Helicobacter pylori, also known as H. pylori, is a bacterium that is commonly found in the stomach. It is present in about half of the world’s population. H. pylori is capable of causing a number of digestive problems, including ulcers and, much less commonly, stomach cancer. It is not clear why some people with H. pylori get these conditions and others do not.
H. Pylori Risk Factors:
H. pylori is probably spread by consuming food or water contaminated with faecal matter. H. pylori causes changes to the stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine) The bacteria infect the protective tissue that lines the stomach and this leads to the release of certain enzymes and toxins and activation of the immune system. Together, these factors may directly or indirectly injure the cells of the stomach or duodenum. It then can lead to chronic inflammation in the walls of the stomach (gastritis) or duodenum (duodenitis). As a result of these changes, the stomach and duodenum are more vulnerable to damage from digestive juices, such as stomach acid.
Most individuals with chronic gastritis or duodenitis have no symptoms. However, some people develop more serious problems, including stomach or duodenal ulcers. You can also feel discomfort in your back, chest, suffer from bloating and feeling full, even when very little has been eaten. It can cause a lack of appetite, nausea, dark stools, ulcers that bleed and low blood count as well as significant weight loss.
How Is It Diagnosed?
Breath tests — Breath tests (known as urea breath tests) require that you drink a specialised solution containing a substance that is broken down by the H. pylori bacterium. The breakdown products can be detected in your breath.
Stool tests — Tests are available that detect H. pylori proteins in stool.
Blood tests — Blood tests can detect specific antibodies (proteins) that the body’s immune system develops in response to the H. pylori bacterium. However, concerns over its accuracy have limited its use.
Medications — No single drug cures H. pylori infection. Most treatment regimens involve taking several medications for 14 days.
Most of the treatment regimens include a medication called a proton pump inhibitor. This medication decreases the stomach’s production of acid, which allows the tissues damaged by the infection to heal. Examples of proton pump inhibitors include lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec), pantoprazole (Protonix), rabeprazole (AcipHex), dexlansoprazole (Dexilant), and esomeprazole (Nexium).
Two antibiotics are also generally recommended; this reduces the risk of treatment failure and antibiotic resistance. However, there are increasing numbers of patients with H. pylori infection that is resistant to antibiotics, so it is important to take all the medications prescribed and to have a test that confirms that the infection has been cleared. If the first treatment fails, re-treatment is required and at least one of the antibiotics is different from those used in the first treatment course.
Follow-up — After completing H. pylori treatment, repeat testing is usually performed to ensure that the infection has resolved. This is typically done with a breath or stool test. Blood tests are not recommended for follow up testing; the antibody detected by the blood test often remains in the blood for four or more months after treatment, even after the infection is eliminated.
There are specific foods that you can include in your daily regime that will help with this condition too, and some patients have reported getting great results from foods and herbs.
The best foods are:
1. Cranberries, as they contain proanthocyanidins which kill the bacteria.
2. Broccoli and cabbage contain isothiocyanates – particularly one called sulforaphane, and are very potent at killing h. pylori. The foods highest in sulforaphanes are sauerkraut juice, broccoli, and broccoli sprouts.
3. Garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, and shallots all act as a powerful natural antibiotic.
4. Green tea contains antioxidants, which can boost health and reduce inflammation.
5. Ginger is one of the best natural cures for stomach bugs, and its benefits extend to h. pylori infections too.
6. Manuka honey contains a natural form of hydrogen peroxide in it, which is great for treating bacterial infections.
7. Oil of oregano contains a chemical called carvacrol, which works by destroying the cell membranes of bacteria and stopping them from replicating. A great thing about oil of oregano is that it kills bad bacteria while keeping healthy bacteria intact.
8. Vitamin C (especially citrus fruits). High amounts of vitamin C in diets is essential as it reduces inflammation and protects against h. pylori infection.
9. Fatty Acids (especially fish) don’t necessarily kill h. pylori bacteria. However, having a high intake of healthy fats helps to reduce inflammation.
10. Turmeric is one of my all-time favourite super foods. It is a potent anti-inflammatory, antimutagen, antioxidant and anti bacterial. Multiple studies have shown how turmeric can eradicate h. pylori infections. It is thought to work by blocking the shikimate pathway, which is required for metabolic production in bacteria.
11. Certain probiotics. A probiotic is any bacteria which has positive effects when taken. In the case of h. pylori, certain probiotics can fight off the harmful bacteria while healing the stomach lining and reducing symptoms.
If you are suffering from this really unpleasant condition it’s best to do all that you can to strengthen your immune system and build up your resistance.