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So, What Exactly is Helicobacter Pylori (H. Pylori)?

27.09.2018

Written by Sharon Aaron, Nutritionist, BSc. Adv.Dip.Nutr.Med.

Meet the author: Sharon is a qualified nutritionist and a strict believer of using ‘Food as Medicine’. She feels strongly that lifestyle changes and making simple dietary changes can have a significant effect on our health.

 

H. pylori is a bacterium that lives in the stomach lining and the chemicals it produces may cause inflammation. According to GESA (Gastroenterological Society of Australia) approximately 40% of all adults over the age of 60 have H pylori. Many people infected with the pathogen may never develop any symptoms throughout their lives. However, if symptoms do develop they may manifest as gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), duodenal and gastric ulcers and in some rare cases may even contribute to some cancers of the stomach. (1)  1998 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state that “these bacteria are responsible for up to 80 percent of gastric ulcers and 90 percent of duodenal ulcers.”(2)

How can one avoid catching it? It seems to be more rampant in places that have poor sanitation, so merely practising simple hygiene may in fact prevent the spread of the bacterium. Basic hygiene principles should be adhered to like washing hands, drinking and eating clean food and water.

How would I know if I had it?

Most people don’t, unless they have developed symptoms like gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) or ulcers. A simple breath test administered via your GP will determine if Helicobacter Pylori is present.

What is the treatment protocol?

The first line and most effective treatment traditionally is a triple drug therapy and needs to be administered under the strict guidance of your General Practitioner.

What about nutrition and natural therapies?

One of the guiding principles of nutrition and naturopathy is centred around our innate healing capacity, the healing power of nature, hence our practice focuses on supporting the body so that it can heal itself.

Supporting your immune system by practicing lifestyle medicine will enable your body to respond and fight the infection more effectively. Many of the natural remedies listed below can be used alongside the first line treatment of H pylori with the consent of your medical practitioner.

Plants, spices and nutrients have been traditionally used as therapeutic agents to treat peptic ulcer disease. Including some simple foods in your daily diet may in fact help with the process of healing the gut, supporting the first line triple drug treatment protocol and also reducing symptoms associated with an H pylori infection.

Many studies have shown the use of agents like green tea, manuka honey and garlic having antibacterial activity against H pylori. This positive effect may be due to the high antioxidant and polyphenol content which has also been shown to reduce or limit the symptoms associated with the infection. (4-7)

Two of my personal favourite foods, broccoli and turmeric, also shine when it comes to H. pylori and peptic ulcer disease.

The traditional medicinal value of BROCCOLI is due to its antiviral and antibacterial properties. Some studies suggest that broccoli has a bacteriostatic effect though when it comes to H pylori. This means that it reduces but does not get rid of the bacteria completely. In one human trial of 48 H pylori infected volunteers, participants were instructed to consume an amount of broccoli sprouts containing a specific compound that has been identified as a potent bacteriostatic agent against H pylori. As soon as the treatment terminated though; levels of the bacteria went back to the original amount prior to treatment commencement. Confirming that in fact this treatment does not kill but rather stops the bacteria from reproducing more. (4)

Not only has TURMERIC (curcumin) been shown to have antibacterial activity specifically against H pylori, it also seems to play a part in the healing time of gastric ulcers. In a clinical trial of 25 patients suffering from gastric ulcers, 76% of patients were ulcer free after taking a therapeutic dose of curcumin for 12weeks. (9,10)

What about probiotics?

It seems adding probiotics to the traditional treatment program may in fact be beneficial and may also be helpful in reducing the adverse effects associated with the use of potent antibiotics in the triple therapy protocol. (8)

A recent randomized controlled trial involving 206 patients infected with H pylori, investigated whether adding a probiotic to the triple drug therapy would improve the eradication rate of H pylori. They found that indeed the patients assigned to the group with the added probiotic had an eradication rate of 88.5% which was 16.5% higher than treatment protocol with drugs alone.  (9,11)

Practicing lifestyle medicine helps build and support your immune system.

Don’t forget your basic principles include:

  • Eating simple, whole organic unprocessed, clean foods, rich in antioxidants.
  • Foods that protect the gastric lining like cruciferous vegetables that contain sulphur providing antioxidant protection of the gastric lining.
  • Avoiding foods that promote reflux or irritate the gut lining:

citrus fruits, chocolate, caffeinated drinks, alcohol, fried foods, fatty foods, spicy foods, garlic and onion (raw), tomato based foods and fizzy drinks, chillies.

  • Drinking clean filtered water.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Regular exercise.
  • Practicing de-stressing techniques like yoga and meditation.

All these practices, may in fact, be beneficial in not only supporting and improving healing times but also general long term health outcomes.

 

References:

  1. DHF – Digestive Health foundation, August 2010, third edition, information about HELICOBACTOR PYLORI (H. PYLORI), GESA gastroenterological Society of Australia.
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/digestive-health/h-pylori-natural-treatment#natural-treatments
  3. metagenics.com.au
  4. Ayala G et al, 2014, “Exploring alternative treatments for Helicobacter pylori infection”, World Journal of Gastroenterology,20(6):1450-1469
  5. Steinmetz KA, Potter JD, “Vegetables, fruit and cancer prevention: a review“. J AM Diet Assoc. 1996, (10):1027-39 142
  6. Stoicov C, Saffari R &Houghton JM, 2009,”Green tea inhibits Helicobacter growth in vivo and in vitro” Int J Antimicrob Agents, 33(5): 473-478 160
  7. Somal N Al et al, 1994, Susceptibility of Helicobacter pylori to the antibacterial activity of Manuka honey, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (87): 9-12
  8. Patel A et al, 2013, Clinical application of probiotics in the treatment of Helicobacter pylori infection- A brief review, Journal of Microbiology, immunology and infection 47: 429-437. (188)
  9. Hechtman L,2012, Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, Elsevier Australia
  10. Prucksunand C,Indrasukhsri B, Leethochawalit M, et al. Phase II clinical trial on effect of the long turmeric (curcuma longa linn) on healing of peptic ulcer. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health 2001;32:208-15.
  11. DE Bortoli, Leonardi G, Ciancia E, et al, Helicobacter Pylori eradication: a randomized prospective of triple therapy versus triple therapy plus lactoferrin and probiotics, Am J Gastroenterology, 2007; 102: 951-6