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Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori ) is a common type of harmful bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers and chronic gastritis. It’s been implicated in many other serious illnesses. About 60 percent of people worldwide have it in their bodies, and for most, it doesn’t cause problems. For millions of others, painful stomach ulcers are the result of infection with H. pylori.
pylori wasn’t discovered until 1982. Its discovery answered an old and contentious question in medicine: what is the definitive cause of ulcers? Many causes had been proposed, from stress and alcohol to spicy foods. As it turns out, H. pylori infection is the cause of about 90 percent of all cases of stomach ulcers.
It’s fairly easy to become infected with H. pylori. It lives in food and water and can survive on surfaces, like those of utensils. It can also be passed from person to person by body fluids. H. pylori enters your body and makes its way to your digestive tract, where it penetrates the mucosa of the stomach and attacks the tender lining. Once the protective stomach lining is damaged, stomach acid creates painful sores on the tissues of the stomach wall. Ulcers can be very painful and may bleed. Bleeding ulcers can be life-threatening.
pylori does all of the following:
- Damages the mucosa of the stomach lining, allowing stomach acid to burn the wall of the stomach, causing ulcers.
- Stops production of intrinsic factor, a critical protein that’s essential for the body to absorb vitamin B12. B12 is required for the production of red blood cells. This cascading series of damage leads to pernicious anemia. As you might guess, bleeding ulcers couple with anemia is a recipe for disaster. Even without bleeding ulcers, the inability to absorb B12 harms the health of the nervous system. A lack of B12 has been implicated in depression.
- Lowers the stomach’s acidity to create a less harmful environment for it to thrive in. This makes digesting food and absorbing nutrients more difficult, but at the same time, the decrease in acidity isn’t enough to prevent ulcers in the stomach wall.
- pylori excretes urease, an enzyme that dissolves the stomach’s urea.
Signs and Symptoms of H. pylori Ulcers
pylori ulcers cause a dull pain, sometimes aching in the stomach. The pain may be intermittent but tends to become pronounced with your stomach is empty. Eating may make the symptoms go away for a bit.
- Dull or burning pain in the stomach
- Lack of appetite
- Feeling bloated
- Unintentional weight loss
- Low red blood cell count
Bleeding ulcers are a health emergency. Get help immediately if you have these symptoms:
- Sharp or stabbing stomach pain
- Vomiting blood or material that looks like dark coffee grounds
- Dark red, black or bloody stools
- Fainting, dizziness or persistent fatigue for no reason
- Pallor (your skin becomes more pale than usual)
Diagnosing H. pylori
If you have symptoms of an ulcer, your doctor will test you for H. pylori. NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) medications medicines for inflammation and pain can aggravate ulcers, so avoid them and ask your physician for other types of pain and anti-inflammatory medicines. Although H. pylori is the most common cause of ulcers, sometimes medicines like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can irritate and damage the lining of the stomach.
Tests for H. pylori include:
- A urea test. The urea breath test for pylori requires you to drink a liquid containing urea. Next, your doctor will ask you to exhale into a bag. H. pylori bacteria readily consume urea and produce lots of carbon dioxide as a result. The bag will be analyzed and if your exhaled breath contains more carbon dioxide than it should, a diagnosis of H. pylori can be made.
- Blood tests. Blood tests and stool samples can also help narrow down an pylori infection.
- Endoscopy. Gastrointestinal endoscopy is also a tool doctors use to diagnose pylori ulcers. An endoscopy involves a doctor looking into your stomach with a tiny camera mounted on the tip of a flexible cable. The process isn’t painful, but you may receive a sedative during the endoscopy.
- Upper GI tests. In a hospital or clinic, you’ll be given a liquid containing barium to drink. Barium makes ulcerated tissues stand out on an X-ray, which you’ll also receive.
- Biopsy. If you test positive for pylori, your doctor may take a tissue sample of your stomach to rule out stomach cancer.
Treatment for H. pylori
The good news in all of this is that H. pylori is treatable and curable. Treatment of H. pylori and the ulcers from H. pylori is a three-part process. A complete course of treatment can last up to 2 weeks.
- pylori germs must be killed. H. pylori natural remedies can help standard antibiotics to eliminate H. pylori, as well as protect the stomach during treatment.
- Your stomach lining must be restored to health. Changing eating habits and adding supplements to your diet helps regenerate stomach lining.
- Treatment to prevent the germs from re-infecting you will take place.
