When a patient complains of subtle bloating and heartburn, typically doctors diagnose them with high stomach acid and prescribe acid-blockers. However, reducing stomach acid frequently compounds the problem because in many cases the issue isn’t high, but low stomach acid caused by a pervasive H. pylori infection.
H. pylori is a common bacterium that burrows into the lining of the stomach, suppressing stomach cells called parietal cells from releasing hydrochloric acid, the enzyme we use to digest proteins.
Common symptoms of an H. pylori infection can be subtle or major and might include:
- Bad breath after eating protein
- Intolerance to digesting rich proteins such as eggs or meats — bloating or feeling like you just ate a brick
Left untreated, H. pylori can lead to serious consequences
- pylori has been shown to be very destructive to the vascular endothelium, special cells lining the blood vessels. It gets into the blood vessels, destroys them, and sets the stage for atherosclerotic plaquing in the arteries. There are more than 1,000 scientific papers showing H. pylori is as dangerous to blood vessels as the Hepatitis C is to the liver.
- pylori, especially the “silent” type where there isn’t a lot of burning symptoms, is also a major risk factor for developing gastric carcinoma. For someone who has heartburn, eats antacids and does not get tested for H. pylori, the risk for gastric carcinoma is fairly significant in the next 10 to 20 years.
- pylori can cross-react with the thyroid and can be a trigger for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
Low stomach acid caused by H. pylori also sets the stage for different types of gastrointestinal imbalances all the way down the GI tract.
We need proper acidity at the start of the digestive tract not only to neutralize H. pylori but also other pathogens that might enter the body when we consume foods. When acid levels in the stomach are reduced it sets the stage for recurring H. pylori infections.
If you have symptoms such as heartburn, bloating, burping after meals, and trouble digesting rich proteins, don’t settle for a diagnosis of high stomach acid unless a lab test verifies it. Ask your practitioner to test your stomach acid, and also to test for H. pylori.
H. pylori is just one of the possible gut infections common to autoimmunity. At the Kharrazian Institute Gastrointestinal Clinical Strategies and Treatment Applications module on September 21-22, 2019 I will teach a step-by-step approach for differentially diagnosing the underlying mechanisms of gastrointestinal dysfunction, and developing effective treatment strategies specific to the mechanisms involved.