On December 21, 2017, I received the result of my last test (a h. pylori antigen stool test) to see if I have eradicated the helicobacter pylori (h.pylori bacteria) overgrowth in my body, which caused me so much pain and suffering for the past 10 years, especially when trying to overcome them this year (2017). The result of that test was that those horrible bugs have been eliminated. No h. pylori were detected! That is absolutely great news. Believe me, it is not something you would wish on your worst enemy.
During these past 12 months, particularly, I have had many scary symptoms that made me think that this was the end for me. It has been a long journey that seemed like it would never end, with periods of suffering great pain and a lot of anxiety. The anxiety was not some much about dying, as I am prepared to depart this world to be with the Lord. The anxiety was more about the pain and suffering, that it would continue. Overall my body weight dropped from 73 kg to 63 kg, losing a kilogram per week, with no end in sight. The h. pylori had so affected cells in my stomach that I had no desire to eat anything. And based on my calorie calculations I should have maintained body weight but due to a compromised gut I was losing weight rapidly. I got down to a body weight that I have not had since being a teenager.
I did not want to write this report until I got a negative result back from a h. pylori test. And I write the following because of all the online forum comments I read, when I was going through some very hard times, that help me enormously. I hope my testimony might help others likewise. The wide variety of symptoms made it very hard to believe a single cause was possible. But as it now turns out most of the strange and varied symptoms I experienced were due to an h. pylori overgrowth in my stomach.
One of the earliest episodes I can remember occurred in Madrid Spain in 2006. I was attending a theoretical physics conference and one lunch, after drinking a single glass of red wine (as they do there) I started to feel dizzy, and very strange feeling came over me, as though all the blood rushed out of my head. I became extremely fatigued even to the point I found it hard to climb a few steps. I developed chills and cold sweats. One waitress asked me if I was alright, looking at me as though I had just seen a ghost. I also had gastric reflux but I had had that for years and had not considered it to be any sort of problem. I left the conference for the refuge of my hotel room and rested. The next morning I felt pretty much normal again but after the lunch that next day it all returned just as before. This really worried me — not only that I had these symptoms but also I developed chest pains on my left side and down my left arm.
The next day I was to fly to Israel to visit with Prof. Carmeli of Ben Gurion University. I thought about my heart but also thought if I was developing a heart problem I would be better off in Israel. The next morning I went to the airport feeling very sick, with chest pains and cold sweats, and very fatigued. I tried to put on a good face as El Al airline security personnel interview you personally. Thankfully I arrived safely and went straight to the Carmeli’s house. On arrival Mrs Carmeli said to me: “You look awful!” She also said if I was not feeling better she’s take me to the hospital the next morning. I wasn’t better and she took me in to Beer Sheva General Hospital. I presented with all the symptoms of ischemia and so they tested me for this. In fact, they were so concerned they checked me into their cardiac unit, asked me if I could call any close relative, and tested me for any evidence of a heart attack. They required I do a stress test on a treadmill but I was so fatigued I could not get up to the diagnostic heart rate. Nevertheless they released me after 2 day finding no evidence of a heart problem. They said they do not know what was causing all the symptoms.
Now that is some way to start a two-week visit to Israel. After that I went down to Masada (the mountain fortress) and climbed many steps with sweat pouring off me. I would just tell myself it is not my heart even though most symptoms continued for several more days.
I can say that from that time I experienced various symptoms, including gastric reflux, nausea, bloating, chest pains everywhere (around both sides of my rib cage, and in my back between the shoulder blades), leg pains, episodes of dizziness, almost fainting, cold sweats, radiating pain in arms, and eventually gastritis pain, such that no matter what I ate it caused me severe pain.
From 2006 to 2016, I rushed to hospital almost at least once per year, with suspected heart attack or ischemia. I often experienced nausea after eating and unexplained pains through my chest and feeling very ill. In 2009 at Fremantle hospital (Perth, W. Australia) the doctors required I do an angiogram, since my symptoms were so much like ischemia. That test was negative for any heart problem and it is the gold standard test. But the episodes continued.
In 2015 while working in Adelaide after visiting my doctor and doing a ECG, because I complained of chest pains (but I put down to gastric reflux), I was informed that I had had a heart attack and was rushed to Queen Elizabeth hospital. After 4 days in the cardiac unit I was told they could not detect any evidence of such an attack. They subjected me to a gamma ray (CT type) scan after I was injected with a gamma emitting lipid, and found nothing, even though that test is 95% diagnostic. They even explored other very unusual possibilities but found nothing. Read more details in What? A miracle, or, What a miracle!
At the beginning of 2017 I started to notice that I was very quickly fatigued even though I had no other symptoms when these experiences happened. This puzzled me because normally I have had plenty of energy, even though I was nearly 65 at that time.
