H. pylori can cause, or at least contribute to, many symptoms outside of the digestive system of infected people. These symptoms are known as “extragastric manifestations” of H. pylori. Research is discovering associations with more and more symptoms and extragastric diseases. Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety depression
  • Low energy / fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Heart palpitations
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Skin problems like hives and rosacea.
  • Pain between the shoulder blades
  • Sinus problems

When we take the time to understand how our body works, it is easy to see how H. pylori infection can cause symptoms in other parts of our body. Science is now discovering some very interesting links between H. pylori and seemingly unrelated symptoms and health conditions. While an “association” does not mean that H. pylori infection causes these symptoms and diseases, it does suggest that the infection may play a role in their development or etiology.

Do you remember a time when you had a common cold or “flu” infection? I bet you felt extremely tired and may have even been bedridden for a couple of days.

There is a good reason for this. When you have an infection, your body has to mount an immune response to try to eliminate the infectious organism. That organism can be a parasite, a virus or a bacterium like H pylori, for example.

The immune response requires a lot of energy and therefore your body naturally diverts its energy production to fuel the fight against the invading ‘bug’. It doesn’t really matter if this invader is a common cold or a digestive infection, the result is exactly the same.

The problem is that the H pylori bacteria is extremely difficult for your body to handle and the immune response may not be enough to eliminate it. However, while you are there, a continuous response is required and this affects your energy levels.

In addition to the immune response, H pylori can have other negative influences on your body that can make you feel tired and drained.

First, it causes inflammation (in the stomach, this inflammation is called gastritis). Studies have clearly shown that chronic daily inflammation can lead to fatigue and many other symptoms. One such study was conducted by Su et al, where patients received therapy with a chemical known to cause inflammation (called gamma interferon). The researchers asked the patients what symptoms they developed as a result of being “swollen.” Reported symptoms included:

  • Tired
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritic breads
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia

By definition, if H pylori causes chronic inflammation, it has the potential to lead to all of these symptoms in the long term, and indeed that is what I have seen in my clients year after year.

It should also be noted that H. pylori infection can cause a decrease in the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. If you don’t have enough acid, food can be much more difficult to digest. Research has shown time and again that infection with the H pylori bacteria can lead to iron deficiency anemia and B12 deficiency, both of which can also make you feel tired.

Finally, some studies seem to indicate a relationship between H. pylori infection and autoimmune thyroid disorders. The thyroid gland is very important for regulating energy levels, motivation, and “drive.” If its function is compromised, lethargy and fatigue can develop.

In conclusion, it is clear that digestive infections like H. pylori are not solely responsible for digestive symptoms. In fact, the digestive symptoms caused by Helicobacter infections are just the tip of the iceberg. If you are infected with H pylori and feel tired or have mood imbalances such as depression and anxiety, eradicating H pylori could be the missing link for you.