Klebsiella: Infection, Detection and Natural Treatment

klebsiella bacterial overgrowth treatments natural treatments byron bay naturopath herbal medicine

Klebsiella infections are more common than you would think. Because you have ended up here I am assuming that you or someone you know has found a Klebsiella infection and you want to know more.

Read on to learn what Klebsiella actually is, the symptoms it may be causing and possible treatment options.

A Primer On Klebsiella Bacterial Overgrowth

Members of the Klebsiella genus are common residents of the human gastrointestinal tract.

At times, and in manageable numbers, they are considered commensal organisms but frequently, in the case of Klebsiella pneumoniae, they can act as opportunistic pathogens (1).

Commensal – living with, on, or in another, without injury to either

Basically the subtext here is that they can be normal residents of a healthy gut, but, when given the chance, can overgrow and cause issues.

Belonging to the Enterobacteriaceae family, Klebsiella pneumoniae is a species of gram-negative bacteria.

It has the ability to take on a pathogenic role in the digestive tract when there is an imbalance or a weakened immune system. Often this takes the form of a hospital acquired infection known as a nosocomial infection (2).

Take a deep dive into the subject of bacterial overgrowths from this family that can cause leaky gut a host of symptoms – Imbalanced Gut Flora Equals Leaky Gut

Why Is Klebsiella Hard To Treat?

It’s a good question. Let’s get into it.

The paper Molecular pathogenesis of Klebsiella pneumoniae outlines the difficulty in treating Klebsiella infections.

Klebsiella has the innate ability to form biofilms both in the human body and on medical devices. By forming biofilms Klebsiella protects itself from the immune response as well as from antimicrobial treatments (herbal and pharmaceutical). 

The capsule polysaccharide, or CPS, found on Klebsiella pneumoniae also contributes to many of it’s immune resistant capabilities.

klebsiella infection and treatment options 2

Image taken from – Molecular pathogenesis of Klebsiella pneumoniae

Klebsiella can inhibit phagocytosis (being eaten by white blood cells) by inhibiting different white blood cells (macrophages and neutrophils) ability to bind to the bacteria.

Not surprisingly more virulent strains of Klebsiella show greater capabilities at blocking the function of different white blood cells. Another immune dodging mechanism displayed by certain virulent strains of Klebsiella pneumoniae is the ability to dampen down the initial inflammatory response by the innate immune system.

Yet a third aspect of resistance is the found in the protective nature of the CPS. As second line defence the innate immune system releases different antimicrobial peptides as a response to infection. Not only does Klebsiella’s protective CPS layer act as a shield it is also released from the bacteria to block incoming antimicrobial peptides, tying them up and reducing contact with the bacterial cells.   

Yet another key issue which leads to difficulties in treatment is the fact that many strains of Klebsiella are becoming more and more resistant to frontline antibiotic treatments. 

So we can see some treatment issues arising here.

Let’s move onto some symptoms of Klebsiella infections and circle back to treatment ideas later in the article.

Symptoms Of Klebsiella Infections

I have had a Klebsiella infection so I know first hand some symptoms it can cause.

That said it can be hard to tease out what infection is causing what symptom.

My symptoms, confirmed by a comprehensive stool test included

  • Intense headaches
  • Loose stools
  • Sore lymph around the throat
  • Increases food intolerances – coffee/chocolate/dairy/sugar
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety

Again it is very hard to pin down the root cause based on symptoms. That’s why it is so important to test!

From the literature

“Klebsiella pneumoniae, a member of the Enterobacteriaceae family, is a common human bacterial pathogen that can cause urinary tract infections, pneumonias, bacteremia, pyogenic liver abscesses, skin abscesses and necrotizing fasciitis. It is recognized as a highly pathogenic organism that causes disease in the community and nosocomial settings.” (1).

Finding Klebsiella. Testing Options and Alternatives 

Generally it is quite easy to find Klebsiella infections by running a more comprehensive stool test known as a CDSA (complete digestive stool analysis.

Unfortunately these more specific and functional testing are rarely offered by GPs.

Most of the time you will have to pay out of pocket.

