What Is H. pylori? An infection in your stomach.
That Quiet Little Bug
Helicobater pylorium bacterium better known as H. pylori is a bacteria which invades the stomach and can potentially be the cause of some serious health problems, and in others it may not cause any health problems at all. According to the Mayo Clinic, H. Pylori is thought to be present in about half the people of the world.
H. pylori is a smart bacteria that has adapted to the acids in the stomach. Most bacteria and viruses are destroyed by the gastric juice and hydrochloric acid in our stomach, but H. pylori has found a way to survive by living in the mucus lining of the stomach where it is protected by a cloud of neutralizing chemicals that it has learned to produce. With these factors, it is a bit of a challenge getting rid of this bug. The good news, though, is that H. pylori is declining in the United States.
Symptoms Of H. pylori
At first one may not realize that they have H. pylori, the symptoms may be very subtle in the beginning. Symptoms are stomach distress, acid reflux, frequent burping, nausea, sometimes vomiting, depression, fatigue, sour stomach, bloating, a dull sick feeling in the stomach or you may be symptom free. A person with H. pylori may experience a gnawing feeling in the stomach or a feeling like they are very hungry, even after a full nutritious meal and actually having relief by eating.
What Causes H. pylori
It is now believed that H. pylori can be contracted by ingesting contaminated water or food. It is also believed that H. pylori may also be transmitted orally by kissing a person infected with it. H. pylori enters through the mouth and then passes through the digestive system. Acid reflux can also cause H. pylori because sometimes during acid reflux very small fecal matter from the intestines can back up into the stomach causing the infection.
- Living in crowded conditions
- Living with someone who has H.pylori
- Living in developing countries
- Living without an adequate hot water supply
Many people with H.pylori will develop health problems but there are those who will not develop any health problems. Complications include ulcers in the stomach, it is now believed that H.pylori is the cause for duodenal ulcers, inflammation of the stomach lining or stomach cancer.
Testing and diagnosing
Testing for H.pylori can be done in three way:
- A blood test - to test for protein antigens to H.pylori
- A breath test - in which a substance called urea is given by mouth, which is then broken down by a strong enzyme that H.pylori releases, then producing carbon dioxide which is exhaled and can be measured
- By an endoscopy - a scope used to go down your stomach with a small camera on the end so that the surgeon can view the lining of the stomach and take a biopsy for diagnosing H. pylori
Treatment for H.pylori is usually involves three medications:
- Antibiotics - to get rid of the infection
- Proton Pump Inhibitors - to suppress the acids in the stomach
- Histamine (H2 blockers) - to reduce the amount of acids released into the digestive track.
Therapy is usually for 2 weeks, then testing again is recommended to make sure the infection is gone. If results are positive again, usually therapy is repeated with different antibiotics.
- Don't eat food that has been sitting out all day
- Wash hands frequently
- Drink clean water from reputable sources
- Keep cutting boards clean
- Wash hands after covering a cough or sneeze
- Try not to touch your face, especially around your mouth or nose
- Try to work in ventilated areas, if you can't, leave a door or window opened
Although using these methods is not 100%, it will reduce your risk of developing this quiet bug.
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