H. Pylori: The Hidden Eczema Infection
Eczema is already such a conundrum; we see different doctors to assess various reasons for why our skin is so poorly. We are often left with vague answers and medical advice we aren't sure is completely helpful.
However, there is one culprit that many of us know nothing about - I certainly didn't.
Her name is H. pylori, and she can be a nasty bully.
What is H. pylori?
An amazing clinical nutritionist, Jen Fugo, gives us some insight.
"H. pylori is a corkscrew-shaped bacteria that infects 50-75% of the world’s population," she begins. "And only about 20% of those infected actually show symptoms for it."1
So, right off the bat, we can have no idea we are carrying this bacteria around on its free vacation.
Plus, she is contagious! You can swap her around through saliva (so, yes, partners can give it to each other), as well as through contaminated water, food, or shared utensils.1,2
What role does it play with stomach acid?
But, the biggest takeaway from Jen is the fact it reduces our stomach acid.
"This is problematic because of the two key roles that stomach acid serves," she shares. "First, it is part of the crucial digestive step in the stomach to begin breaking down protein." Because of this, many nutrients, like vitamin B12 and iron, are being depleted, ensuring that H. pylori gets your goods, leaving you deficient.
"Second, stomach acid acts as a chemical barrier that is supposed to kill organisms that naturally end up making their way down into your stomach. This includes the microbes that are a part of your oral microbiome as well as organisms that are in the food and liquids you consume (i.e., bacteria, fungus, and even parasites)." All of these organisms should not be allowed access to your gut, yet H. pylori is sending them personal invites to the party, no reservation required.
The cherry on top: If left untreated, you can develop stomach ulcers, even stomach cancer.2 This bug is not playing!
What are the symptoms?
If you are part of the population that may actually experience symptoms, you may encounter a few of these common issues:
- Bad breath
- Stomach pain3
- Unintentional weight loss3
- Dark stool1
How is the skin impacted?
"One issue with H. pylori, aside from reducing stomach acid," Jen explains, "is that it destabilizes Mast cells which carry histamine around the body. That can make someone more rashy, more itchy, and more uncomfortable as histamine levels rise in the body."4
We all know high histamine can be a massive issue in eczema patients.
Who knew this bacteria could wreak so much havoc in our stomachs? We hear about staph and MRSA all of the time, but never H. pylori.
Can I be diagnosed through tests?
"The best test according to data is the H. pylori stool antigen test," Jen discloses. "Next would be the Urea Breath Test. You can also test for H. pylori antibodies in your blood, and sometimes doctors will take a tissue sample during an endoscopy to look for the bacteria." 5
She warns, however, that tests are never 100% accurate. She likes to consider the symptoms when dealing with patients.
How is H. pylori treated and killed?
"Doctors typically will prescribe what's called the Triple Therapy that's a combination of specific antibiotics along with a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) such as Omeprazole." 1
That's exactly what I took to kill my infection. However, I am still waiting on test results from a second stool test to see if it cleared. It does not always work the first go around.
"One thing to keep in mind is that it is possible to do the treatment only to discover that you did not clear H. pylori," she admits. "This can happen because of chronic mold exposure (which makes it difficult to clear pathogens). Should you choose the antibiotic route, failure to clear H. pylori can also be due to the bacteria having antibiotic-resistant genes."
Such a difficult bug to clear! She is the friend who doesn't know when to leave the party.
A holistic approach
Also, antibiotics are not the only way (in case some wish to take a more holistic approach first).
"There are different herbal/botanical combinations as well that can be helpful, but they should be based on your symptoms, full clinical picture, the severity of symptoms, and allergies. In some instances," she testifies, "it may be better to go the antibiotic route if symptoms are severe after having a conversation with your doctor."
Because this bacteria is so tenacious, we sometimes must succumb to pharmaceuticals.6
Is there a way to prevent H. pylori?
"Unfortunately," Jen expresses with regret, "there is no way to actually do this because of how prevalent this infection is in the world." Ah, insert sad face. All we can do is be vigilant if we feel symptoms.
If you feel H. pylori may be taking up shop in your gut, then definitely speak with your doctor about getting tested.
Which type of water do you prefer for swimming?