The discovery of Helicobacer pylori (H-pylori) is one of the most significant medical findings of the 20th century. It was first described over 100 years ago by a Polish Clinical Researcher Prof W. Jawroski, but it was not detected until 1982, when Robin Warren and Barry Marshall discovered it.
Helicobacter pylori causes chronic inflammation in the stomach and is often a cause of ulcers. Over 30% percent of the global population, in some countries over 50%, is estimated to be carrying the bacteria, and around 5,000,000 cases of gastric cancer and duodenal ulcer are caused by this bacteria each year.
Symptoms and Treatment
H-pylori causes symptoms such as belching, bloating, nausea, vomiting and abdominal discomfort. A more serious infection can cause abdominal pain, vomiting that might include vomiting blood, fatigue, low red blood cell count, decreased appetite, diarrhea, heartburn, bad breath and passing dark stool. In some cases a patient infected with this bacteria will experience no symptoms.
The most common treatment for H-pylori is a mix of organism-specific antibiotics, an acid suppressor and a stomach protector. Triple Therapy, containing both antibiotics amoxicillin and clarithromycin to eliminate the bacteria, and an acid suppressor to intensify their action is a proven and successful treatment. This therapy, which is seven days long, decreases ulcer symptoms, kills H-pylori and prevents a return of ulcer in about 70% of patients.
However, its efficiency has been reduced, as some strains have become resistant to the antibiotics, so as much as 35% of patients fail this therapy. As an alternative, a custom combination of antibiotics is planned for each patient. Such patients undergo a gastroscopy, their tissue samples are gathered and sent for culture. This method is effective in around 90% of cases.
Antibiotics Resistant Strains
The reason why some strains of H-pylori have become resistant to antibiotics is a mutation on the bacterial chromosome, which is a result of a significant phenotype difference in H-pylori. The resistance rates vary from country to country, and they seem to be somewhat determined by geographical factors.
So, for instance, there are big differences between Northern and Southern Europe. While the resistance rates in Norther Europe are around 20%, in the Southern Europe, they are as much as 35%. In China, the resistance to clarithromycin jumped from 12.8% to 23.8% and resistance to metronidazole went from 12.8 to a whopping 56.6%.
Foods that Can Be Helpful
In addition to medications, some foods can help when dealing with H-pylori. Fruits such as raspberries, prunes, pears, cranberries and apples are packed with antioxidants, which make the body more resistant and cure infections, and also fibers which relieve ulcer pain. Vegetables like artichokes, peas, broccoli, spinach and sweet potatoes are also full of fiber and antioxidants and can help ease symptoms of gastritis. Garlic, celery and onions are rich with flavonoids, which are chemicals that can help decrease the growth of H-pylori.
Whole grains are another source of antioxidants and fibers, they are also much more nutritious than refined grains. The choices range from oats, barley, brown rice and wild rice to air-popped popcorn, and 100 percent whole-grain breads, pastas and cold cereals. High-fat meats and cheeses are not a good option if you have gastritis, they increase gastritis pain and inflammation. A much better choice are lean protein-rich foods such as low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, beans and lentils.
Alternative Remedies and Probiotic Supplementation
There are also some alternative remedies which are known to be quite helpful when dealing with H-pylori and symptoms caused by it. For example:
- Orange peel extract (d-limonene) can greatly help people that suffer from gastroesophagael reflux disease (GERD). It makes the movement of food through the stomach more effective and efficient and also works as a surfactant (reduces the surface tension of the liquids in the stomach).
- Licorice is another alternative when dealing with H-pylori, it is anti-inflammatory and stimulates the production of the mucus in the stomach. Deglycrrhizinated licorice (DGL) can decrease damage caused by aspirin use and heals duodenal ulcers, as well as stimulate the regeneration of the mucus layer and blocks the growth of H-pylori.
- Mastic gum, it inhibits the growth of H-pylori and behaves as an antibiotic. It is important to mention that these alternatives are used both in prevention and treatment of H-pylori.
Besides foods and alternative remedies which can be helpful, probiotic supplementation is also important in the treatment and prevention of H-pylori. Two studies proved that the addition of probiotics to standard triple therapy boosts its efficiency. The improvements in cure rates range from 13% to 21%, which does not sound like a lot, but it definitely is a significant increase.
Considering that at least 50% of the population are infected with this bacteria, and that currently there is no vaccine available, prevention is definitely not easy. The bacteria might not even cause symptoms, but besides a healthy diet with plentiful probiotic consumption, recommendations to prevent ulcers such as reducing intake of alcohol, stop smoking, reduce or avoid stress, avoid caffeine etc. are all keys to a healthy gut.
Guest post by: Claire Adams is a new age hedonist – enjoys life to the fullest in the healthiest way possible. You can find her online writing and giving tips about nutrition and healthy lifestyle. Loves cooking and is good at it. She enjoys music, dancing and traveling. Her day begins with: “Live, love & laugh.”