Are You Carrying H. Pylori? A Lot of Women Over 50 Are (and Don't Know It)

It's normal to feel fatigue. The demands of everyday life take a toll on everyone. Week after week, we're scheduling and making appointments; maintaining our career, house, and relationships; and finding time to take care of ourselves. Living life is a full-time job sometimes! But if your fatigue becomes too much to handle, you may be suffering from a bacterial infection, and if you're 50 or over, your chances of infection from H. pylori may be increased. Read on to see if your fatigue and discomfort might be from infection, and how you can feel better fast.

What is H. pylori?

H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) are bacteria that can cause stomach infection, explains Mayo Clinic. Infections often occur during childhood, but many people aren't aware of their infection, because it doesn't always cause apparent sickness. H. pylori often causes peptic ulcers (sores in the esophagus, small intestines, or stomach) and more than half of the global population may be affected.

What are the symptoms of H. pylori infection?

A bacterial infection (peptic ulcer disease) caused by H. pylori increases women’s odds of suffering fatigue and other draining symptoms, say researchers in Scientific Reports. This bacteria is spread by contact with infected individuals, as well as contaminated food and water. “Inflammation produced by H. pylori damages the lining of the intestines, impairing nutrient absorption and allowing toxins to leak into other tissues,” explains Rosario Ligresti, MD, chief of the gastroenterology division at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. The result: fatigue, brain fog, bloat, stomach pain, and more. Complicating matters, the immune system weakens over time, which makes women over 50 more vulnerable to H. pylori.

Is a sneaky GI infection draining your energy?

If you experience fatigue and at least two of these symptoms, H. Pylori may be to blame.

  • Bloat/burping

  • Heartburn

  • Stomach pain

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Headaches

  • Skin rashes

  • Ulcers

How do you get treatment for an H. pylori infection?

Testing: Doctors can ID H. pylori with breath, blood, and stool tests. And while “triple therapy,” which involves taking an acid-blocking drug and two antibiotics, is often advised, there are natural solutions that can help fight off infection as well.

Supplements: Black cumin seeds may be as effective against H. pylori as antibiotics, per research from the Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology. The seed and its oil are high in the antibacterial compound thymoquinone. Dr. Ligresti advises taking 1,000 miligrams of a product containing 5 percent thymoquinone after meals twice a day. One to try: Life Extension Black Cumin Seed Oil (Buy from Life Extension, $10.80 for 60 pills). Also smart: Season foods with turmeric and garlic. Both contain compounds that thwart the bacteria's growth and heal the gut lining.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.