These prescription antibiotics treat H. pylori by killing the bacteria:
Typically, people take 2 of these antibiotics.
Doctors also give acid-reducing medications like esomeprazole, lansoprazole, pantoprazole, or omeprazole. Once stomach ulcers damage the wall of the stomach, it’s important to lower the level of acidity the stomach is exposed to, while the antibiotics mentioned above kill off the H. pylori bacteria. There are natural H. pylori remedies that can help repair the lining of the stomach and reduce inflammation noted at the end of this article.
Healing After H. pylori
Most ulcers caused by H. pylori will heal after a few weeks of treatment. If you’ve had one, you should avoid taking NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin) for pain during your healing process, since these drugs can damage your stomach lining. If you need pain medicine, ask your doctor to recommend some.
Prevention of H. pylori
Washing your hands several times a day, as well as always washing after using the bathroom and before preparing food, is the best way to avoid re-infection with H. pylori. While you’re recovering from H. pylori, consider refraining from eating spicy foods and excess alcohol. Stress, spicy foods, smoking or alcohol don’t cause ulcers, but they do make it harder to heal from H. pylori and they will make discomfort or pain worse.
The 6 Best Natural H. pylori Remedies
pylori responds well to several natural remedies that either kill the germ directly or interfere with its functioning. Natural remedies for H. pylori infection work by killing the bacteria, preventing the bacteria from sticking the wall of the stomach’s mucus lining, or work by healing ulcers caused by the infection.
We’ve picked 6 of the best natural remedies for H. pylori that either kill the bacteria outright or help heal the ulcers it causes.
Aloe Vera. Aloe vera comes from a succulent shrub known for its healing properties. It’s been used as a remedy for many purposes, such as the treatment for constipation, wound-healing and good digestive health. Scientific studies have shown that aloe vera can prevent H. pylori from attaching to the lining of the stomach. Aloe vera leaves contain a dense gel that yields a juice able to prevent growth of H. pylori as well as killing most strains of H. pylori.
Find aloe vera here. Follow the consumption and dosage instructions on the package.
Licorice root. Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is effective for healing stomach ulcers caused by H. pylori. Licorice root extract promotes healing of ulcerated tissue while at the same time binds to H. pylori, preventing it from attaching to the walls of the stomach. A compound in licorice root, glycyrrhizin, can cause undesirable side effects, but can be removed from medicinal licorice. Licorice root treated in this way is sold as deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) and is helpful in treating stomach ulcers.
Dosage: Take up to 1200 mg a day, divided into one or more doses, or as instructed by your physician. Get your licorice root here.
Green tea. Green tea is rich in organic compounds that are good for many health concerns. It’s also a good treatment for H. pylori and the stomach ulcers it causes. Green tea is filled with chemicals called catechins that have anti-biotic like properties. Catechins kill H. pylori, while other compounds from green tea soothe irritated stomach tissue.
You can find green tea here. Follow the dosing directions on the box.
Probiotics. Probiotics are bacteria that live in the digestive tract that help our good health. They do this by helping our digestion, absorption of nutrients and even boost the immune system. Having the right bacteria in our digestive tracts can help keep H. pylori under control. Probiotics are also essential for helping helpful gut bacteria flourish when antibiotics are given to eliminate H. pylori. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most effective probiotics for treating ulcers due to H. pylori.
You can get probiotics from many foods, including yogurts and some cheeses. There are also excellent supplemental forms of probiotics that can help you keep your stomach bacteria.
Find probiotics here. Follow the dosing directions on the package carefully.
Turmeric. Turmeric is a medicinal herb from South Asian spice used in many dishes. It’s also used to treat many illnesses in traditional herbal medicine and shows effectiveness in treating H. pylori. The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, attacks and kills H. pylori. It also reduces inflammation in the irritated tissues affected by H. pylori. Curcumin helps increase the thickness of the stomach mucosa, which both protects the stomach again H. pylori and helps in healing the stomach after the infection is gone. Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and is proven to reduce irritation and inflammation in damaged tissues
Dosage: one to three 500 mg capsules every day, with or without food, or as directed by a medical professional. Get curcumin here.
Honey. Honey has anti-bacterial properties that kill H. pylori. Research shows that several varieties of honey, including Black Forest and Manuka honey are good for slowing or stopping the growth of H. pylori.
No dosage guidelines for honey as a remedy for H. pylori have been established, so follow the dosing instructions on the package. Note that honey should not be boiled or microwaved as the enzymes that affect H. pylori could be destroyed by doing so.