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Understanding the Link Between H. Pylori and Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

h.pylori hashimoto's health hypothyroidism
image of bacterium h.pylori

H.Pylori can be a tough issue to deal with...and the symptoms can be unbearable for many. H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) is a spiral-shaped bacterium that primarily infects the stomach lining. It's important to note that not everyone infected with H. pylori will develop symptoms or complications, and some people may carry the bacteria for years without even knowing it! 

H. pylori is usually transmitted from person to person through close contact, primarily through oral-oral, fecal-oral, or gastro-oral routes. The most common mode of transmission is unclear, but some possible ways that H. pylori can be spread from one person to another include:

  • Oral-oral transmission: H. pylori can be transmitted through saliva, so kissing, sharing utensils, or other activities that involve close contact with the mouth can lead to transmission.
  • Fecal-oral transmission: H. pylori can also be transmitted through contact with fecal matter, either directly or indirectly. This can occur through poor hygiene practices or ingestion of contaminated food or water.
  • Gastro-oral transmission: H. pylori can also be transmitted through vomit or other bodily fluids, which can be ingested by another person through their mouth.

H. pylori can survive in the acidic environment of the stomach by producing an enzyme called urease, which neutralizes stomach acid and creates a more hospitable environment for the bacteria to thrive. H. pylori can cause inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis) and is a major risk factor for the development of peptic ulcers, which are sores in the stomach or duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). In some cases, long-term H. pylori infection can lead to more severe health complications, such as atrophic gastritis (a precursor to gastric cancer), gastric cancer, and a rare type of lymphoma called mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma.

Some studies have suggested a possible link between H. pylori infection and autoimmune thyroid disease like Hashimoto's. The exact mechanism behind this potential association is not yet fully understood, and more research is needed. However, several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the potential link:

  1. Molecular mimicry: This hypothesis suggests that H. pylori share similar antigens with the thyroid, leading the immune system to mistakenly attack the thyroid when trying to eliminate the H. pylori infection. This can cause inflammation and damage to the thyroid gland, potentially leading to autoimmune thyroid diseases like Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
  2. Immune system dysregulation: H. pylori may cause a dysregulation of the immune system by altering the balance of T helper cells (Th1/Th2) and other immune factors. This can result in an overactive immune response, which may target the thyroid gland and cause autoimmune thyroid diseases.
  3. Chronic inflammation: H. pylori infection can cause chronic inflammation in the stomach, which may have systemic effects on the immune system. This inflammation could potentially trigger the development of autoimmune thyroid diseases in genetically predisposed individuals.

These hypotheses are not mutually exclusive - the relationship between H. pylori infection and autoimmune thyroid diseases could involve a combination of these factors.

How H. pylori infections are typically treated.

The standard, classic treatment for H. pylori infection is a combination of medications known as "triple therapy." This usually consists of:

  • Two different antibiotics: These are used to kill the H. pylori bacteria. Commonly prescribed antibiotics for H. pylori infections include clarithromycin, amoxicillin, and metronidazole.
  • A proton pump inhibitor (PPI): This medication reduces the production of stomach acid, which allows the stomach lining to heal and enhances the effectiveness of the antibiotics. Examples of PPIs include omeprazole, lansoprazole, and pantoprazole.

Triple therapy is typically taken for 10 to 14 days, depending on the specific regimen and the healthcare professional's recommendations.

 Integrative physician approach:

Integrative medicine combines conventional medical treatments with complementary and alternative therapies to address the whole person, considering factors such as lifestyle, nutrition, and mind-body connections. An integrative, functional medicine approach to H. pylori treatment might include:

  • Conventional treatment: Integrative physicians might still use the standard triple therapy, which includes two antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor, to treat H. pylori infections. They usually consider the severity of the infection and any other existing health issues when deciding on the appropriate treatment.
  • Dietary modifications: An integrative physician may suggest dietary changes that may help support the healing process and improve gut health. This could include consuming more probiotic-rich foods or probiotics to promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria and reducing inflammatory foods (e.g., processed foods, refined sugars, and excessive caffeine).
  • Nutritional supplements: In some cases, an integrative physician might recommend specific supplements to support the immune system and gastrointestinal health. Examples include probiotics, zinc-carnosine, deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), and vitamin C. Always consult a healthcare professional before starting any supplements.
  • Stress management: Stress can negatively impact the immune system and gastrointestinal health. Integrative physicians may recommend stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises, to help support overall well-being and improve the body's ability to fight off infection.
  • Herbal remedies: Some integrative physicians might suggest using herbal remedies alongside conventional treatment. Some herbs, such as mastic gum, berberine, and oregano oil, have shown potential antimicrobial effects against H. pylori. However, more research is needed to confirm their effectiveness, and it is essential to discuss any herbal remedies with a healthcare professional before use.

A closer look at the above herbal remedies:

Mastic gum: is a resin obtained from the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus) and has been traditionally used in the Mediterranean region for various health purposes, including digestive issues. It is believed to have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Some studies have suggested that mastic gum may help inhibit the growth of bacteria. The exact mechanism is not fully understood, but it is thought that the bioactive compounds present in mastic gum may interfere with the bacterial cell membrane or disrupt essential enzymes, leading to the inhibition of H. pylori growth.

Berberine: is a bioactive compound found in various plants, including the barberry plant (Berberis vulgaris), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), and Chinese goldthread (Coptis chinensis). It has been used in traditional medicine for its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Some studies have suggested that berberine may help inhibit the growth of the bacteria. The exact mechanism is not fully understood, but it is thought that berberine might interfere with bacterial protein synthesis, disrupts bacterial cell membrane function, or inhibit the activity of certain enzymes that are essential for H. pylori growth and survival.

Oregano oil: derived from the oregano plant (Origanum vulgare), contains various bioactive compounds, including carvacrol and thymol. These compounds are thought to possess antimicrobial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties. Some studies have suggested that oregano oil may help inhibit the growth of the bacteria. The exact mechanism is not fully understood, but it is thought that the bioactive compounds, particularly carvacrol, in oregano oil may disrupt the bacterial cell membrane and interfere with essential enzymes, leading to the inhibition of H. pylori growth and survival.

It is essential to consult with a licensed healthcare professional if you suspect you have an H. pylori infection or have concerns about your health.

About the author:  Elle Russ is a #1 bestselling author and world-renowned thyroid expert, and master coach.Take her Thyroid Masterclass HERE 

SOURCES:

  1. Helicobacter pylori infection and autoimmune thyroid disease: An intriguing association (Source)
  2. The infection by Helicobacter pylori strains expressing CagA is highly prevalent in women with autoimmune thyroid disorders. (Source)
  3. Helicobacter pylori infection and endocrine disorders: Is there a link? (Source)

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