135: H. pylori-Skin Rash Connection

If you’ve followed along for a while now, you know that hidden bugs can be one of the root causes driving your skin rashes.

H. pylori is one of those bugs that is often overlooked!

Yes, there is an H. pylori-Skin Rash connection.

Though most of the symptoms associated with H. pylori are gut-related, it’s entirely possible to have no GI symptoms and test positive for this bug.

Plus, I’ve found that there are other health complaints beyond GI symptoms that could be clues to hidden H. pylori.

In today’s episode, I want to share with you my own clinical experience and the research I’ve found connecting H. pylori and several skin rash conditions like eczema, hives, and psoriasis.

In this episode:

  • Client rashes triggered by hidden H. pylori infections
  • What is H. pylori?
  • What are the symptoms of H. pylori?
  • H. pylori Rash Connections
  • Why H. pylori can trigger rashes
  • Testing options for H. pylori

Quotes:

One study found the incidence of H. pylori to be 72% positive in psoriasis participants.

Unwanted bugs in the GI tract don’t always create GI symptoms, and that statement definitely applies to H. pylori.

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Woman making the H.Pylori skin rash connection in notebook

H. pylori-Skin Rash Connection (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

Welcome back to episode #135 of the Healthy Skin Show!

In today’s episode, I want to share with you a little known connection between chronic skin rashes and a bug that can hide in your system called H. pylori.

If you’re at all familiar with H. pylori, you probably know it as being a gut problem that often goes along with heartburn-like symptoms.

But the reality is that having H. pylori without traditional symptoms (or any symptoms at all) is probably more common than you think.

This bug is often not even on the radar if heartburn isn’t present… which is, in my humble opinion, a mistake given how prevalent infections are estimated to be.

It’s estimated that about 50% of people worldwide have H. pylori.(1)

I’d like to take a step back from everything you think you know about H. pylori so we can look at it through a new lens… especially if you’ve got chronic skin rashes.

Tired woman with H. pylori

H. pylori-Triggered Rashes (Client Cases)

Before we talk about the specifics of H. pylori, I want to share a couple of client experiences with you to help underscore why this bug must be suspected.

My first client case I’ll share with you today is a mid-aged woman complaining of pretty intense issues with itchy eczema rashes, asthma and coughing that required a daily inhaler daily, fatigue, random nausea, and bloating.

She had been on Singular, 2 different inhalers, and prednisone to try to control the itching and breathing complaints. 

Because of the constellation of health complaints, I suspected H. pylori.

Her doctor did not suspect this to my knowledge, but was amenable to running testing for H. pylori which came back positive!

While addressing the H. pylori didn’t correct all of the issues (as we still have more work to do), the client noted that things were much improved. She was able to stop the 2nd inhaler and itching had noticeably decreased.

The next client is a mid-aged man who came to me complaining of severely itchy, dry eczema patches on his body. He had tried prednisone, steroid creams, and Aquaphor in attempts to get the intense itching to stop.

He had previously attempted a “gut protocol” recommended by a functional doctor that caused his skin to flare and go crazy. He wasn’t able to see the protocol through unfortunately due to how miserable he was.

My initial recommendations included appropriate liver support, my at-home low stomach acid test and some conventional labs which came back with a bunch of really surprising issues!

We found an elevated TSH (indicating low thyroid function), near-deficient vitamin B12, low folate, low vitamin B6, low vitamin D, and a myriad of other suboptimal results despite my client feeling relatively well aside from the rashes.

I recommended a comprehensive stool test given my concern that he wasn’t absorbing nutrients despite eating a pretty nutritious diet. That testing showed a high level of H. pylori along with Staph aureus.

About 4 weeks into a customized botanical supplement regimen I created for him, his itching was substantially decreased and the eczema rashes were going away.

And it’s worthwhile to share that his wife also decided to do the stool test and also tested positive for H. pylori.

Woman wondering what H. Pylori is

What is H. pylori?

Now that you can see how important considering H. pylori is, let’s talk about what it is.

Heliobacter pylori (aka. H. pylori) is a gram-negative bacteria that you can get from contaminated water, food, utensils, saliva (so it is possible to pass it between you and your partner), and other bodily fluids.

It likes to hang out in the stomach (and even the upper section of your small intestine) causing all sorts of problems including ulcers.(2)

Yes… ulcers!

These ulcers can form with long-term exposure due to H. pylori which likes to damage stomach lining by producing a cytotoxin called vacuolating cytotoxin A.(1,4,5)

H. pylori also produces a waste product called urease which essentially neutralizes stomach acid.(2,3)

This means that it’s not a normal commensal bacteria.

It really shouldn’t be there in the first place!

Some of my previous research found that a healthy mouth microbiome may have the capacity of blocking H. pylori in the first place.

The use of all these antiseptic dental products to prevent tartar buildup from bacterial activity may actually be short-sighted since they skew your mouth’s microbiome.

Woman stomach pain

Symptoms of H. pylori

Before you run out asking for H. pylori testing from your doctor (or getting an at-home kit), here’s a list of symptoms to consider:

  • Heartburn (1)
  • Stomach pain that comes and goes (4)
  • Nausea (5)
  • Vomiting (and even vomiting blood) (1)
  • Loss of appetite (5)
  • Burping (5)
  • Weight loss that wasn’t intentional (5)
  • Fatigue (1)
  • Anemia (1)
  • Diarrhea (1)
  • Stool that’s dark in color (1)
  • Bad Breath (1)

What’s funny is that a combo of some of these symptoms appears very similar to those of SIBO and could contribute to a confusion between the two!

