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  • Writer's pictureMartha Lewis

There's an 85% chance this hidden pathogen (H. pylori) is sabotaging your sleep!

85% of my clients with sleep issues have H. pylori! If you can’t sleep, it’s likely that you have this bacteria, too.

One of my first clients was an amazing man named Jaipal Singh. He had H. pylori as well as other bacterial infections, estrogen dominance, gluten and dairy sensitivity and mineral imbalance. We addressed these imbalances and he made progress really quickly:

“Less than two weeks into the program, I began to notice some changes.

A month in, I started to sleep much better.

Two months in, I realized I had dropped 15 lbs of extra weight. I started waking up with more energy, and found that I could get through a full day with focus and attention.

Three months in, and I had fully formed new habits, transformed my diet, and transformed my body.

It's been nearly six months since I initially started the program. And, I have regained the confidence, energy and positivity that I always remembered throughout my life.”

He passed away from stomach cancer 2 years after writing this incredible testimonial. His doctor didn’t think the H. pylori was a problem and so he didn’t either. I’m not telling this story to scare you because stomach cancer is rare, but this is why I now take H. pylori even more seriously than ever before.

So let’s talk about what H. pylori is and how it affects sleep.

What is H. pylori?

H. pylori is a bacteria that lives in the stomach. (Most of the other microbes the GI Map tests for live in the large intestine.)

H. pylori produces an enzyme called urease that neutralizes stomach acid and damages the lining of your stomach, according to John Hopkins University. This is how it survives. Your stomach is supposed to be acidic to digest protein so H. pylori affects protein digestion and the body’s ability to get amino acids and nutrients from protein.

H. pylori and other pathogens create what’s called a biofilm, or protective shield, around themselves. This is why H. pylori can be tough to get rid of. It’s normal for it to take a couple of rounds of “treatment” to see it gone completely.

How H. pylori affects sleep

H. pylori also affects sleep both directly and indirectly.

H. pylori, like other pathogens, is most active at night. As it’s eating and excreting, it releases many toxins which cause inflammation. Your body releases cortisol, an anti-inflammatory hormone, to deal with the inflammation. Cortisol also gives you energy, makes your mind race and increases your heart rate so it’s going to wake you up when your body releases it in the middle of the night.

Because H. pylori leads to nutrient deficiencies, your body won’t have the vitamins, minerals and amino acids it needs to build hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters and other necessary chemicals your body needs for healthy sleep.

Minerals get out of balance when you aren’t absorbing nutrients which can directly lead to insomnia.

The inflammation H. pylori causes can lead to leaky gut and food sensitivities and can create an environment where other pathogens can thrive. All of these affect sleep.

If you’ve had a hard time dealing with candida, SIBO or parasites, you could also have H. pylori which is feeding those other pathogens.

There have also been studies connecting H. pylori infection with sleep apnea.

Symptoms of H. pylori are the following although many people are “asymptomatic”:

  • Heartburn/reflux

  • Upper abdominal pain

  • Indigestion

  • Belching

  • Gastritis

  • Duodenal/Peptic Ulcers

  • Carcinoma

  • Headaches – especially migraine

  • Constipation

  • Nausea

  • Acne

  • Halitosis

  • Undigested food in stool

  • Need for digestive enzymes

  • Chronic dysfunction @ T6-T7

Other health effects of H. pylori

Some doctors won’t prescribe anything unless you’re symptomatic (have digestive issues). It’s estimated that half of the population in the US has H. pylori and so many doctors think H. pylori isn't a problem and that you shouldn’t do anything about it.

However, infected people have 2x to 6x increased risk of developing gastric cancer and mucosal-associated-lymphoid-type (MALT) lymphoma. It also causes more than 90% of duodenal ulcers and about 80% of gastric ulcers.

And I see this bacteria highly correlated with sleep and health issues. This is why I address it if it shows up on your GI Map at any level, even if it isn’t flagged high by the lab.

The tough thing about H. pylori is that it lives in saliva and other bodily fluids and so it’s extremely contagious among partners and family members. If you have H. pylori, most likely your household members do too and so it’s important to address it in everyone.

How to test for H. pylori

There are many options for testing for H. pylori.

Many doctors prefer a breath test or biopsy from an endoscopy.

The problem with the breath test is that it’s testing for gasses in the small intestine.

  • Since H. pylori lives in the stomach, it may have not migrated all the way to the small intestine and so the test would be negative even though you might still be infected in the stomach.

  • GI bleeding and certain medications can affect the results and cause a false negative.

  • It’s an indirect test (measuring the by-product) instead of a direct test. It has to be present in large amounts to show up on a breath test.

The issue with a biopsy is that H. pylori doesn’t colonize evenly in the digestive tract. You could get a sample taken from tissue that doesn’t have the infection and get a false negative result.

The GI Map stool test, on the other hand, is looking for the DNA of H. pylori using qPCR technology. It’s highly sensitive and detects levels at 100+ cells of H. pylori per gram of stool. Other stool antigen tests “can't detect H. pylori in a stool sample until there are at least 5,000 to 10,000 cells per gram of stool,” an incredibly high level according to Diagnostic Solutions Lab.

You can find more resources about H pylori at:

How to deal with H. Pylori

I am required to refer my clients to their doctor if H. pylori shows up on their stool test. Their doctor may or may not prescribe an antibiotic, depending on his/her viewpoint and if they have symptoms.

There are, of course, drawbacks to antibiotics:

  • They damage the gut wall.

  • They kill all bacteria, good and bad.

  • They don’t get through the biofilm well.

  • The amount of time you take an antibiotic (10-14 days) isn’t long enough to address the life cycle of H. pylori (up to 60 days).

I’ve talked to a few people who developed insomnia after taking antibiotics for H. pylori! They were sleeping fine before but the antibiotics damaged their gut and affected their sleep.

There is another option that I offer my clients. We can use a biofilm buster, mastic gum and/or herbs that I’ve found to be effective instead. Almost all of my clients choose this option. I don’t recommend taking these supplements without the guidance of a practitioner who can help you find your optimal dose for the right amount of time to make sure you aren’t doing more damage than good.

A third option is to do an herbal protocol and take antibiotics. It’s totally up to my clients what they choose to do. My job as a health coach is to educate them on their options and empower them to make the best decision.

H. pylori lives in the mouth and saliva. For this reason, it can be helpful to use a special toothpaste every day.

I also suggest soaking your toothbrush in hydrogen peroxide every night so you aren’t reinfecting yourself with the bacteria every day.

When dealing with H. pylori, there’s more to it than just getting rid of the bacteria. You also need to focus on improving the health of the gut so that pathogens can’t thrive. This involves a multi-prong approach that I describe in this post.

The bottom line about H. pylori and sleep

If you can’t sleep, it’s likely that you have H. pylori and that it’s affecting your sleep and your health.

I recommend the GI Map to test for H. pylori and a comprehensive approach to focusing on gut health and the health of the rest of your body so that you can restore your health and sleep better! H. pylori may be a piece of the puzzle, but you also need to look at liver and detox function, hormone balance, nutrient deficiencies, heavy metals and more to truly get better.

I created the Complete Sleep Solution program to get to the bottom of why you can’t sleep and help you restore your health so you can sleep normally long-term. Schedule a consultation to find out more.

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