Could Helicobacter Pylori be the root cause of your child’s fussy eating?

Colourised ilustration of Helicobacter Pylori bacteria

Have you got a child who is very picky with their food and complains of feeling “sicky” or a sore tummy? When you’re tearing your hair out with an unhappy child who won’t eat their food, a very common bacteria called Helicobacter Pylori (known as H. Pylori) could be the answer, lurking in their stomach, causing havoc!

H. Pylori is quite a nasty bacteria, and can have many other effects. It can also affect older children and adults just as much, and it is one of the primary causes of upper gastric discomfort.

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What is H. Pylori?

H. Pylori is a spiral shaped bacteria known as a spirochete. Its corkscrew shape means that it can burrow into the stomach lining, so it can be hard to detect and hard to treat.

H. Pylori is one of the most common chronic bacterial pathogens in humans and approximately 50% of adults are infected with it. It can cause severe upper gastric distress with some having very marked symptoms, while other people are not aware of any symptoms at all.

Why is H. Pylori a problem?

When H. Pylori is active and present, it can increase the pH of your stomach acid. The normal acidic level at a lower pH protects from infections such as salmonella. And so a higher pH can open the door to more infections entering the intestines, and higher pH environment in the stomach can be why some people are constantly getting gastric infections such as vomiting and diarrhoea bugs.

An active infection and altered stomach pH in practical terms means that firstly, it is harder to digest protein such as meat and eggs. Secondly, it can cause an irritation of the stomach lining known as gastritis, which can cause stomach pain especially when eating. Over time, this bacterial infection can sometimes lead to the development of stomach and duodenal ulcers.

And finally, the bacterial infection’s effect on gastric juices can lead to the depletion of vital minerals and vitamins in you or your child. These can include iron, B12, calcium, magnesium and zinc. This is because these nutrients partly get absorbed into the bloodstream at this point in the digestive tract. Iron and vitamin B12 are vital for the neurological system and for energy production; calcium is important for bone density and strong teeth; and magnesium and zinc both play hundreds of roles in the body including helping with sleep and mood regulation.

So as you can see, it is very important to address an underlying bacterial infection if you want you and your kids to have optimal digestion and to gain the most from the food that you eat.

Typical symptoms of H. Pylori

Children and adults with an H. Pylori infection often complain about pain and pressure in the stomach region. You may also notice bloating and distention above the belly button. Poor appetite, meat-avoidance, and reflux/heartburn are also common signs of H. Pylori. Often hiccups, belching, and bad breath (not otherwise associated with gum disease) can be signs.

In my experience kids prefer not to eat when they have stomach pain, and if they do, they will probably just eat plain beige food as these foods, at the time, tend not to irritate the stomach lining or trigger symptoms. If you have ever had a gastric vomiting bug, it is likely that all you could face eating afterwards was toast, crackers, banana and yoghurt. So you can see that, if there is chronic irritation of the stomach due to H. Pylori or other reasons, this could easily lead to longer term narrow food choices which might mimic fussy eating.

Some kids (especially those who are non-speaking and on the autistic spectrum) may also suffer from associated behavioural problems such as irritability, agitation or self-harming behaviour after eating if they have an H. Pylori infection. They might also experience night waking, and some will pound their chest trying to tell you it is hurting, which also may help to ameliorate their pain. These behaviours are often due to the extreme stomach pain and reflux that the H. Pylori may be causing.

H. Pylori testing

In certain cases, doctors may not immediately suspect this infection. So it’s vital to ask for this test proactively if you think it may be present. Both H. Pylori antigen stool and breath tests can be arranged by a medical doctor or gastroenterologist. Our NatureDoc clinical team can also arrange these same tests privately.

Unfortunately however, H. Pylori is often missed by these two tests due to its ability to hide in the stomach lining.

Therefore, the gold standard to detect H. Pylori is through a biopsy via an upper endoscopy arranged by a paediatric gastroenterologist. This investigation might also be done to rule out any other problems in the oesophagus, stomach and small intestine such as eosinophilic cells, gastritis and coeliac disease. Because this type of test is invasive and uncomfortable, it’s pretty much a last resort and other gastric issues are ruled out first.

Medical treatments for H. Pylori

If you or your child has a positive result for H. Pylori, the standard treatment offered by medical professionals is called triple therapy and involves a two-week course of two separate antibiotics plus a proton pump inhibitor to line the stomach such as omeprazole. Because of the spiral-shaped nature of H. Pylori it can take time to tease out and completely clear, so if symptoms persist after the initial treatment, it is important to be retested.

Natural support

If there is any delay in medical treatment or if symptoms persist, then there is some research that traditional remedies and foods can help to ameliorate symptoms. These include olive oil, garlic, cranberry juice, nigella seeds, caraway seeds, mastic gum, broccoli, active honey and propolis, as well as turmeric.

After the H. Pylori has gone, it is time to repair and restore the stomach lining. There is a broad range of interventions to help restore a better pH, reduce any inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining, and to rebuild any lost nutrients.

Mastic gum, deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) and slippery elm can help to soothe an irritated stomach lining and help to heal the stomach after an H.Pylori infection. Probiotics can restore the gut microbiome after the antibiotics. And then it is important to identify any nutrient deficiencies such as low iron, vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium and zinc and build these back up through diet and supplements.

Round Up

Fussy eaters and particularly those who refuse to eat meat and other high-protein foods may well be suffering from H. Pylori and the associated pain and reflux. If you recognise some of the symptoms of this infection, then it is important to have them checked out. The good news is that once it has been treated successfully and the tummy is comfier, then it is likely your child will (almost overnight) return to being a much better eater.

Our support at the NatureDoc Clinic is individualised. We specialise in addressing a whole host of gastric issues and if you suspect H. Pylori, or if your child’s food preferences are a challenge and they frequently complain about stomach discomfort, it is time to investigate. You can contact our Paediatric Neurodiversity Team now and set your child on the path to improved health and happier mealtimes!

Lucinda Recommends

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Originally published 4th July 2015, and revised extensively 29 October 2023.


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  1. Dear Lucinda,
    I’m suspecting that my kids might be suffering from H. Pylori infection as I got recently tested positive for H. Pylori. Before trying the triple antibiotics treatment, I would like to give a try on Mastic Gum. They are age 5 and 2. What dosages of mastic gum would you recommend to children around these ages? I don’t have any naturopathic professionals that I can go see in where I live, so I would really appreciate your help. Thank you very much in advance.