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 as its root cause. 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. That percentage goes up drastically 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 they 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, they 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 go up 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 the person is 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 bastards 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 the person is barely starting to make hydrogen again? Maybe this person is 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, if that individual has low reserve resources.
You may recall how reflux, or heartburn, is often caused by the activity of bacteria in the stomach. Doctors that 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. But when symptoms of a bacterial infection in the stomach are present, H. pylori is very commonly at least one of the culprits. Other than reflux, heartburn, or decreased ability to digest food, an H. pylori infection could exist for years, or even decades, without creating 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. I’ve also 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.
I go into H. pylori in a lot more detail in Kick Reflux, Heartburn, & GERD in the Nuts and I don’t want to waste a lot of space here, but 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, and it’s my experience that a few things really 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 problem with this method is, not only are you using antibiotics which kill bacteria but still lay the foundation for fungal problems later on, but like I just talked about, you are also turning off the protective acid barrier, 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, it can be a good idea to include zinc in your protocol anyway to give your body another tool it needs 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 get HCL production up.
Along with zinc, it is also popular to use an amino acid, L-Carnisole, for this issue. You can even find “zinc carnisole” manufactured by many companies. I still like to use the liquid zinc even if I’m going to use zinc carnisole. If I use plain carnisole capsules with the liquid zinc, one carnisole 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 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.
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 and that will help finish them off and relieve your cramping faster. (Not to be confused with menstrual cramps, this is not the same thing.) It may still last a while longer, but using the Pepto will reduce the duration of cramping. Since this is a heavy metal, I try not to use it for longer than a week to ten days at a time.
So, this 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 put 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. That’s like thinking that one counseling session is going to straighten out Lindsey Lohan. She could probably use a whole team of counselors and reading my book, Kick Mental Issues in the Nuts, might be a good place to start.
Back to bee propolis. 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 magnifies again as soon as they discontinue use.
Since this product also has the ability to wipe out good bacteria, it can be a good idea to use probiotics for a couple weeks after you are done using the bee propolis or mastic gum. 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 you wake up and again right before you go to bed.