Helicobacter pylori, or H pylori, is a type of bacteria that infects the lining of the stomach and can cause a variety of digestive problems from acid reflux to stomach cancer. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, approximately two-thirds of the world's population are infected with H. pylori, with higher rates in developing countries. Here's what you need to know about H. pylori, its risk factors, symptoms, and testing for infection.
Risk Factors for H. Pylori Infection
Exactly why some people suffer from H. pylori infection and others don't, is unknown. There are however, several risk factors that increase the likelihood of getting infected. These include:
- Living in a developing country with poor sanitation
- Sharing utensils or food with someone who has H. pylori
- Having a family member with H. pylori
- Being over the age of 60
- Having a weakened immune system
- Using proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for an extended period of time
Symptoms of a Peptic Ulcer
H. pylori infection can lead to the development of peptic ulcers, which are open sores that form in the lining of the stomach or the duodenum. The most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is a dull or burning pain in your stomach that may come and go. Other symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Bloating and burping
- Dark or tarry stools
- Difficulty breathing
Testing for H. Pylori Infection
There are several tests that can be done to diagnose an H. pylori infection. Blood tests can detect the presence of antibodies to H. pylori, but they have poor accuracy as you can't tell if the infection is current. Breath tests, such as the urea breath test, can detect H. pylori by measuring the amount of carbon dioxide in your breath. The gold standard is a biopsy, in which a small tissue sample can also be taken from your stomach during an endoscopy and examined for the presence of H. pylori.
Treating H Pylori Infection and Peptic Ulcer Disease
If you are diagnosed with an H pylori infection, your doctor will likely prescribe a course of antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria. In addition, you may be given proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2 blockers to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach and promote healing of the ulcer.
However, antibiotic success rate ranges from 70-80% effective. Damage is also done to the microbiome which can case more issues further down the line. Most people would prefer a herbal alternative to kill H pylori such as PyloPurge which contains 5 unique herbs shown in studies to kill H pylori and reduce its effects.
Lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and avoiding spicy and acidic foods, can also help alleviate symptoms.
In conclusion, H pylori is a type of bacteria that can lead to the development of peptic ulcers and other digestive problems. Risk factors for infection include living in a developing country, sharing utensils or food with someone who has H. pylori, and using proton pump inhibitors for an extended period of time. Symptoms of a peptic ulcer include a dull or burning pain in your stomach, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss. If you are experiencing these symptoms, talk to your doctor about testing for H. pylori infection and appropriate treatment options.