This blog is a way of sharing the information and resources that have helped me to recover my son Roo from an Autism Spectrum Disorder. What I have learned is to view our symptoms as the results of underlying biological cause, which can be identified and healed. I say "our symptoms" because I also have a neuro-immune disorder called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

And, of course, I am not a doctor (although I have been known to impersonate one while doing imaginative play with my son)- this is just our story and information that has been helpful or interesting to us. I hope it is helpful and interesting to you!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Identifying and Treating H. Pylori Infection

These are notes from an interview about H. Pylori with Dr Daniel Kalish, DC :

H. Pylori is a bacterial infection that can be caught form another person, and can also be contracted by eating under-cooked food.  It results in an infection of the stomach that compromises the functioning of the stomach, which can lead to damage to the cells that line the stomach (parietal cells), which in turn can cause poor production of hydrochloric acid.  This means that the food in the stomach isn't properly broken down, which compromises digestion.  The food gets passed along into the small intestines and just sits there, since it hasn't been broken down, and can feed bacteria and yeast, leading to gas and bloating.  This also leads to inadequate absorption of nutrients from the food, since it isn't being broken down properly.  Bad breath can also be a sign.

H. Pylori can also cause heartburn, which occurs when the valve at the top of the stomach that is supposed to keep the acid in the stomach becomes weak and allows the acid to go up into the esophagus.  When the food passes out of the stomach and into the small intestine, it is supposed to be a certain acidity, which is what triggers the pancreas to excrete enzymes and the gallbladder to release bile.  This also can lead to poor digestion, gut infections, and poor nutrient absorption.  Acid blocking drugs actually allow the infection to get worse rather than addressing the problem.

Many people do not have specific gut symptoms from chronic infections such as H. Pylori, but they do have more global symptoms such as fatigue.  There is also a chronic inflammation situation going on in the body, which can manifest as depression, etc.  H. Pylori can be passed through kissing, sharing food, sexual contact, and more.  It seems that some people can carry it and have no symptoms, and some people believe that at least certain strains can be healthy to have.  The problem seems to be when the infected person is stressed or their immune system is otherwise weakened.

Testing was originally looking for antibodies, which may not indicate a current infection.  Also, in a full blown infection antibody levels can drop, while the infection is still there.  There is also a breath test which can work if you have a new, severe infection.  It can also be looked for in an endoscopic exam, which also misses it frequently and is invasive.  None of the standard tests are very reliable.  Another option is the antigen test. An antigen is the thing that an antibody is reacting to, it is a part of the pathogen itself.  If this test is positive, then the infection is current and active.  It's done from a stool sample.  It's not yet done in conventional medicine.  It can still be a false negative, since the pathogen may not have come out in that particular sample.

For decades, doctors thought that stress caused ulcers, which was because stress brings down the immune system which then allows the H. Pylori infection to ramp up.  One doctor who suspected H.Pylori as the causal agent in ulcers actually gave himself the infection to prove his point.  He had endoscopic pictures taken of his healthy stomach beforehand, gave himself H. Pylori, developed  a bleeding ulcer, had it documented, took antibiotics, and documented that the ulcer was cured this way.  This work led to a nobel prize.  Conventional medicine is so focused on acute, serious infections, and has tended to ignore the impact of chronic infections.

Consequences for not treating the infection can be severe, including stomach and intestinal cancer.  When this infection is treated it can make a huge difference in people's lives.  Conventional doctors often don't want to treat this infection unless there are signs of major tissue injury, such as a bleeding ulcer, because standard treatment is 2 weeks of a very strong antibiotic.  There are other treatment options however.

Having a chronic infection in the stomach, that is inflammatory, leads to increased cortisol production (cortisol helps control chronic inflammation) which places stress on the adrenals.  Also, if there are other sources of stress in the body, physical or emotional, this can tax the adrenals, use up cortisol, and make it harder for the adrenals to control the inflammation in the stomach.  This is how stress can lead to the infection flaring up.  The adrenals also control the production of something called secretory IgA ( also called SIgA), which are immune factors that line the mucosal tissues of the body, such as the GI tract.  When we're stressed, SIgA levels drop, and this can allow infections to take hold or flare up (this includes in the respiratory tract, the sinuses, the GI tract, in the genitourinary tract, and on the skin).

Dr Kalish was trained to focus on treating the adrenals first, rather than focusing on eliminating the infection first.  This can begin with dealing with emotional stress, making sure to eat good food, sleep well, and get basic exercise.  He also uses adrenal protocols to get the adrenals working well for 60 days before going after the bugs.  In deciding when to use the antibiotics treatment, or when to use the more natural herbal approach, he says this is an individual decision and not the same for all patients.  One factor is if you have an which case you may want to go ahead and use the antibiotics, and not wait around for the herbals to work. It is worth noting though that the antibiotics used here are strong and can have negative side effects, and the herbal treatment is very successful and safe.  He suggests using Mastica gum, to fight the infection, but warns that this infection is a "host specific problem" and that the gum is not likely to work unless the person strengthens their immune system.  In addition to the Mastica gum, he will also usually include antibacterial herbs such as Oil of Oregano or Olive Leaf Extract.  He also includes a powerful anti-inflammatory agent such as DGL, a product of licorice.  This protocol takes about 2 months, in addition to the 2 months of prep of working on the adrenal glands first.  It is worth considering testing family members and partners to prevent the person from being reinfected.  In a very young child or infant, what you might see is the child refusing many foods or developing strong preferences and avoidance of foods.