Helicobacter pylori is a spiral shaped bacterium that lives in the stomach and small intestine of humans and some animals. It can cause a vast array of symptoms both in the digestive system and in other parts of the body.
Drs Robin Warren and Barry Marshall won the Nobel Prize for Physiology & Medicine when they proved that H pylori causes stomach ulcers. In fact, H pylori is now known to cause 80% stomach ulcers and 90% duodenal ulcers. It is also thought to cause stomach cancer and has recently been associated with heart disease.
When I had H pylori, from 2004-2007, I suffered many of the symptoms listed below. It is important to understand that chronic digestive infections can cause symptoms outside the digestive system.
Symptom #1 – Heartburn & reflux. Contrary to belief, these symptoms are not usually caused by excess stomach acid. They are caused by acid burning irritated tissue that has been damaged by H pylori or foods. Some people gain significant relief by actually taking acid supplements!
Symptom #2 – Gastritis. H pylori causes an inflammatory response in the stomach, leading to gastritis.
Symptom #3 – Nausea. As with many digestive infections, H pylori causes nausea, particularly in the mornings. This can be confused with morning sickness in women.
Symptom #4 – Vomiting. When people first acquire the infection, it can cause severe vomiting. Chronic infections can also cause morning sickness. If there are bleeding ulcers, coffee-like grains can be seen in the vomit. Medical attention should be sought immediately.
Symptom #5 – Bloating. Helicobacter actually shuts down acid production in the stomach (which is why antacids like Nexium, Zantac and Prilosec should not be used long term). If food cannot be digested properly it can putrefy and cause bloating in the intestines.
Symptom #6 – Diarrhoea. The disruption to the digestive process caused by Helicobacter pylori can lead to excess water being secreted into the intestines, causing diarrhoea.
Symptom #7 – Constipation. If a chronic H pylori infection shuts down acid production in the stomach, the entire digestive process can be shut down and ‘backed up’. Some individuals may experience constipation whereas some may develop diarrhoea.
Symptom #8 – Bad Breath / Halitosis. Gases produced by improperly digested foods and oral H pylori infections can cause bad breath.
Symptom #9 – Fatigue. It is known that B vitamin and iron absorption does not function correctly when people have H pylori. If the infection stops food being digested and absorbed, metabolism cannot run properly, leading to fatigue.
Symptom #10 – PMS / Depression / Anxiety. Similarly, if nutrition depletion occurs the chemicals needed to maintain mood, such as hormones and neurotransmitters, cannot be produced by the body. This can lead to many mood disorders.
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