This article is taken from my e-book, How H. pylori Causes Fertility and Pregnancy Problems, which you can download here for free.
A growing body of scientific research suggests a positive association between H. pylori and the degree of pregnancy-related vomiting in women. The more serious form of morning sickness is called hyperemesis gravidarum
H. pylori seems to have an ability to worsen hyperemesis gravidarum severity.
Morning sickness is obviously a rather unpleasant symptom associated with pregnancy. There is also a more serious form of pregnancy vomiting called hyperemesis gravidarum.
When I had H. pylori, I often felt nauseous in the mornings. I’d sometimes have to go to the toilet to throw up.
Some of my personal training clients at the time would tease that I must be pregnant (I wasn’t pregnant––this would be very weird!)
This pattern of nausea and vomiting abruptly stopped when I treated the H. pylori infection using the program and protocols outlined in The H. Pylori Diet.
Of course, pregnant women can have morning sickness without H. pylori being involved.
But can H. pylori influence the severity of morning sickness? Apparently it can.
Studies indicate that H. pylori can increase the severity of morning sickness in some women, particularly in regard to hyperemesis gravidarum.
A 2014 World Journal of Gastroenterology paper on H. pylori and pregnancy states:
“About 0.3%-2% of pregnant women suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) characterized by severe and protracted (chronic) vomiting that often results in dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, ketonemia, ketonuria, and weight loss. Dehydration and acid base disturbances may lead to renal and hepatic injury. Patients who manifest continuous weight loss and electrolyte disturbances may be at risk for growth restriction, fetal anomalies and decreased neonatal birth weight.”
In plain English, this means that up to 2% of pregnant women suffer with severe vomiting, which in turn can lead to significant metabolic problems––dehydration, poor nutrient absorption, etc.
The metabolic problems, in turn, can result in pregnancy complications such as fetal growth restriction and decreased birth weight. Not good.
Is there any evidence that H. pylori may play a role in causing or worsening hyperemesis gravidarum? Again, to quote the WJG article:
“Significant positive association between HG and H. pylori infection have been demonstrated by several case- control studies, and in a systematic review of 14 case-control studies, Golberg et al (2007) found higher prevalence of HG in H. pylori-infected pregnant women than uninfected ones… Additionally, two case reports showed that H. pylori eradication treatment reduced the severity of HG.”
The authors go on to state that a handful of studies have shown no association between H. pylori infections and HG:
“In contrast, several studies found no relationship between HG and H. pylori. These contradictory findings are probably due to the fact that a universally accepted HG definition does not exist, thus indicating a high heterogeneity of the study population. ”
Given that the WJG paper was published in 2014, I checked the literature to see if anyone since then had further examined the relationship between H. pylori and hyperemesis gravidarum. Sure enough, I found a more recent paper, published in 2015.
The 2015 paper is a detailed meta-analysis, which includes statistical investigations into 32 relevant studies concerning H. pylori and HG. It’s a fairly reliable source on which to draw conclusions. Here is the authors’ conclusion:
“In conclusion, our meta-analysis suggested that there was a strong association between H. pylori infection and HG, allowing us to conclude that H. pylori should, therefore, be considered as one of the risk factors of HG. Screening for H. pylori should be added to the investigations for HG.”
So it would appear that H. pylori is, indeed, associated with a general worsening of hyperemesis gravidarum, which may in turn affect pregnancy outcomes due to malabsorption, vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Can changes in a woman’s body “activate” H. pylori?
An interesting study quoted in the WJG pregnancy paper concerns the possible “activation” of H. pylori due to changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy.
“It has been proposed that a reduction of gastric acid production during early pregnancy as a result of increased accumulation of woman’s body fluid, steroid hormone changes, and immunologic tolerance could lead to the activation of latent H. pylori infection, which can exacerbate nausea and vomiting symptoms.”
In this scenario, H. pylori would hang around in mum’s stomach without really causing any problems. When pregnancy occurs––or at some point during the pregnancy––certain changes in her physiology “activate” H. pylori.
A simple way to look at it is to say that one minute, H. pylori is hanging around minding its own business. Then, something inside the body switches on H. pylori and it begins causing havoc.
This idea is not as far-fetched as it seems. Other studies have shown that H. pylori––and many other “gut bugs”––respond to chemicals made in our body.
Some of the less desirable gut bugs seem to switch their gene expression and function when exposed to certain hormones and neurotransmitters.
For example, progesterone kills H. pylori, but other steroid hormones such as estrogen and testosterone don’t.
Anything that alters your hormone balance (pregnancy, stress, contraceptive pill, HRT, toxins, etc.) can all potentially alter the expression of H. pylori and other microbes in the body.