My Year-Long Health Struggle: Candida, H. pylori & Peptic Ulcer
My Year-Long Health Struggle
I’m a Holistic Nutritionist and for the last year, I’ve been struggling with debilitating digestive issues. I’ve been focusing every ounce of my energy on overcoming candida, an H. pylori infection and a peptic ulcer. Thankfully, I’ve now overcome them.
Whenever dealing with a health problem, it’s imperative that you seek proper guidance. As tempting as it is to check Dr. Google, it doesn’t replace going to see your primary care physician. If they don’t have an answer, find another one.
With that said, I hope this blog offers you some insight and gives you a jumping off point so you can finally get to the bottom of your health problems.
How’s It All Connected?
“All disease begins in the gut.” -Hippocrates
H. Pylori disruptors the digestive system and can cause inflammation in the gut and lead to intestinal permeability, aka leaky gut. Other things that increase intestinal permeability to occur are:
- Inflammatory foods: gluten is the main culprit for leaky gut, as well as foods high in sugar and excessive alcohol consumption.
- Infections: parasites, candida, and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
- Toxins: environmental toxins like the pesticides on your food and the chemicals in your personal care and cleaning products + medications like antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like Advil).
When these irritants get into the gut, they cause the tight junctions between the cells lining your digestive system to pull apart. This allows tiny undigested food particles and toxins to enter into your bloodstream and lymphatic system.
Since the majority of your immune system lies within your gut, this causes autoimmune reactions and acute inflammation throughout the body. Leaky gut has been linked to a number of health issues, including:
- Autoimmune disease (Celiac, Hashimoto’s, Lupus, MS, Psoriasis and more)
- Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
- IBS & IBD
- Food Intolerances and Sensitivities
- Thyroid Issues
- Mood Disorders
- Nutrient Malabsorption
- Skin Conditions
The Leaky Gut Protocol
There are four parts to addressing a leaky gut:
- Remove any offending foods or irritants that may be affecting your gut health. It’s important to get food sensitivity testing done so you know all of your intolerances (which can include healthy foods).
- Replace the stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Usually, this is done by supplementing with hydrochloric acid (HCL) and plant enzymes. However, HCL should not be taken if you have an ulcer. Check with your naturopath about the use of plant enzymes before using if you have an ulcer.
- Repair with foods and supplements that heal the damaged gut lining (my favourite is bone broth).
- Reinoculate with probiotics to help restore good bacteria in the digestive system.
What Is Candida Anyways?
As I mentioned, candida can be a contributor to leaky gut. It’s at the root of many diseases and can cause a whole slew of symptoms.
Candida is a type of fungus that lives in the human body. Usually, it’s kept in check, but when the right environment appears, the yeast will rapidly multiply. When this happens, a fungal infection known as Candidiasis occurs.
It often first starts to spread in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. As the candida feeds and multiplies it creates toxic waste and begins to interfere with digestion. It becomes systemic when the candida enters the bloodstream and spreads throughout your entire body. Other symptoms (as noted below) may start to occur or worsen.
Candida infections also show up as a white coating called “thrush” on the tongue, inside the gastrointestinal tract, or in the vagina as a yeast infection. Topically, candida can appear as a nail fungus or a rash across the skin. It can affect both men and women of any age.
Causes of Candidiasis
- Alcohol consumption
- Digestive issues
- Drinking tap water
- Environmental toxins
- Heavy Metals
- Hormonal imbalance
- Immune deficiency
- Poor diet
- Prescription drugs (especially the birth control pill and antibiotics)
Symptoms of Candidiasis
- Allergies and sinus problems
- Bad breath
- Bloating, belching, intestinal gas, and/or abdominal pain
- Cravings for sweets
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Endometriosis or infertility
- Fatigue and chronic fatigue
- Frequent colds or flu
- Low libido
- Joint pain and muscle aches
- Mood swings
- Oral thrush (white coating on the tongue)
- Pain and/or swelling in joints
- Poor memory, foggy thinking, or feeling “spacey”
- Skin Rash
- Troublesome vaginal itching, burning, or discharge
The Candida Protocol
In order to effectively rid your body of a candida infection, it’s important that you get the help of a Naturopathic Doctor and/or Holistic Nutritionist. Candida is a tricky yeast that requires a specific diet and rotation of antifungals.
In a nutshell, the candida diet is very similar the one you’d eat for a leaky gut. It removes all refined foods, grains, dairy, alcohol, high carbohydrate vegetables, and sweets (including healthy ones like fruit, honey, and maple syrup). You stick to a diet of lean proteins, low starch organic vegetables, bone broths, and probiotic-rich foods.
The time required to follow this protocol depends on the severity of your candida infection and how long it’s been going in.
H. pylori & Ulcers
Stomach ulcers, also known as a gastric ulcer, are a type of peptic ulcer. They are painful sores that occur in the lining of the stomach. They happen when the thick mucus coating your stomach diminishes, allowing digestive acid to eat away at the tissues.
While most people think stress causes ulcers, they are almost always caused by one or both of the following:
- Infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
- Long-term use of NSAIDs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
If H. pylori is the cause of your ulcer, it’s important to seek guidance from a medical doctor for proper treatment to clear the infection. Aside from the ulcer getting worse, not treating an H. pylori infection puts you at a higher risk for stomach cancer.
