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How can beneficial bacteria be harmful?

H. pylori Bacteria

Bacteria names are not always commonly heard, but there are certainly some that stand out more than others. The perfect example is Helicobacter pylori, also known as H. pylori. Although it is a natural and beneficial bacterium that exists in the body, H. pylori can be harmful to your health if it grows to large numbers. Nevertheless, recognising and understanding H. pylori infections can prove difficult.

Recognising and Understanding  Infections

You may already know that your gut health and immune health rely on a delicate balance between good and bad bacteria in your gut. For that reason, imbalances can be caused by any bacteria—good or bad—increasing in numbers. Therefore, the overgrowth of H. pylori allows it to survive and adapt more easily and produce an enzyme called urease. In the stomach, urease breaks down urea into carbon dioxide and ammonia. This results in symptoms such as belching and bad breath.

Too much H. pylori at work…

While belching and bad breath may not seem so bad, the breakdown of urea also neutralises hydrochloric acid which is necessary for the stomach to digest protein and the small intestine to break down fat. And without proper protein or fat digestion, you increase your risk of developing anaemia, autoimmunity, thyroid issues, and osteoporosis. Too much H. pylori also limits the stomach’s ability to produce mucus. That mucus protects the stomach lining from irritation from food as well as damage from hydrochloric acid. Thus, without mucus, inflammation and stomach ulcers can result.

H. pylori infection: Recognise the signs!

H. pylori is known to interrupt the digestive process causing symptoms such as:
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Mild nausea
  • Constipation
  • Iron deficiency
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Gastric reflux or heartburn
  • Mild to severe abdominal pain
An H. pylori infection can even produce deficiency in vitamin B12. Technically referred to as pernicious anaemia, vitamin B12 deficiency presents additional symptoms including swollen tongue, shortness of breath, pale skin, and fatigue.

A supported Gut is a Healthy Gut

The best method for fighting H. pylori infection involves supporting your gut health. Fortunately, you can do this mainly through your diet by drinking plenty of water, consuming probiotics regularly, and avoiding foods that trigger inflammation. And you can always ‘Ask a Naturopath’ for help along the way…