H. Pylori and Autoimmune Link

Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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H. Pylori and Autoimmune Link
Gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, acid reflux, and ulcers, etc. are reflective of problems in the digestive tract. There are many reasons for these uncomfortable and sometime disabling symptoms. Persistent digestive disorders have been on the increase over the past few decades. Along with digestive problems there is a new epidemic of autoimmune disorders. The increases in these digestive and autoimmune problems have scientists feverishly studying to see how these concerns may be linked. Traditional medical treatments for digestive disorders and autoimmune disorders are often limited or fail and leave the individual struggling.

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacterial overgrowth is one of these difficult to treat gut problems. It affects over half of the world’s population and can show up with problems such as peptic ulcer disease, stomach cancer, chronic active gastritis, and gastric lymphoma. It has longer reaching tentacles outside digestive health, and has led researchers to study its impact on over one hundred autoimmune disorders. Having H. pylori present in the digestive tract is not a disease in and of itself. The disease outcome is the result of how the immune system, gut, gene polymorphisms (gene signals turned inappropriately on/off) and health of the body interact with the H. pylori.

Having H. pylori overgrowth is like having a secret stealth enemy cloaked behind a firewall in the digestive mucosal lining. H. pylori burrow into the digestive mucosal lining and hides itself. The soldiers on the other side of the battle use multiple tools to attack but it creates a field of wreckage and ongoing problems. The battlefield and wreckage may be localized or widespread. It is this wreckage that triggers that autoimmune process.

How H. pylori has such a far reaching impact is under intense study. A major factor researchers see is that H. pylori can trigger a chronic inflammatory immune response. This causes the immune system to be chronically active and overworked. The persistent existence of the H. pylori in the digestive tract lining causes the immune system to be chronically activated and turn on inflammatory signals. This action floods the tissues with antibodies and certain types of T-cells. This activation of the immune system is thought to provoke superantigens, molecular mimicry and other indications of “loss of tolerance for self” or autoimmunity.

Sjogren’s Syndrome

With incredible stealth-like survival mechanisms, H. pylori has been shown to be involved with a number of seemingly unrelated disorders. Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that shows links to H. pylori. Common symptoms of Sjogren’s include a significant problem with dry eyes and dry mouth and sometimes joint pain, swelling, stiffness, dry skin and skin rashes, vaginal dryness, dry cough and fatigue, and swollen salivary glands. It affects women more than men and generally hits those over the age of 40. Researchers have found that Sjogren’s patients have a higher level of H. pylori antibodies present compared to other similar types of autoimmune disorders. More importantly, Sjogren’s patients responded better when treated for the bacteria overgrowth. Not all Sjogren’s patients have this relationship, so it is not a one size fits all type of cause.


ITP or Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (aka Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura) is the autoimmune destruction of blood platelets. This results in low platelet counts and can cause easy bleeding. Easy or excessive bruising, spontaneous nose bleeds, bleeding gums, and petechiae (small, pinpoint-sized reddish purple spots) on the skin may reflect ITP. Both children and adults may experience this disorder. It may also occur with pregnancy. Individuals with chronic ITP and very low platelet levels often live in fear of trauma, injury or a fall that causes bruising and easy bleeding. When platelet counts are severely low, the risks for serious life threatening complications are ever present.

Researchers found that there is a link with H. pylori and ITP. The World Journal of Gastroenterology June 2014 and other studies found that the platelet counts markedly improved when patients were treated for H. pylori. Medical treatment for ITP ranges from watchful waiting, powerful immunoglobulin IV treatments to spleen removal. This information certainly opens up the door to more successful management of ITP.

Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Raynaud’s is another disorder investigated for a link with H. pylori. Researchers continue to debate if there is something that links all Raynaud’s patients with H. pylori. The results are still in debate due to different strains and virulence of the bacteria. There are definitely individuals with Raynaud’s and H. pylori who respond well to treatment. One study found that when Raynaud’s patients experienced eradication of the H. pylori, 88 percent of the patients treated for H. pylori, symptoms were markedly improved or gone. Raynaud’s causes the blood vessels in some areas of the body (hands, feet) to go into a spasm when exposed to even minor cold temperatures or stress. This causes the hands/feet to turn white and blue, and then, as blood flow returns, the tissue turns red, swells, and may tingle or throb. For those who live in cold climate or in winter, the effect of Raynaud’s can be certainly challenging to manage. This information also opens up the door for better management for Raynaud’s.

