In the world of research, it is commonly assumed that the decline in HCL production observed through later adult life (approximately 30% of the population over 65 years old doesn’t make enough HCL) is a “normal” and common consequence of getting older. However, recent studies have indicated that the secretion of HCL does not decrease in the stomach as a person ages; HCL production actually appears to increase, especially in men. Even more evidence shows that the frequently observed reduction or loss of HCL production is generally the result of asymptomatic infections. The most common infection of this type for humans is Helicobacter pylori, or I’ll just say H. pylori like all the fancy people say.
It is now a popular opinion that the older you are, the better your chances that you currently have an H. pylori infection. That percentage even goes up with each year of life that you have under your belt. For example, a 40-year-old person would have a 40% chance of having an H. pylori infection. I’m not a fan of treating according to the “at your age you need…” point of view, but these numbers do give a good indication of how common an H. pylori infection can be.
The chances of an H. pylori infection goes up dramatically if you have ever used any type of acid reflux or heartburn medication that turns off stomach acid. Many believe that it is difficult for H. pylori to colonize in a stomach with sufficient stomach acid; but if that level of stomach acid is temporarily reduced, H. pylori can invade and then find ways to survive once the production of stomach acid returns. It appears that H. pylori have the ability to crawl up into the mucous lining of the stomach, escape the acid during digestion, and then come back out once acid levels have dropped again. I believe that is why, if people with an H. pylori infection begin to use HCL supplementation or other products designed to kill H. pylori, those people will experience some improvement in their reflux symptoms. Yet, they won’t experience complete eradication unless they take extra measures.
H. pylori can be such a major factor with digestion because this bacteria eats hydrogen. Hydrogen is what your body uses to mix with chloride to make HCL. If H. pylori is eating all of your hydrogen, your body won’t be able to make very much HCL. I discussed earlier how countless people who are not making enough stomach acid likely don’t have the minerals needed to make HCL. But you can see how an H. pylori infection could scarf up enough hydrogen to remove the other important factor in HCL production: The hydrogen.
Most of the acid reflux and heartburn medications out there are proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, as they are called. They work by turning off the proton pump that makes hydrogen. Now the body can’t make HCL anymore, so the person doesn’t feel the reflux and the symptom is gone, just like I talked about earlier. But these drugs were actually developed to take care of H. pylori. By turning off hydrogen, you can starve H. pylori and they die. It just turned out that scientists realized turning off HCL production (and therefore digestion) could remove the symptoms of any reflux or heartburn, so they began marketing PPI products in that manner.
The compelling detail about these PPI drugs is that they can starve H. pylori, yet your odds of having an H. pylori infection increase if you’ve ever used one of these drugs. How could that be? Since you asked, I guess I’ll tell you. It is widely accepted that most people won’t start making hydrogen again for up to three weeks after they have ceased taking any type of proton pump inhibitor medication. This means people are not making HCL as long as they can’t make hydrogen. Consequently, even if the lack of hydrogen starves the H. pylori out of existence, the acid-free “window of opportunity” is open for two or three weeks for any little critters to come in and set up camp. You may recall I talked about how H. pylori can exist in an acid stomach as long as they get in while the acid levels are low. Isn’t it realistic that H. pylori could make their way back in while people are barely starting to make hydrogen again? Maybe individuals are making enough hydrogen to feed bacteria, but not enough to create the acid barrier that keeps them all out.
This lack of acid barrier can also allow other types of bacteria in the front door—other bacteria that may live on sugar instead of hydrogen. If these bacteria can flourish in the three-week window of an acid-free environment in the stomach, they can create an alkaline environment which could stay more alkaline even after the body begins making HCL again. The waste product from most bacteria is alkaline, therefore making the environment more inhabitable for them. Do you see how just having the door open can set up the environment for H. pylori to reinfect the body? This isn’t even considering the fact that, once you turn some people’s digestion off, they have a hard time getting it started again. Seeing that the body can’t break down what is being eaten well enough to pull the minerals out of the food, that individual may not have enough minerals needed for the body to make HCL again once the hydrogen turns back on. This shows how easy it can be for people to lose their optimal digestion for weeks, months, or even years. No matter how you chalk it up, you can see the wide variety of circumstances that could allow a bacterial infection to make its way into the body.
