H. pylori, Friend or Foe?
It feels as if the life is being squeezed right out of you. You have pain in your chest and ribs. It goes all the way to your back. You can't tell if it is coming from your chest, your stomach, your lungs, or your back. Finally you can't take it any longer and rush to the hospital.
There they spend quite some time, do a variety of tests and announce that you have H. pylori. They explain, as best they can, that this is a bacteria in the stomach and is causing you all this pain and discomfort. They quickly prescribe you with a hefty dose of antibiotic cocktail (which retails for $350) and inform you to see your doctor.
You go to your doctor, who listens to what you have to say, and reads over your hospital paperwork. He then shakes his head and informs you that he doesn't think H. pylori caused your issues. Something else must be going on, after all, he tells you, 60-90% of the world population have H. pylori and many who study the bacteria believe it is supposed to be there.
So, what is the story behind Helicobacter pylori?
What is H. Pylori?
H. pylori or Helicobacter pylori (more specifically) is a corkscrew shapped bacteria that "digs" its way into the mucus lining of the stomach. Because of its shape it has become amazingly adapt at living in the most hositle environment of a human body. It lives within the mucus lining without being damaged by the stomach acid that is all around it.
It is present in about 60% of the people in developed nations and about 90% of the population of less developed nations. Doctors aren't sure why or how people get H. pylori. Additionally, only about 10% of the people who have it will ever know. Knowing usually occurs when they or a close family member start having issues with it.
What are the Symptoms?
H. pylori has no symptoms, because for most people having the bacteria never bothers them. Others get stomach aches, a great deal of stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and other discomforts.
But, they believe that there are several other things linked to having H. pylori including: stomach ulcers, stomach cancer, and despepsia. Some others also believe that it is connected to immune issues, chronic fatigue syndrom, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Some doctors believe that the bacteria is a natural existing bacteria in the stomach and that people only have a problem when the bacteria population gets out of control. Others believe it is an issue all the time, and it is only a matter of time before something happens. However, the issues linked with H. pylori can be caused without having the bacteria, so it gets rather complicated.
There are three tests given to prove that a patient has H. pylori. The first is most common, but also the least distictive. They will take a blood test to determin if H. pylori antibodies (the parts of your body that resist that bacteria) are present. If they are this determines that the bacteria is or was pressent in the body.
Breath tests are a little more acurate, but still don't give the clearest picture of what is going on.
The best test is an upper endoscopy. It shows what is happening in the stomach as well as what it looks like. A culture is then taken and the bacteria grown and viewed under a microscope. This tells the doctors how prevelent the bacteria is as well as which antibiotics would best treat it.
How is it Treated?
In the United States, as well as most countries in Europe it is treated with a very large cocktail of antibiotics and acid supressors. These antibiotics are expensive, and not always effective in getting rid of the bacteria. But it is the best treatment that we have currently.
Other coutries are looking into the natural anti-biotic natures of some extracts. There is evidence that a lot of good may come from nature herself and that H. pylori could effectively be treated with herbal extracts.
Some health specialist and herbal enthusiast recommend low doses of herbal extracts throughout the year. If you suspect that you have H. pylori then getting these extracts and taking them in high dose once or twice a year as well as low dose throughout the year can prevent you from having an over population of several types of negative bacteria. If you don't have these bacteria or any others, the herbal extracts will not hurt you. Ginger extract, thyme extract, evodia extract, and curcumin have shown to be inhibitors stopping the reproduction of the bacteria. Terminalia Chebula Extract and licorice extracts have shown to have antibacterial effects on the bacteria killing them. A combination of these extracts should be used with at least one antibacterial and two inhibitors. If you are doing a strong dose it should be ten days long, and small doses can be taken regularly throughout the year.
Ginger root is just one of the herbal ways that you can use to make sure that any H. pylori in your stomach stays at a manageable levels. Many doctors believe you only have a problem if you have too much of the H. pylori! By taking herbal supplements to help manage the H. pylori every six months or so you can help prevent such problems.
It may be that there is a purpose for having H. pylori. It may be that it is good for the body and protects us. It may be that it gets out of control and causes issues. It maybe that something else causes these issues altogether, or it might just be that H. pylori is bad and that it causes us a great deal of issues.
Since it's discovery in 1897, we really haven't learned much. We do know that many patients feel better after having taken the antibiotic cocktail and getting better. Time is sure to tell.