That said, I feel it’s important to share from my clinical experience that unwanted bugs in the GI tract don’t always create GI symptoms.

These hidden bugs can cause all sorts of weird symptoms that end up driving you nuts which I’ve detailed in past episodes.

That’s why I think it’s critical to add a few additional health complaints that are likely considered unconventional of H. pylori.

They include:

  • Skin rashes (6)
  • Unexplained hives (6)
  • Itchy skin (6)
  • Low stomach acid

Woman scratching itchy skin

H. pylori Rash Connections

One of the biggest complaints from clients I work with (and readers) is how debilitating and maddening itchiness can be.

Itchiness can prevent you from sleeping which in turn can put you into a vicious cycle that only makes you feel worse.

We know that H. pylori has the capacity to mess with histamine release by potentially activating mast cells.(7)

Looking at specific skin conditions can also help inform us all about the importance of considering H. pylori as a hidden root cause.

Here are a few examples of studies that I located that connect the dots between H. pylori infections and skin rash conditions…

One study looking at the incidence of H. pylori infection in those with psoriasis found that 72% of the psoriasis participants tested positive for H. pylori. One interesting point I want to share from the paper is “The site of involvement of skin lesions, regardless the severity of the disease, predominated in the lower limbs: 63.07% in severe patients, 75.00% in moderate patients and 61.90% in mild ones.”(8)

A small study focused on participants with atopic dermatitis and chronic urticaria (hives) found that 75% of those with chronic hives were positive for H. pylori while 65-70% (depending on blood vs. urea breath test) of those with eczema were positive.(9)

Some studies have found quite a high level of positive H. pylori results in those with oral and skin Lichen Planus (LP) ranging from 73% to 82.5%. The biggest issue noted in several studies I reviewed is that positive results are often found even in control groups. So it’s unclear what role H. pylori plays in LP.(10)

Another study of those with oral LP found that 23% had positive H. pylori PCR DNA results from oral cavity swabs and stated that a connection could be possible. No additional testing methods were employed in this particular study to determine if H. pylori was present in the GI tract.(11)

Studies on H. pylori and vitiligo are mixed. One recent publication from 2018 indicated that out of 75 subjects, 65.3% of those with vitiligo tested positive for H. pylori via stool testing. After treatment, 22% “showed suppression of disease activity” after a 3-month follow up exam.(12)

Other research on vitiligo and H. pylori seem to show a high incidence of H. pylori, but do not create a clear association between the two nor recommend screening for it.(13,14)

Either way, I do think that more research is warranted in this area connecting H. pylori to various skin rash conditions. Especially in determining if treatment impacts skin rash conditions and if there are other dysbiotic factors present in conjunction with H. pylori that also require attention.

But until more is done, I believe that it’s critical to consider H. pylori especially if you discover that you have low stomach acid after doing this at-home test.

Medical testing for H. pylori

Testing Options For H. pylori

Getting tested for H. pylori is actually more straightforward than you think!

There are a lot of options available for testing both through conventional labs (which may be covered by your insurance) and functional at-home collection kits that include “serologic testing, labeled urea breath test, and the monoclonal antibody-based H. pylori stool antigen test.”(15)

Functional at-home stool kits like the GI Map test for H. pylori as does the GI Effects (if you include the H. pylori add-on test).

If your budget is tight and your doctor refuses to run one of these tests for you, you can opt to run ONLY an at-home H. pylori test.

{Get my Root Cause Tests For Skin Rashes Guide to learn more!}

That said, it’s not uncommon to see H. pylori pop up with other unwanted bugs.

They can gain access to your GI tract because of the acid-neutralizing action of H. pylori. Stomach acid is not only for digestion of food — it also acts as a chemical barrier preventing the entrance of unwanted bugs into your gut.

So be forewarned that H. pylori might not be the only issue you face.

Only addressing H. pylori may not correct all of your health concerns if there are other hidden issues present.

If you do have H. pylori present, it’s best to discuss this with your doctor or practitioner.

There are both medication options (that include antibiotics and acid-blocking drugs) as well as botanical supplement protocols available.

Ultimately the route you choose to take should be based on your full picture and your health values so that you can have the best outcome possible.

I hope this episode opens your eyes and provides you some resources to share with your doctor so that you can hopefully consider H. pylori if you struggle with what seems like hives, itchiness and histamine-driven rash issues.

Given all the posts I read on social media from people struggling with terrible itchiness that even antihistamines don’t help, this could be a gamechanger.

Make sure to share this episode in forums and Facebook groups… or email it along to those you know who would love to learn about this!

Leave your questions, comments or experience with H. pylori below so we can continue this conversation!

Thank you so much for tuning in and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode!

Reference books in library

REFERENCES

  1. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/h-pylori-helicobacter-pylori#1
  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/helicobacter-pylori
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3234809/
  4. https://www.medicinenet.com/helicobacter_pylori/article.htm
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/h-pylori/symptoms-causes/syc-20356171
  6. https://www.hkmj.org/abstracts/v20n4/317.htm
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5312179/
  8. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41419-018-0493-1
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16855407
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4775005/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4775005/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5803948/
  13. http://article.sapub.org/10.5923.j.ajdv.20180701.01.html
  14. http://www.pigmentinternational.com/article.asp?issn=2349-5847;year=2015;volume=2;issue=2;spage=81;epage=84;aulast=%C7akmak
  15. https://www.cureus.com/articles/19426-chronic-urticaria-associated-with-helicobacter-pylori

One study found the incidence of H. pylori to be 72% positive in psoriasis participants.