For Australians Nutripath offers a CDSA although your health practitioner (GP, herbalist, naturopath) will have to order it for you.

complete digestive stool analysis nutripath CDSA cost

For me paying for the test (approx $250 all up) was a no-brainer.

After experiencing a range of very unpleasant symptoms from drinking unfiltered tank water in the Byron Bay hinterland I ran the comprehensive diagnostic stool analysis from Nutripath and found not one, not two, but five different infections. 

Dealing with Infections. How To Treat Klebsiella Infections

Antibiotics are the frontline treatment offered by allopathic biomedicine.

Many times antibiotic treatment was the original insult that disrupted the gut microbiome and allowed members from the Proteobacteria phylum (like Klebsiella) to overgrow.

It is a choice that everyone has to make for themselves.

Unless the infection was life-threatening I would consider taking herbal antimicrobials first every time. Following up the antimicrobial treatment with a well planned gut rebuilding protocol is essential.

One particular herbal medicine with science to back it up is pomegranate husk tincture. klebsiella infection treatment natural byron bay australia gut health herbalist naturoath

This is a particularly effective treatment, especially when combined with other supporting and complimenting herbal medicines.

Herbs that can improve the effects of pomegranate husk tincture include the following

  • Clove tincture – can help with the biofilms that Klebsiella forms
  • Oregano leaf
  • Propolis
  • Baical Skullcap
  • Garlic

There are a range of other antibacterial herbs. A few that really stand out include the high berberine herbs like Coptis chinensis, barberry and even goldenseal. Unfortunately these herbs don’t combine well with pomegranate husk due to their active components (alkaloids and tannins don’t play well together).

Also many of these herbs can and will negatively impact the gut flora so we need to focus on supporting it while simultaneously treating the Klebsiella infection.

This is a great point on why working with a herbalist trained in the complexities of gut infections is so important.

Dietary Considerations For Klebsiella Infections

A previous article outlined the use of prebiotic fibres and starches to help boost the gut microbiota.

In the case of Klebsiella infections reducing simple starches and certain colonic foods could be a wise strategy as this particular bacteria favours starch as food.

One study suggested reducing complex carbohydrates in response to Klebsiella infection (4). The use of certain prebiotics may still be of value as they selectively feed beneficial microbes, aiding in the treatment of dysbiosis. 

Targeted prebiotics and probiotics can helping to support the gut flora and improve antimicrobial effects of the herbs.

Apart from that I think anything that helps with your symptoms should be investigated. For me it was a reduction in refined carbohydrates.

The next article will cover the possible connections between Klebsiella infections and Ankylosing Spondylitis.


Now I want to hear from you. Have you had any experience with gut symptoms? Share your thoughts below

References and Resources

  1. Molecular pathogenesis of Klebsiella pneumoniae
  2. Prebiotics – Gut Boosting Review
  3. The Link between Ankylosing Spondylitis, Crohn’s Disease, Klebsiella, and Starch Consumption
  4. Klebsiella – Ankylosing Spondylitis, Reactive Arthritis & Infections

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  1. I went to an integrative Dr had the same stool test as you & have+++ klebsiella. I am freaking out. I don’t know whether to continue insulin or if I can ever get rid of it. She is going to give me herbal stuff but they only say they are 60% effective. I’m really scared after reading how resistant they can be!

    1. Yes this is the big debate. Do prebiotics contribute to dysbiosis and feed pathogenic bacteria? Some say yes and cite in-vitro (test tube) studies and others say no and cite human trials.

      Inulin may not be the best prebiotic but others have been shown to decrease klebsiella or the klebsiella family, Enterobacteriaceae including partially hydrolysed guar gum and a galacto-oligosaccharide/ fructo-oligosaccharide mix.