I went to Japan for March and April. I am coeliac and thus I had booked a guest house unit where I could cook my own food. I was very careful to avoid all gluten and all dairy. I have been on a gluten-free/dairy-free diet for about 10 years. But in March it seemed that almost everything I ate made me nauseous or sick in some way. And the chest pains including gastric reflux were common. At first I thought the sick feeling was my inadvertent ingestion of gluten or dairy but I struggled looking for food that didn’t make me sick. By nearly the end of April I still had all these symptoms but also developed chronic migraines that lasted for a week or so. I went into the emergency department at the Tsukuba Hospital to get the head pains checked out. They did CT scan and MRI of my skull but found nothing.
Nevertheless I was so concerned about feeling so sick that I cut short my 60 days in Japan and returned home 6 days early. My subsequent investigation of the chronic head pains led me to believe I was suffering from MOH — medicine overuse headaches. I stopped taking the paracetamol/codeine pills I had been taking (6 a day for 6 years) for chronic leg pains (peripheral neuropathy) and that eventually resolved the migraine problem. Read that story in more detail in My drug addiction story.
After coming off the paracetamol/codeine phosphate pills my migraines dissipated. But that only brought to the front another problem that may have been masked by all those pain medications. I found that I still felt awful in my stomach and that there was almost no food I could eat that did not give me stomach pain. I cut out all animal products and went totally vegan and started juicing daily. That helped a lot and gave me a lot of energy but also I started losing weight, which was not a surprise since I quit all animal protein. This I pursued through June and July (2017). But I soon realised that even eating vegan only foods, sometimes very small amounts, I developed the feeling of being full. I found it very difficult to eat much at all and this added to my rapid weight loss. No matter what I did I felt sick and had stomach pains after eating.
I went to my GP and asked him to send me to have a endoscopic examination of my stomach. I needed to find out what was going on. That test came back with the result that I was suffering from gastritis caused by a helicobacter pylori (h pylori) overgrowth in my stomach with several stomach erosions, a few centimetres long. An erosion is the loss of mucosal lining just short of the depth to the stomach wall. Any deeper and it would be an ulcer. This is what has given me many symptoms over many years, including the gastritis.
The h. pylori has screw like arms that dig into the wall of your stomach and cause the damage to stomach cells. This is why one can lose their appetite and quickly develop the feeling of being full. Special sensor cells are damage and this results.
The h. pylori bugs also reduce the acidity of your stomach acid (hydrochloric acid). Normally healthy stomach acid has a pH around 2, but that pH increases significantly (becomes less acidic) by action of the bacteria. In so doing it reduces the effectiveness of the stomach acid as a barrier against other pathogens that might enter through the stomach. But also the reduction in acidity means that enzymes normally delivered to the stomach from the liver and pancreas are reduced since the level of acid triggers those organs, under normal conditions, to make the digestive enzymes. Thus, with low acidity, food entering the stomach is not quickly digested and often sits in the lower part of the stomach being fermented by the unwanted anaerobic bacteria. Anaerobic bacteria don’t need oxygen for growth. H. pylori are particularly difficult, in this respect, because they are both anaerobic and aerobic.
The fermentation in the stomach produces hydrogen gas causing bloating and burping. The gas pressure causes the LES valve, at the top of the stomach, to be forced open and gastric reflux and heartburn result. Generally doctors prescribe antacids (proton-pump inhibitor (PPIs) drugs are very common) to lower the stomach acid even further, like down to about 10% of what it should be. This eliminates the burning feeling but does not solve the underlying cause. I did not take any PPIs except for the 7 days while taking the standard first line of treatment, called “the Triple Treatment”, which comprises a PPI and two strong antibiotics together. I took amoxicillin and clarithromycin. The leaflet in the box of medicines states that it is 92% effective in Australia, but on the web I found articles that state that the Triple Treatment is only about 50% effective due tot the fact that about 20 strains of h. pylori have developed resistance to clarithromycin.
I only took those drugs for 7 days but they made me sicker than ever. I lost another 3 kg in body weight in 7 days, so I was eager not to have to repeat that if the first round of antibiotics failed. To be tested, to see if eradication has occurred, one has to wait at least 30 days after finishing the antibiotics, and one must have stopped all PPIs for 2 weeks. This is required for the C14 breath test to be diagnostic. I did this before I started the Triple Treatment and was retested after 30 days after finishing the antibiotics around the end of September but the horrible bugs were still there. Though their numbers were reduced. Their numbers went from a level of about 900 (before treatment) to 310 (after treatment). My symptoms were still there so I knew this was a correct result.
