Helicobacter pylori—friend or foe?

Digestion | May 29, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Digestion

Helicobacter pylori—friend or foe?

Helicobacter pylori, otherwise known as H. pylori, is a spiral shaped bacterium that grows in the digestive tract. It tends to attack the stomach lining, where it’s responsible for the majority of ulcers in the stomach and small intestine. More than half of the world’s population is infected with H. pylori, many of which experience no symptoms. Determining whether H. pylori infection is of benefit or detrimental to human health has been a debateable area of research in gastroenterology. Some research has uncovered a beneficial role of H. pylori colonisation in the regression of childhood asthma and other allergic disorders. It can also be contributed to a lower incidence of GERD, Barrett’s oesophagus and oesophageal cancer.h.pylori

The history of H. pylori

It is believed that H. pylori has a long history of colonisation in the human stomach, creating mutual benefits for both the host and bacterium. It has been firmly established that H. pylori infection undermines our immune system and often seems to fly under its radar. It achieves this by interfering with our bodies immune response, ensuring that they remain undetected. By burying themselves in the stomach lining, they are protected by mucus –making it hard for immune cells to reach.

After millions of years, H. pylori has adapted to live in the harsh acidic environment of the stomach, reducing the acidity in the stomach— allowing them to survive and become a strategic member of our microbiome.

Without a doubt, H. pylori is a persistent bacterium, making it the most successful human pathogen.

The benefits of H. pylori

Lower incidence of GERD

h.pylori gerdGastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that affects the lower oesophageal sphincter—allowing stomach acid or bile to irritate the oesophagus.

Having GERD means that you have an increased risk of Barrett’s oesophagus and cancer of the oesophagus.

Several studies have uncovered that the incidence of GERD in developed countries has increased due to the effective eradication of H. pylori infection. This means that if you have been treated for H. pylori, the symptoms of GERD could increase.

Interestingly, countries who have high rates of H. pylori have lower levels of GERD, Barrett’s oesophagus and cancer of the oesophagus. H. pylori therefore seems to have a protective affect against these diseases.

Protection against allergies

Studies conducted in the recent past have indicated there is a correlation between the decreasing incidence of H. pylori in the developed world and an increase in childhood allergies and autoimmune diseases. This link was formed when data was analysed from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted during 1988-1994 in the U.S.A. A decreased risk of asthma or allergy was also found if the person had H. pylori infection. This finding was also supported in the National Centre for Health Statistics 2005 study which additionally included children and teenagers. Researchers have then concluded that acquiring H. pylori during early childhood seems to have a protective effect on developing allergies later in life.

When H. pylori becomes a problem

Even though there are benefits of having H. pylori present in the stomach and small intestine there are still virulent strains of the bacteria which can lead to adverse side effects in the minority of people.

Some of the signs and symptoms of this occurring include:

  • Excessive belching
  • Bloating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Poor appetite or anorexia
  • Bad breath
  • Unexplained weight loss

If infection of H. pylori has led to the development of an ulcer, a gnawing pain is usually experienced when the stomach is empty a few hours after a meal or at night.

Eating or taking an antacid, usually relieves this pain. If you are experiencing this type of pain, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor.

Natural ways to eradicate H. pylori and get relief

Turmeric

In vitro studies have shown Turmeric to have strong antibacterial properties against H. pylori. A more recent study, found curcumin, the active constituent in turmeric to have a very strong anti-bacterial action in animal studies. Not only does it help to eradicate infection, turmeric also helps to heal the damage to mucosal surfaces, particularly if there is ulceration.
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h.pylori garlicGarlic

Garlic contains a wide range of compounds, mainly allicin which give it a strong antibacterial action against H. pylori.

Raw or aged garlic have both been shown to be beneficial. Raw garlic can easily be added to the diet but it’s not for everyone. Aged garlic, in capsule form is an alternative option, especially as it is odourless.
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Cranberry

Cranberry is usually a supplement associated with use in preventing and treating urinary tract infections. However, it also has antibacterial activity against H. pylori and stops this bacteria from implanting itself in the lining of the stomach. Cranberry is a rich source of vitamin C which provides further protection from bacteria and helps to heal ulcers.
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Mastic tree

h.pylori mastic gumMastic tree is a plant found in the southern part of the Greek island of Chios and other Mediterranean countries. It has been found to have antibacterial properties against H. pylori but also has immense healing properties— particularly for ulcers in the digestive tract.
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Other herbs which can be used include chamomile, liquorice, aloe vera, slippery elm and even fresh cabbage juice.


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Probiotics

Having healthy concentrations of good bacteria in the gut is imperative to good health. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is a strain of beneficial bacteria that helps to increase healing from the damage caused by H. pylori. One study found that when probiotics and lactoferrin where taken in combination with antibiotics usually prescribed to eradicate H. pylori, the subjects experienced fewer side effects and had a higher eradication rate.
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H. pylori—friend or foe? You be the judge. If this bacterium is causing you no symptoms, then picture the rest of your life living in perfect harmony with this beneficial bacteria. If, however, it is causing you grief look to natural therapies to help get you relief.

References

http://www.healthline.com/health/helicobacter-pylori#overview1

Talebi Bezmin Abadi A. Helicobacter pylori: a beneficial gastric pathogen? Front Med (Lausanne). 2014 Aug 25;1(26)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4291894/

Sitaraman R. Allergies, helicobacter pylori and the continental enigmas. Front Microbiol. 2015 Jun 9;6:578

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26106380

Shmuely H, et al. Non-pharmacological treatment of Helicobacter pylori. World J Gastrointest Pharmacol Ther. 2016 May 6;7(2):171-8

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27158532

Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

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