      It could very much be to do with the acidifying of the colon and the drop in pH from the beneficial fermenters (bifido’s and lacto’s) producing all that incredible butyrate. More here: http://www.byronherbalist.com.au/prebiotic-update-details-building-gut/

      Studies here:
      Effects of Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum Intake on Human Intestinal Microflora and Its Metabolism

      Increase of faecal bifidobacteria due to dietary oligosaccharides induces a reduction of clinically relevant pathogen germs in the faeces of formula-fed preterm infants

  2. Hi .. thanks. I am happy to have a paid appt on face time. I need to reduce starch which I haven’t Been indulging in since Christmas .. but was taking 3 teaspoons of Zinulin a night… the worst thing for klebsiella!
    I am going os on August 16 & really want to get the levels down. I don’t know how to avoid starch/ complex carbs to starve klepsiella & yet build or keep up my other good gut bacteria … which I’ve tried to be vigilant about .. could you email me as to arrange an appt please. Thanks Prue. My Ph is 0419 876 608

    1. Unfortunately I’m still working on my health science degree so I can’t give any specific advice or take on patients. Best I can do at the moment is publish findings from my research and hopefully point you in the right direction. Sorry I can’t be of more help!

  3. Great read!
    I have always been healthy, fit & slim, never had a problem
    With my health until 9 months ago when below symptoms began arising.
    -Mind fog
    -food intolerances (dairy)
    – anxiety
    – weak/fatigued
    -weight gain and extreme struggle to lose!
    -severe bloating

    Tests after tests with no answers.
    Eventually got told to do a CDSA stool test, resulting only bad bacteria highlighted,
    Klebsiella ++++

    I have been taking natural herbs, oregano oil tablets, & been eating extremely clean, sticking to a 1300 calorie diet. No processed foods or high starch. Been doing this for over a month now and don’t seem to feel any different.
    Is there a reason I may not be able to shake this bacteria? Should I be only drinking filtered or bottled water?

    So frustrating when you’re trying everything you can! ?

    1. Citricidal and silver biotics work very well against klebsiella and many other bacterias and yeasts.
      Also biofilm booster like interfase plus, 4-8 caps before bed.
      No sugar and low carb diet for about a month is highly recommended.
      Good quality probiotics after that is a must. Not those 50 billions lactobacillus/bifidobacterium crap. I’m talking about s boulardii and bacillus species.

      1. It sounds like you’ve had some experience in treating bacterial overgrowths Leon.

        Just a note. I would avoid any grapefruit seed extract products (it’s a contaminated product – see link below – and has a very negative impact on the gut microbiome).

        Great points on the biofilm agents and the probiotic recommendations are on point.

        Thanks for the comment!

        (link to research on the grapefruit seed controversy https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10399191)

  4. I get fairly sharp sacroiliac pain and instability (with walking/standing/activity generally), stiffness at night that often makes it impossible to sleep through the night, occasional dry eyes, random joint pain (wrist/hand/fingers/rib joints), and brain fog, bouts of nihilistic thinking. Also history of alternating over/underactive bowel. My genetic testing shows susceptibility to HLA-B27 related issues and I’m suspicious of klebsiella gut overgrowth. Oregano oil and Biocidin from Bio-botanical Research can get most of the symptoms under control, save for the unrelenting back stiffness at night. Diet is basically ground beef, eggs, and some fruit. Overall extremely healthy/fit. I have had long stretches of near zero symptoms, but trying to figure out what else I can do to put these problems to bed forever. Any thoughts?

    1. There could be a number of root causes here. It might be helpful to rule out autoimmune conditions just to make sure they are not present (ankylosing spondylitis etc)

      – see here https://www.byronherbalist.com.au/gut-health/klebsiella-ankylosing-spondylitis-reactive-arthritis-infections/

      Then depending on these results you might look into gut health and your microbiome balance. Most of this will emerge in a consult with a good gut health clinician (history of antibiotic use, post-infectious IBS, possible SIBO connection). Well done on finding the HLA-B27 link. This points back to your gut health too.

      If you live in an area where Ross River is present this may be a possibility as well, some of the symptoms overlap with yours.

      Love to hear your thought!

  5. hello hello, Love your post!

    Have you ever heard of Klebsiella causing upper abdominal functional dyspepsia like burning pain?


