Helicobacter Pylori (H. Pylori) is a gram-negative bacteria which invades the human stomach, effecting 30% of children and 60% of adults worldwide – that is more than half the population! It has developed the ability to survive in the acid environment of the stomach but it can’t survive in a pH less than 4.0 unless urea is present. It’s a carcinogenic gastric pathogen that infects our stomach lining for years and decades as opposed to an acute infection lasting only days or weeks. This chronic infection can lead constant inflammation and should certainly be ruled out in any investigation looking to identify the root cause of inflammation. H. pylori invade and damage the mucus layer that protects our stomach cell. The stomach’s normal acid can then damage the cells that line the stomach causing ulcers, gastritis and can even lead to stomach cancer.
H. pylori, Effects & Symptoms
This bacteria has a well developed system for motility, scavenging iron and restricting and modifying DNA transcription. Besides being significantly associated with 80% of stomach ulcers and 90% of duodenal ulcers, potentially leading to gastritis and stomach cancer, it has been implicated in periodontitis, high blood pressure, heart disease and metabolic syndrome. It can effect absorption of iron, vitamin B12 and other nutrients.
In saying this its important to note, that many people can also have the H. pylori infection and experience no direct symptoms or issues 🙂
Symptoms when they do occur can include:
- none at all
- Heart burn or reflux
- stomach pain
- persistent burping
- unexplained weight loss and inflammation
Testing For H. pylori
If you have any of the above symptoms you can ask your GP to refer you for a urea breath test this is a non invasive test. If you have none of the typical symptoms another reason you may consider testing is if you have inflammation without any known origin (this can be identified in standard pathology testing) or if you have suspiciously high urea blood levels.
Treating H. pylori
H Pylori can be a very difficult bacteria to eradicate, the medical treatment, known as triple antibiotic therapy (80% effective) is the usual first line of treatment, if this fails then quadruple antibiotic therapy is given. Antibiotic resistance is increasing making the search for natural treatments more and more important. Probiotics, while unable to eradicate the bacteria alone, have been shown to significantly increase the efficacy of antibiotic therapy as well as preventing side effects.
Some of the alternative treatments for H. pylori include:
- Mastic gum at 1mg per day for two weeks can cure peptic ulcers very quickly. Mastic gum has anti-H. pylori properties.
- Manuka honey possesses properties against H. pylori at a concentration of 50 mL/L.
- Nigella sativa seed at least 2grams per day has been shown to be as effective as triple antibiotic therapy.
- Folk yoghurt contains yeast and lactobacilli that secrete soluble factors capable of killing H. pylori
- Various berry extracts inhibits H. pylori.
- Broccoli sprouts reduce H. pylori colonisation.
- Green tea greatly inhibits H. pylori from producing urease. Polyphenols or polyphenol-rich foods or beverages, such as green tea, can positively effect the symptoms related to H. pylori infection.
- Licorice (not the sugar, wheat laden stuff, the actual herb itself……!) possesses significant anti-H. pylori effects and can control bacterial associated gastric disease.
- Certain probiotic strains – long term use have shown to reduce the risks of H. pylori symptoms and the adverse effects of antibiotic use.
The treatments are required at specific doses and duration, along with change in diet, stress management to support eradication.