Because the antibiotics are given in high doses over 7 days and the second round of other antibiotics is given over a longer period of 10 to 14 days I opted to try something else. I read about Matula Tea by searching the Internet for herbal remedies. It is only available online and shipped from South Africa. It costs about AUD $250 (or USD $190) for a 30 day course but without the terrible side effects of the Triple Treatment. Matula Tea is claimed to be 98% effective and the company offers a money back guarantee. Also they link a scientific report from Stellenbosch University which shows the effectiveness of the herbal tea in studies done in vitro.
I told my GP that I was going to take the Matula Tea instead of a second round of antibiotics and he simply said he did not believe in it. Those were his words. But he also told me that I was at a point that was now outside his experience. I know this is the case as resistance is developing quickly. My brother and others have reported that they had the bug years ago and the Triple Treatment easily worked for them. Nowadays even second round treatment on antibiotics fails. Even the Nobel prize winner Prof. Barry Marshall admits on his website that he is less than 100% effective in curing his patients where he only accepts those who have failed twice on antibiotics and where he cultures in vitro the particular strains taken from his patients.
I had gotten to a point of the lowest body weight (63 kg) since I was a teenager. Thankfully though the reduction in the h. pylori bugs after the Triple Treatment must have allowed some stomach cells to heal a bit as I started to get hungry again, for the first time in 3 months. Praise God for that!
Heliobacter pylori is probably present in at least 50% of the western world, 70% in Asia and nearly 100% in Africa and the Middle East. But something fewer than 4% of people experience symptoms. Probably more than 80% of those who have gastritis (inflammation of the mucosal lining of your stomach and GI tract) have h. pylori, and nearly all with ulcers have it. It is also attributed to be the cause of stomach cancer.
So these are very serious issues and the bug can cause many symptoms besides weight loss. They include all sorts of digestive problems (heartburn, reflux, burping, belching, bloating, abdominal pains, constipation, diarrhea, weight gain or loss etc), as well as pain all over your body (upper back and chest), unwellness, tiredness, fatigue, even depression and anxiety, which I have suffered from.
As a side note: I found that Niacin (vitamin B3, nicotinic acid not nicotinamide) to be an effective natural treatment against anxiety. I have taken up to 4000 mg per day, in the flushing form, i.e. Niacin. Take with food and start low dose, i.e. 100 or 200 mg. I found I could take 1000 mg at a time, 3 or 4 times per day, if needed. But I also found that it could upset my delicate stomach and have had to discontinue taking it until my stomach lining heals so that it is not irritated by too acidic foods or supplements.
There is an apparent paradox here. The normal medical treatment for gastric reflux is to tell you to take an antacid (PPIs etc) and reduce your stomach acid. But that only relieves the burning chest pain symptoms due to reflux of stomach acids into your esophagus. It does not heal your stomach. Some people then stay on those PPIs for the rest of their lives because the cause of the reflux is not addressed. But the reduction in acidity in your stomach opens you up to other diseases including pneumonia. One guy I met, who had been on a PPI for 12 years, told me he had suffered pneumonia 3 times and clinically died once and had to be resuscitated.
I found for example that taking apple cider vinegar quickly resolved the reflux pain I experienced after eating. But while I was still infected with h. pylori the acid of the vinegar irritated my stomach and I would suffer from gastritis. This really seemed to be like ‘between a rock and a hard place’.
Around this time (after the Triple Treatment) I developed other puzzling symptoms. One so concerned me I went to the ER. I had drunk some pineapple juice and about 2 hours later I felt really sick. It was like a wave a nausea swept over me as my blood sugar spiked up and then crashed low. I had read that h. pylori can also cause type 2 diabetes through damaging special cells in the stomach wall that produce hormones that regulate blood sugar. At the ER a glucose test seemed to indicate I had a slightly raised blood sugar. As a result my GP sent me to an endocrinologist and she explained that it is only after severe damage to the stomach wall that it could happen. I was experiencing hyper- and hypo-glycemia. My blood sugar was not stable. However I was then tested for glycated haemoglobin via Hb1Ac blood test and it returned 5.4%, which is totally normal. This is the true test for diabetes and thankfully I did not have it. (Besides there is no family history of diabetes, and I am in no way overweight. I have very little body fat and continue to try and put weight on.)
At the same time I found a functional naturopath on the web, who recommended a certain diet to help regulate blood sugar as those with h. pylori could suffer symptoms due to hyper- and hypo-glycemia. After only 2 days on his diet I started to feel much better and was gaining weight.
His name is Dave Hompes and his website is found here. I bought a few of his eBooks (quite cheaply) and followed his diet, balancing meat protein, vegetables and whole food carbs. This meant I had to give up my vegan diet but due to the fact that animal protein is more slowly digested it helps to stabilise blood sugar. And I found that this was the case. After starting the new diet I never experienced hyper- and hypo-glycemia symptoms again. Thank God for that also!
