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Why Is H. Pylori More Prevalent In Autoimmune Thyroid Conditions?

Published August 20, 2012

Helicobacter pylori is a bacteria found in the stomach.  Although it doesn’t always cause symptoms, it can lead to numerous problems, including gastritis, as well as peptic and duodenal ulcers.  Some sources show that it can even lead to stomach cancer.  This infection will affect digestion, and having H. Pylori can interfere with the absorption of nutrients.  More than 50% of the world’s population is infected with this bacteria, including many children, and people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are more likely to be infected with this bacteria.  In this article I’m going to discuss why this is the case.  In addition, I’ll discuss how you can test to determine if you have H. Pylori, and if you do, what natural alternatives are available to permanently get rid of this bacteria.

Why is this bacteria more common in people with autoimmune thyroid conditions?  Well, I recently put together an article about candida and thyroid disease, and in this article I discussed how poor immunity can make a person more susceptible to developing a candida infection.  And of course those people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis have a less than optimally functioning immune system.  This can also make one more susceptible to developing H. Pylori.  This is contagious and can be transmitted from person to person rather easily, which is why proper hygiene is also important.  But having a healthy immune system can also help prevent someone from becoming infected with H. Pylori.

Can H. Pylori Cause An Autoimmune Thyroid Condition?

So now you have an idea as to how having a condition such as Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis can make someone more susceptible to getting infected with H. Pylori.  However, some studies show that having H. Pylori can actually increase one’s chance of developing an autoimmune thyroid condition.  So if someone has a genetic marker for an autoimmune thyroid disorder, then having H. Pylori might trigger an autoimmune response.  On the other hand, some studies show that there is no correlation.

However, I have noticed a positive correlation between H. Pylori and thyroid antibodies in some of my patients.  In other words, I’ve had patients with high thyroid antibodies who avoided gluten and other allergens, addressed any adrenal problems and mineral deficiencies, and didn’t notice a change in the thyroid antibodies until they eradicated H. Pylori.  Now to be frank, it’s not as if I’ve experienced this with a high number of patients, and I’m not suggesting the H. Pylori is the cause behind all, or even most cases of high thyroid antibodies.  But it’s something to consider for those who have high thyroid antibodies and can’t get them to decrease, no matter what they do.  Having a candida infection or other problems with the gut flora can also contribute to high thyroid antibodies.  So while going gluten free and taking selenium can sometimes help with high thyroid antibodies (as I have discussed in previous articles), there are other factors to consider as well.

How To Test For An H. Pylori Infection

When I test for the presence of H. Pylori in my patients, I usually use saliva-based testing.  You can also obtain a blood test, as well as utilize testing through the stool.  There is also a breath test which can test for the presence of this bacteria.  So there are numerous ways to test to see if someone is infected with this organism.

Can Natural Treatment Methods Eradicate H. Pylori?

To be honest, I’ve had mixed results when trying to treat H. Pylori naturally.  However, when you consider that the conventional medical approach doesn’t always work and consists of giving antibiotics (and frequently acid-stopping medication), then I think in most cases it’s at least worth trying a natural approach first.  As usual, diet plays a big role, as one wants to minimize the refined foods and sugars from their diet.  Drinking cabbage juice can also help.  But cleaning one’s diet and drinking cabbage juice alone usually won’t be enough to get rid of an H. Pylori infection.

An herbal approach can frequently be affective, as many times taking herbs such as garlic, thyme, turmeric, and golden seal can help to eradicate H. Pylori.  Other supplements which may help include probiotics and mastic gum.  I’ve come across some sources which state that Matula tea can help, although this isn’t something I’ve tested on my patients.

Another option is to try combining both conventional and natural treatment options.  For example, if someone chooses to get the antibiotic therapy, it’s also a good idea to take some probiotics to help replenish the healthy bacteria of the gut.  Plus, someone might also want to take garlic and some of the other herbs I mentioned, and perhaps even add mastic gum into the mix.  This almost definitely will completely eradicate H. Pylori, yet by doing some of the other things it will also help to maintain the health of the gut flora.

In summary, people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are more likely to have H. Pylori due to them having a compromised immune system.  And some studies suggest that having H. Pylori can potentially trigger an autoimmune thyroid condition, although other studies aren’t conclusive.  When someone has H. Pylori, this can cause numerous digestive problems, and perhaps other health issues as well, which is why it’s important to use either conventional medical treatment, natural treatment methods, or a combination of both to help eradicate this organism permanently.