Hashimoto’s, Grave’s Disease, Psoriasis, Atherosclerosis and More

There are over 100 autoimmune disorders being investigated for a link with H. pylori. Beside the concerns listed above, other autoimmune disorders that have seen significant improvement when treated for H. pylori include chronic autoimmune urticaria (chronic hives), psoriasis, alopecia areata (autoimmune hair loss), and Schoenlein-Henoch purpura (blood vessel inflammatory disorder that affects the skin, GI, joints and kidney). Grave’s disease and Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid disorders are also being studied with H. pylori as a triggering agent. Studies do show a common association with the bacteria and autoimmune thyroid problems, but not all studies show this finding. Other disorders that scientists are investigating include multiple sclerosis, neuromyelitis optica, autoimmune liver disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and others. Scientists are even finding risk of Coronary Artery Disease and atherosclerosis linked with H. pylori by playing a role in plaque rupture and cause of ischemic heart disease.

Management and Support

For those who have H. pylori overgrowth, medical treatment is limited. The medical treatment is often a combination triple cocktail with acid blockers and antibiotics done simultaneously, or a series of antibiotics taken back to back that try to eradicate the bacteria. Unfortunately, the medical approach is not working well due to antibiotic resistance or trouble with patient compliance.

Scientists are diligently looking at all sides of the playing field with H. pylori and how to provide effective support against the bacteria. In a recent study, scientists evaluated thirty-three H. pylori randomized control trials that involved 4,459 adults. They compared those treated with a placebo, those with the standard triple therapy, and those treated with the antibiotics and probiotics. Their findings compared the different studies and found that individuals who took probiotics with the triple therapy had a much higher success rate in treating the H. pylori overgrowth and with reduced side effects.

There were four specific bacterial strains that repeatedly stood out as being the most beneficial. They were Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei DN-114001, Lactobacillus gasseri, and Bifidobacterium infantis 2036. The treatment failures were turned around with the addition of these beneficial bacteria. This is a key point. A recent meta-analysis study in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology looked at ten different clinical trials on the treatment of H. pylori with the traditional antibiotics. The study found that the probiotics acted as an adjuvant or enhanced the body's immune response to an antigen (H. pylori) allowing the antibiotic therapy to work more effectively.

Research shows a number of plant based compounds that help keep H. pylori from becoming problematic. Olive leaf extract, monolaurin, and oregano oil have been shown to provide outstanding support in the battle against H. pylori. In particular, H. pylori was extremely sensitive to monolaurin and oregano oil. Researchers even stated “because of their longstanding safety record, oregano oil and/or monolaurin, alone or combined with antibiotics, might prove useful in the prevention and treatment of severe bacterial infections, especially those that are difficult to treat and/or are antibiotic resistant.”

Curcumin was show to reduce inflammation within the lining of the digestive tract caused by the H. pylori. A study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology May 2014 showed that curcumin and N-Acetyl Cysteine are the only two anti-H. pylori biofilm disrupting agents that have been successful in treatment. This is fantastic information and should undoubtedly be part of anyone’s arsenal in the battle with H. pylori.

Combing olive leaf extract, lauricidin, curcumin and NAC together with Lactobacillus and Bifidus probiotics may significantly help reduce the inflammation and treatment failure that patients with autoimmune disorders and H. pylori experience. This is wonderful news! As in the case of the probiotics combined with the medical therapy proving even more effective, it is plausible that other support added in may improve treatment success far beyond the treatment resistant approaches for chronic autoimmune and H. pylori related disorders. Even the simple act of using coconut oil that monolaurin is derived from and organic fermented foods on a regular basis may help keep the terrain of the body intact reducing risk of H. pylori concerns. It is definitely something to take advantage of for a preventative approach. Given the amount of antibiotic resistance, treatment failure and consequential inflammatory injuries, the safest support may already be waiting in your pantry. Consider trying Mother Nature’s support.

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