If you’re struggling with chronic skin issues, it’s important to try to find the root cause of what’s causing them. Could it be your diet? Your cosmetics? An imbalanced microbiome?

One of the largest responsibilities of the gut microbiome is to keep pathogenic bacteria, yeasts, and other malevolent microbes at bay. However, even a strong, biodiverse microbiome might be compromised should a powerful pathogen come in. One possible culprit is H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori), a pathogenic bacterium that can infect the stomach and small intestine, and cause a number of different health problems. Though H. pylori is usually associated with digestive issues, it can also affect the skin.

Woman wondering what causes an H. Pylori infection

What causes an H. pylori infection?

It is estimated that more than 50 to 75% of the world’s population has an undetected, long-term H. pylori infection. It may take months, or even years for symptoms to appear, and some people never experience symptoms at all–it’s estimated that only 20% of people living with H. pylori will experience symptoms. This is troublesome because many people who experience chronic skin issues wouldn’t necessarily link that to something internal like an H. pylori infection.

H. pylori is highly contagious (primarily via saliva), and anyone can get it.

H. pylori has been linked to peptic ulcer disease, gastric lymphoma, and gastric carcinoma (the pathogen itself is classified as a class 1 carcinogen). It has also been reported to cause diseases affecting the cardiovascular and immune systems, the liver, as well the skin. Skin issues such as idiopathic urticaria (presence of wheals, and erythema), pruritis, acne rosacea, alopecia areata, eczema, psoriasis, and some types of dermatitis have also been linked to its presence.

Though studies have not yet definitely named H. pylori as a cause of the aforementioned skin diseases, multiple reports have shown “epidemiological and experimental evidence for a possible role of H. pylori infection in skin autoimmune diseases,” as well as an association between the pathogen’s presence and presence of acne rosacea, and multiple other conditions and diseases of the skin. It’s also been observed that for many patients who experienced a chronic or autoimmune skin disorder alongside an H. pylori infection, eradication of the infection significantly improved the skin disorder.

Woman look at and touching her skin

How does H. pylori affect the skin?

It is already well established that the health of the gastrointestinal tract is directly linked to diseases and symptoms of the skin, via the gut-skin axis. “H. pylori multiply in the mucus layer of the stomach lining and duodenum. The bacteria secrete an enzyme called urease that converts urea to ammonia. This ammonia protects the bacteria from stomach acid. As H. pylori multiply, it eats into the tissue,” which weakens the mucosal barrier of the intestines, which allows the lining to be directly in contact with bile and other digestive acids. This leads to a chronic state of inflammation, leaky gut syndrome, and gut dysbiosis–all of which contribute to the development of inflammatory skin conditions. 

Blood test for H. Pylori

How do you know if H. pylori is behind your skin condition?

For many people who have tried everything from a holistic perspective but are still not seeing positive results–or are experiencing worsening or additional topical or internal symptoms–H.pylori infection might be the root cause. Fortunately, it is simple to test for using blood antibody, urea breath, stool antigen, or when needed, stomach biopsy tests. Most of these tests can be ordered through conventional primary care or GI specialist doctors and are covered by insurance. However, the stool antigen tests (such as the GI Map or GI Effects) are not always offered by conventional doctors, and need to be ordered through and interpreted by a doctor or nutritionist with functional or naturopathic specialties. These tests might or might not be covered by insurance.

Doctor holds a blister with an antibiotic.

How is H. pylori treated?

Treatment options vary and range from conventional antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors to biofilm disruptors and strong antimicrobial herbal supplements on the holistic side. What type of treatment each person needs varies, as not everyone is a candidate for herbal antimicrobials, and sometimes combination therapy is needed. H. pylori is a stubborn and resilient pathogen and can be difficult to completely eradicate. Re-infection is also possible, especially if the person’s immune function is low, or additional pathogenic or parasitic microorganisms are present in the gut microbiome. Often, H. pylori is not the only microbial culprit!

If you or your client suspects an H. pylori infection–or if a stubborn skin issue just won’t clear in spite of using proper skincare and eating clean, a visit to a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor or functional nutrition practitioner is in order.

Woman learning about skin conditions on computer

Do you want to learn additional possible root causes of common skin issues?

So there you have it. A quick roundup of H. pylori and how it might be impacting your skin health (or the health of someone you know). We hope this was helpful! If you’d like more information on potential root causes of skin issues, and how to help your clients, we’ve got a course for that.

Enrollment is open for our Certified Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner® Training Program! Learn more, download our syllabus, and enroll HERE.


*Disclaimer: The information in this post is for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice and is not intended to prevent, diagnose, or treat any health or skin condition. Please consult with your licensed healthcare provider for advice and information about your own skin or health.