H. pylori, short for Helicobacter pylori, is a bacterial infection found in the lining of your stomach and small intestine. It dates back two-hundred thousand years but was only discovered in 1982 by Australian scientists Barry Marshall and Robin Warren. Marshall and Warren proved that H. pylori causes stomach ulcers, a condition thought to be linked to stress and spicy foods.
Pathology and Risk Factors
Although the exact cause of H. pylori remains unclear, its predominant in environments with poor sanitation, low social class, and crowded or high-density living conditions. It is most common in developing nations for these reasons.
It is contagious through direct contact with saliva, vomit or fecal matter. It can also be spread through contaminated food or water.
Signs and Symptoms
Since 80% of individuals with the infection experience no symptoms, H. pylori isn’t recognized as a major disease. But, if you’re the unlucky 20%, gastritis, abdominal pain and nausea can strike at any time. If the condition becomes chronic, add bloating, acid reflux, bad breath, weight loss and black stools to the mix.
Individuals infected with H. pylori also have a 10 to 20% risk of developing stomach ulcers and a 1 to 2% risk of stomach cancer.
Conventional Diagnosis and Treatment
Doctors use breath, stool or blood tests when looking for H. pylori. Yet, due to the microscopic nature of the bacteria, these tests are not always effective and misdiagnosis is common.
Treatment also falls short. Antibiotics are the preferred approach, but the infection is showing signs of resistance. Worse still, antibiotics also kill off the good bacteria required for a healthy gut.
A better way
According to functional medicine practitioner and nutritionist Evan Brand, the most effective way to diagnose H. pylori is through a PCR DNA test. PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction, and the PCR DNA technique amplifies results within a stool or saliva sample, such that accurate analysis can be performed.
For more information on PCR tests, check with the CDC, American Academy of Family Physicians, or the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC).
There are many alternative ways to treat a H. pylori infection, including the use of probiotics, but it’s crucial to first restore hydrochloric acid in the stomach – this is the foundation for all digestion. H. pylori kills the cells which make hydrochloric acid, leaving you with a highly alkaline gut and the nasty symptoms described above.
To restore acidity, Brand recommends supplementing with hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes. If supplements aren’t your thing, try gentian or chamomile herbs, ginger, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Each of these can easily stimulate your body’s hydrochloric acid levels.
If you have symptoms of H. pylori, speak to your doctor or a functional medicine practitioner as soon as possible. Get tested and move forward with an appropriate treatment plan.
As always, pushing for health.
DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A DOCTOR, AND THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE.
Header photo: www.pylori.org