You may recall how reflux, or heartburn, is often caused by the activity of bacteria in the stomach. Doctors who deal with this issue a lot often tell me that, when they test for an infection in the stomach, they almost always find H. pylori and maybe some other type of pathogen as well. When symptoms of a bacterial infection in the stomach are present, H. pylori is very commonly at least one of the culprits. Other than creating common digestive symptoms like reflux, heartburn, or decreased ability to digest food, an H. pylori infection could exist for years, or even decades, without showing any real symptoms. Therefore, this infection will very often go undiagnosed. The new DNA stool tests that your doctor can order can be expensive if your insurance doesn’t cover them; but it can be nice to know if you have an infection or not. Even without lab tests to confirm the presence of H. pylori, I’ve seen people just use supplemental products as if they have an infection since most products used to fight H. pylori would be acceptable for temporary use whether you had an infection or not.
Before you become too aggressive towards an H. pylori infection you are not certain exists, it might be best to take steps to improve digestion first. Since you may be dealing with a number of imbalances at first, the extra supplements it can take to wipe out an H. pylori infection could be overwhelming. I like to see someone first add HCL supplementation; additional HCL is usually all that is needed to increase acid production. If HCL capsules do not correct the problem and you feel like you may be dealing with H. pylori infection, using the information described below may be the best bet for you. You could also enlist the help of a professional health coach, as they may be able to better understand some of your numbers and determine if an H. pylori test, or supplement protocol is right for you.
Side note: If a person is dealing with a Sympathetic Imbalance, (maybe they are constantly stressed or living at the speed of light) this stress can also restrict a person’s ability to properly produce sufficient HCL. If this sounds familiar, an excellent option may be to simply calm down before you jump to the conclusion that you must have an H. pylori infection.
I will go into H. pylori in a lot more detail in Done With Reflux, Heartburn, & GERD and I don’t want to waste a lot of space here. But right here in the book you’re reading now, I will cover the complex supplement protocol that seems to be the most effective at wiping out an H. pylori infection. This infection can be difficult to take care of. It’s my experience that a few things need to be used in conjunction with each other to have a successful outcome. When fighting H. pylori, even the medical world will use two different antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor at the same time to wipe them out. The problems with this method are: Not only are you using antibiotics which kill bacteria but still lay the foundation for fungal problems later on, you are also turning off the protective acid barrier and opening the door for any bad guys that want to come in while the acid is shut down. I’m not much of a fan for any strategy that lets every annoying little scumbag in the world of bacteria, fungus, and parasites come on in for a party.
Here are the main players in the natural world that seem to get the best results when used together in an attempt to eradicate H. pylori:
Zinc has the ability to kill H. pylori, specifically liquid zinc in the form of zinc sulphate. This is a great place to start. A company called BodyBio makes a liquid zinc that I like a lot. I’ve seen people use 15 drops twice a day with pretty good success. Zinc is also believed to be one of the minerals needed to produce your own HCL, so that can be a nice bonus. If you’re using HCL supplementation, including zinc in your protocol may be a good idea because doing so will give your body an additional tool it can use to make its own HCL. Empirical Labs makes a digestive enzyme called HCL-Zyme that includes a little bit of zinc. This is a great formula to use when you’re trying to increase HCL production.
Along with zinc, it is also popular to use an amino acid, L-Carnosine, for this issue. You can even find “zinc carnosine” manufactured by many companies. I still like to use the liquid zinc even if I’m going to use zinc carnosine. If I use plain L-Carnosine capsules with the liquid zinc, one L-Carnosine, capsule twice a day seems to be effective.