Dave Hompes’ diet’s first requirements are to quit all gluten, all cow dairy (you can substitute sheep or goat dairy), all soy products, all bad oils (the only good oils are unrefined olive oil and virgin unrefined coconut oil) as well as all processed foods. The first two were easy as being coeliac I hadn’t eaten them in 10 years, and I had quit soy products as I had recently tested allergic to soy. Now I fully recommend Dave Hompes to you. He explained he personally suffered from h. pylori for 4 years and it was Matula Tea that finally cleansed his GI tract of them.
A week after I started his diet my Matula Tea arrived. It was around October 10th I started 30 days drinking the very pleasant tasting tea (less taste than chamomile tea). After about 2 weeks I noticed most of my symptoms, including various chest pains, started to disappear. After the 30 days I started to feel much better. Because I needed to wait 30 days after finishing the Matula tea it was around December 12th I went for the h. pylori antigen stool test. That test is meant to be the most definitive. The blood test and the breath test can give wrong results, but also the documentation for the stool test noted that there is a small chance of a false negative. But I had followed all the requirements and clinically I had few symptoms. I say few because I was still occasionally getting gastritis.
Heal my stomach
To heal my stomach, now that the bugs have been eliminated, I needed to stick with a bland food diet as well. No acidic foods, no apple cider vinegar or fermented foods as good as they are normally for the stomach. I did not use a PPI any more than those 7 days on the Triple Treatment but when I did have severe gastritis pain I would drink cabbage juice, which was very effective. I also would drink Slippery Elm bark powder in water before eating to line the stomach. I ate a lot of Aloe Vera from our garden. You cut the slimy inner parts from the leaves of the succulent. It is meant to help rebuild the mucosal lining. I also have been taking supplements like vitamins A (cod liver oil), B (B2, B3, B6, B9 and B12), D3, C (in the non-acidic form of calcium ascorbate), digestive enzymes and L-glutamine, which is an amino acid used in rebuilding tissue.
Finally I can report that I have regained 5 kg of body weight and (by faith, as we don’t know what the future may bring) I look forward to a full recovery. I think it will be several months more to heal my stomach. For that I must stay on a bland diet.
I suffered severe leg pains for a long time and that is the reason I took some many codeine pain killers. I stopped taking them in early May this year and made major changes to my diet. I take no regular medications now but experience only occasionally those leg pains and they are never as severe as they once were. I don’t know why, but I am not sure any doctor knew why I suffered from the pain in the first place. Only one doctor had a theory and called it peripheral neuropathy.
We are now ending 2017 and I feel I have spent most of this year fighting many horrible symptoms and I now feel that I am starting to emerge for a major war where I felt like I was losing the battle on several occasions. By faith, I look forward to serving the Lord and living pain-free, for even a few days. That is one of small joys I now enjoy.
As another aside, I recently suffered terrible tooth pain and had to have an abscess tooth extracted. There has been published a statistical study showing about 63% of patients with a tooth abscess (of a small sample size ~ 100) also had h. pylori. The instructions for drinking the Matula Tea is to swish it in your mouth before swallowing to kill any h. pylori infecting the mouth. This might support the argument that those bugs can hide in tooth cavities etc.
As a result of my former use of paracetamol and codeine I found that taking that medication for tooth pain caused me extreme nausea and to vomit many times. This then affected my fragile stomach and caused a gastritis flare up for several days. It seems I am now intolerant of those medications and I cannot take any NSAIDs (aspirin or ibuprofen etc) either as those drugs are not kind to the stomach.
So not wishing anyone to experience this type of problem, please get yourself tested for h pylori, if you experience any symptoms I listed above. It is a simple non-invasive breath test performed whilst fasting. Or even the blood test, if never treated for h. pylori before. In Australia these tests are Medicare funded and hence free. If you have any gastric symptoms, go see your doctor and ask for the test. You never know, since it is so widespread. The bug can be passed from one person to another (though many doctors deny that). You could have it without digestive symptoms but with other symptoms.
Now I am reminded of the following passage of scripture:
For I reckon [calculate/conclude] that the sufferings of this present time [life on Earth] are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us [in our resurrected bodies]. 19 For the earnest expectation [anxious longing] of the creature [all living organisms] waits for the manifestation [revelation] of the sons of God [at the resurrection of the saved]. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity [the corruption that brought diseases into this world at the Curse after Adam’s original sin], not willingly, but by reason of Him who has subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption [death and decay] into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails [suffers] in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan inside ourselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body [at the resurrection]. Romans 8:18-23 KJVER
While we live in these imperfect bodies and while death and decay continue, we may never be rid of physical dis-ease and corruptions that will trouble us until we pass from this world. However the Lord has promised the complete redemption of our bodies (body, mind and spirit) at the resurrection (Revelation 20:11-15).
Update 18/1/2020: I have started a FaceBook group for discussion and sharing info on eliminating h. pylori naturally as well as on healing of other gut related issues. See here.