Key Points on H. pylori, iron deficiency and pregnancy

  • H. pylori causes iron deficiency in some people
  • Iron deficiency can cause preterm birth and low birth weight
  • Iron deficiency also makes you feel tired, lethargic and can cause other unpleasant symptoms
  • It’s wise to test for H. pylori prior to conceiving

Lots more helpful information on these topics can be found in:

How H. pylori Causes Fertility and Pregnancy Problems (free e-book)

The H. Pylori Diet, which is my guide to overcoming H. pylori using a natural approach.



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