Since H. pylori are happier in an alkaline environment, increasing stomach acid is always an important step. Not only can H. pylori scarf up all your hydrogen so the body can’t make much HCL, they also pee ammonia. Ammonia is an alkaline substance and can alkalize the stomach even further, totally pimping out their pad to optimize life for H. pylori.
Pyloricin is an herbal product made by a company called Pharmax. It’s available to consumers at many health food stores and online retailers. When you open the bottle and smell the capsules, your reaction will be, “Oh yeah, I wouldn’t want to live in a place that smelled like that either, so I imagine this will work nicely.” It’s not disgusting to take, you’re just swallowing capsules. But it does make your pee smell funky so you know it’s doing something, right? The word on the street (and the words coming out of my mouth from my experience) is that this product works better than just about anything else out there.
I’ve seen people take two capsules, three times a day, and work through two bottles and be done. I still use this product in conjunction with other efforts I’m describing here since I don’t think any of these supplements would do the job on their own. I will also add that if you are a toxic person, and maybe you get nauseous easily, you will want to start slowly on this product because it is strong and could be a little overwhelming to a sensitive person.
d-Limonene seems to be very effective at seeping into the mucous layer in the stomach and wiping out bacteria. However, it is very pro-catabolic and should be used with caution. Most people do well if they skip a day between doses and only use it once a day, first thing in the morning, when we are intended to be more catabolic. d-Limonene is a natural orange peel extract.
What? I know, I know. Pepto-Bismol is not very natural. But it’s basically just bismuth. Be sure to use the original and not the cherry flavored or any of the other varieties that have extra junk in them. Bismuth is a heavy metal that is found in our bodies already and can be very effective at wiping out bacteria in the stomach. When H. pylori begin to die from the other supplements you are using, they can often clench on to the side of your stomach and create a cramping feeling. It’s really not that fun. If you feel this, you can take Pepto-Bismol which will help finish them off and relieve your cramping faster. (Not to be confused with menstrual cramps, this is not the same thing.) The cramping may still last a while longer, but using the Pepto can reduce the duration of those cramps. Since the active ingredient, bismuth, is a heavy metal, I try not to use Pepto-Bismol for longer than a week to ten days at a time.
So, Pepto-Bismol isn’t one that I start off with, but I do recommend having it on hand once you start the rest of this protocol so you can be ready if you experience any stomach cramps.
Bee Propolis or Mastic Gum
I describe bee propolis and mastic gum together because they work in similar fashions and seem to be the most popular choice. I’ve never seen anyone with H. pylori use one of these products without improvement, but I’ve also never seen anyone totally eradicate the problem with one of these supplements and nothing else. I’ll explain how they work and you’ll understand why. I do, however, feel that they are an excellent part of the arsenal I would use to wipe out H. pylori. I just hear a lot of people suggesting that this is enough to take care of the problem and I don’t agree with that at all.
When a mouse crawls into a bee hive, the bees will sting it to death and the mouse invader will be neutralized. Now, if you’re a bee, you have a dead and rotting mouse in your house. It’s not like the bees can just chuck it out the back door. What they do is cover the mouse in what is called propolis. It basically mummifies the mouse so that it doesn’t rot in the hive. That’s why bee propolis is used as a natural antibiotic. It goes in and essentially mummifies any bacteria so it can be safely removed from the body. Mastic gum works in the same way. The problem is, these bacteria can crawl up into the mucous lining of the stomach and avoid being swept away in a sticky cocoon. I certainly believe that you can wipe out a percentage of the infection with each dose; but at the rate H. pylori replicate, I think other tools need to be used as well to take care of the whole problem. That’s why people seem to see improvements when they use these products, but the problem often multiplies again as soon as they discontinue use.
Since bee propolis or mastic gum also have the ability to wipe out good bacteria, using probiotics for a couple weeks after you are done using the bee propolis or mastic gum may be a good idea. It seems like people do well with two or three capsules of bee propolis or mastic gum twice a day on an empty stomach—first thing when waking up and again right before going to bed.
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