  6. Hi!! So excited to find your site!
    I have done the Doctor’s Data Comprehensive Stool Analysis/Parasitology X 3 and have a +3 on the Klebsiella Pneumoniae ssp pneumonia. It was under the Dysbiotic Flora tab.
    I have been having a lot of health issues this past year and none of the doctors have been able to come up with the root cause. We know my immune system is being compromised from several of my labs/tests and my body seems to be getting sicker. Do you think the Klebsiella could be the missing piece of the puzzle?
    Also, if this goes untreated can it affect your heart? I’ve also been experiencing lung issues that come and go. They get bad when it is humid or raining out. My chest x-ray didn’t show up with anything that could explain it.
    I also have developed really bad “anxiety” even though it’s not real anxiety because I have nothing I’m anxious about and not upset about anything. I have a very laid back life and very happy. This is more of a symptom of whatever is going on inside of me. I have read that Klebsiella can cause anxiety type symptoms.
    On the Doctor’s Data results it says that these herbs would work… Caprylic Acid, Grapefruit Seed Extract, and Silver
    The antibiotics that were listed that would work against my strain were Amoxicillin-Clavulanic Acid, Cefazolin, Ceftazidime, Cipro (I won’t take this due to the side effects) and the last one was Trimeth-Sulfa.
    I do see my Naturopath in two weeks to go over these results but would love your thoughts on this too.
    All my symptoms started after a very deep tissue massage where she also massaged my stomach/intestines. Do you think the massage could have made things go systemic?
    Thank you so much for listening and any advice you can share!!

    1. Hey Cathy.

      Good on you for doing the stool test and working at getting to the bottom of your health concerns. I think you could very much be onto something there. Many of your symptoms would line up with a picture of gut dysbiosis caused by bacterial infections/overgrowths. The lung picture may be caused by the klebsiella (it has been known to cause pneumonia but that would be quite advanced infections with a run down immune system).

      I have just published an article on my approach to treating bacterial infections in the large bowel – here – https://www.byronherbalist.com.au/bacterial-infection/how-to-treat-bacterial-infections-a-holistic-approach/

      You have reminded me to add a few bits to the article, mainly on the use of things like grapefruit seed extract which is a big no no. It is actually a contaminated product and has broad spectrum antibiotic actions that can really damage your beneficial gut bugs long term!

      Let me know if I can help with anything else and keep us posted on how you go!


      1. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply!
        I will definitely look at your article that you linked.
        Tonight when I have time I am going to sit down and look through your site.
        I do have a question about diet. With Klebsiella I have read that you need to be on a no or very low starch diet because that bacteria thrives off of starch. I eat pretty much plant based and worry that if I have to go low starch and no fruit (because of the yeast that also showed up on the stool test) that I will not have much to eat. What is your opinion on the strict no/low starch diet while fighting this bacteria and how long one would have to eat this way.
        Again, thank you for your time and opinion!!

        1. I also wanted to ask you about the other bacteria that showed up under the Imbalanced Flora
          Alpha Hemolytic Strep and Gamma Hemolytic Strep
          They were not as high as the Klebsiella but still probably shouldn’t be there!!

        2. Happy to help 🙂
          I would not be overly concerned about the low starch diet here. If it really is only the bacterial dysbiosis in the large bowel (especially from the family that klebsiella is found in – enterobacteriaceae) then it can be treated with certain prebiotic soluble fibres and probiotics successfully (the article linked above helps to fill in the gaps there). If there is a SIBO picture at play as well then certain starches may trigger symptoms (bloating and distention, nausea ect). That would be a whole other treatment approach…

          I also meant to mention in the last comment that unexplained anxiety and poor immune function could very well be explained by bacterial infections in the gut.

          Hope that helps!


          1. Recently I have started to look at the bigger picture in the gut as opposed to just one or two bugs that have overgrown. What you have found on your test (the Alpha Hemolytic Strep and Gamma Hemolytic Strep) point to large bowel imbalances as well.

          2. Thank you Todd!! I will keep you updated and let you know how the probiotics/prebiotics go.
            I do have a slow motility issue and have a hard time going to the restroom without herbal laxatives. I have found in the past when I have tried probiotics they would make my symptoms worse but maybe I need to stay the course and let them do their job!!

  7. Hello,

    I have an issue with Klebsiella and was very appreciative of your article here. I was wondering if you can email me back for advice. there may be a few “different english” confusions for me. like is pomegranate husk tincture same as pomegranate extract? I couldn’t find anything under the name you mention here in USA.

    1. Hey James,

      The pomegranate husk is different from the extract. It is not the most popular herbal medicine so may be hard to track down depending on where you are. Just emailing you back now 🙂

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