It’s still unclear as to how H. pylori spreads but it’s commonly believed to be spread from person to person, via food, water and close physical contact.
The most common symptom with a gastric ulcer is a burning sensation or pain in the middle of your abdomen between your chest and belly button. It can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. The pain is usually more intense when your stomach is empty.
Other common signs include:
- Feeling of fullness, bloating or belching*
- Fatty food intolerance*
- Vomiting* or vomiting blood — which may appear red or black
- Dark blood in stools, or stools that are black or tarry
- Trouble breathing
- Feeling faint*
- Nausea or vomiting*
- Unexplained weight loss
- Appetite changes*
Avoid the use of NSAIDs and eat a nutrient dense diet similar to the one outlined for the leaky gut protocol. You’ll also want to avoid these foods that can aggravate ulcers:
- Black Pepper
- Hot pepper
- Chilli powder
- Fatty or fried foods
- Caffeine (including teas)
- Coffee (including decaf)
- Citrus fruits (and their juices)
The Often Overlooked Cause Of Digestive Issues
Stress, anxiety, and emotional trauma.
There’s a strong connection between your mind and your gut – think butterflies in your stomach or not being able to eat when you’re nervous. The digestive system is extremely sensitive to our emotions. The gut is often called our “second brain” and is home to the enteric nervous system (ENC).
Different from our central nervous system, the ENS is located in the lining of the digestive tract. It helps control blood flow and secretions that help the body digest food. This second brain of ours isn’t involved in thought process, but it does “talk” to the brain in our head.
This is why chronic stress, anxiety, and emotional trauma can play a big role in your digestive health.
One of the things my mentor Julie Daniluk suggested to me was Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma.
Supplements, Essential Oils & Castor Oil Packs
I used a combination of these supplements and essential oils over the last year to help me with my gut, stress, and anxiety. Whenever you’re considering a new supplement, please check with your naturopath or holistic doctor first to make sure it’s safe for your condition and medical history.
Supplements I used
- Zinc L-Carnosine: used for healing of the gut mucosa.
- Manuka Honey: helps eliminate H. pylori bacteria, reduces inflammation, and provides antiseptic properties.
- Slippery Elm: helps to coat, soothe, and heal gastric mucosa.
- L-Glutamine: an amino acid that helps strengthen the gut lining.
- Probiotics: beneficial live bacteria that help to keep your gut microbiome balanced.
- Aloe Vera Juice: reduces inflammation and helps regulate a leaky gut.
- Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL): soothes irritation in the stomach lining and stimulates the production of mucin (protective coating of the stomach and intestines).
- Omega-3 Fish Oil: anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce inflammation in the intestines and colon.
- Collagen Powder: contains amino acids that help build the tissue in the gastrointestinal tract and colon.
- Homeopathics: I used several UNDA compounds and Ficus Carica for a variety of digestive support.
- CBD Oil: helps reduce stress and anxiety.
When it comes to using essential oils for health protocols, make sure to check with a naturopathic doctor who is family with them or a Certified Essential Oil Practioner.
No matter what brand of essential oils you use, make sure they are of the highest quality, contain no contaminants, and allow you to view third-party testing — especially when dealing with your health. So I’m sorry, but the 4-pack of oils you picked up for $9.99 at Winners won’t cut it. Learn more about the oils I use here.
- Gut: One drop of both Peppermint and Fennel diluted in carrier oil and applied to the abdomen 3-4 times a day. One drop of Cinnamon and/or Lemongrass (1) diluted.*
- Stress: One drop of both Lavender and Bergamot applied to the bottoms of the feet morning and night.
- Sleep: One drop of both Frankincense and Copaiba on the bottoms of the feet before bed for sleep.
- Detox: daily detoxifying practices can help your body flush more toxins (like those found in my clear skin guide).
- Meditation: I downloaded the Headspace app and try to meditate daily – this is a work in progress.
- Exercise: yoga is my exercise of choice and is a huge stress reliever for me.
- Castor oil pack: I call this forced relaxation since you apply it to the abdomen for an hour. I did this before bed and found tremendous relief (I included the How To at the bottom of this blog).
- Bed by 10 PM: your body repairs itself while your sleep. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night also helps reduce your stress and keep your immune system strong.
60 minTotal Time
- Soft, clean, thick material like organic flannel, wool, or cotton
- Castor oil
- Glass bowl
- Hot water bottle
- Large towel
- Fold piece of flannel to size of abdomen. Lay in a glass bowl or shallow dish. Pour about 2 tbsp. of castor oil over – just enough to saturate (should feel like suede).
- Get your hot water bottle or heating pad ready.
- Place your towel on a flat surface like a couch, your bed, or the floor.
- Once you lie down, place your saturated flannel over the affected area of your body.
- Cover the pack with an old thin towel (to protect staining heating pad).
- Place the hot water bottle over the pack and let it sit for at least 45 to 60 minutes. During this time, you can rest or read a book.
- When the time is up, remove the pack and clean the area with water and a bit of baking soda if needed.
- Keep castor pack in a glass mason jar for next use. Apply more castor oil as needed.
Be careful not to make the hot water bottle too hot or you can cause Erythema ab igne aka hot water bottle rash. Do not use castor oil packs while pregnant.