H. Pylori Infection

February 2, 2017

Helicobacter pylori (H. Pylori) is a spiral-shaped bacterium that grows in the mucus layer that coats the inside of the human stomach. About 40% of people in the US have H. pylori in their stomach so it is very common. In nearly nine out of 10 people who have H. pylori, it does not cause any problems.

It can damage the tissue in the stomach and the first part of the small intestine (the duodenum). This can cause redness and soreness (inflammation). In some cases it can also cause painful sores called peptic ulcers in the upper digestive tract.

  1. pylori attacks the lining that protects the stomach. The bacterium makes an enzyme called urease. This enzyme makes the stomach acids less acidic (neutralizes them). This weakens the stomach’s lining. The stomach cells then have greater risk of being hurt by acid and pepsin, strong digestive fluids. That can lead to sores or ulcers in the stomach or duodenum.

The H. pylori bacteria can also stick to stomach cells. The stomach can’t protect itself very well. The area gets red and swollen (inflamed). It can also get the stomach to make more acid. Health experts don’t fully understand how.

The spiral shape of the bacteria and the way they move allow them to penetrate the stomach’s protective mucous lining, weakening it and making the stomach more vulnerable to gastric acids. It can also stimulate excess stomach acid, inflaming the stomach and causing gastritis. Infection with the bacteria is associated with a very slightly increased risk of stomach cancer over time. However, the risk of getting stomach cancer is small and no-one knows if treating H. pylori actually reduces that risk.

People who do have H. pylori almost always catch it in childhood, probably from other children or family members. Once someone picks up H. pylori, it stays in the stomach throughout life unless it is treated with particular antibiotics. H. pylori is actually becoming less common and nowadays it is unusual for children to catch it, even if someone else in the family has it. People living in the US today who have H. pylori are unlikely to pass it on and do not need to take any special measures to avoid giving it to others.


Health experts don’t know for sure how H. pylori infection is spread. They believe the germs can be passed from person to person by mouth, such as by kissing.


It may also be passed by having contact with vomit or stool. This may happen if a person –

  • Eat food that was not cleaned or cooked in a safe way
  • Drink water that is infected with the bacteria

Risk Factors

  1. pylori is often contracted in childhood. Risk factors for H. pylori infection are related to living conditions in the childhood, such as –
  • Living in crowded conditions – A person is at a greater risk of H. pylori infection if he or she lives in a home with many other people.
  • Living without a reliable supply of clean water – Having a reliable supply of clean, running water helps reduce the risk of H. pylori.
  • Living in a developing country – People living in developing countries, where crowded and unsanitary living conditions may be more common, have a higher risk of H. pylori infection.
  • Living with someone who has an H. pylori infection – If someone they live with has H. pylori, he or she is more likely to also have H. pylori.


Most people with H. pylori don’t have any symptoms. Having H. pylori infection doesn’t necessarily mean that the patient has ulcers or develop stomach cancer. It’s not clear why some infected people develop ulcers and others don’t.

When H. pylori does cause symptoms, they are usually symptoms of gastritis or of peptic ulcer disease. The most common symptom of peptic ulcer disease is gnawing or burning abdominal pain, usually in the area just beneath the ribs. This pain typically gets worse when the stomach is empty and gets better when a person eats, drinks milk or takes an antacid.

Other symptoms may include –

  • Heartburn
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Burping
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting (vomit may be bloody or look like coffee grounds)
  • Black, tarry stools

If a person is having black stool or vomiting blood, he or she should seek urgent medical advice or attend A&E.


Complications associated with H. pylori infection include –

  • Ulcers – H. pylori can damage the protective lining of the stomach and small intestine. This can allow stomach acid to create an open sore (ulcer). About 10 percent of people with H. pylori will develop an ulcer.
  • Inflammation of the stomach lining – H. pylori infection can irritate the stomach, causing inflammation (gastritis).
  • Stomach cancer – H. pylori infection is a strong risk factor for certain types of stomach cancer


Medications –

  • H2-blockers – These are used to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach by blocking the hormone histamine. Histamine helps to make acid.
  • Proton pump inhibitors – These help to keep the stomach from making acid. They do this by stopping the stomach’s acid pump from working.
  • Stomach-lining protectors – These medicines protect the stomach lining from acid and help kill bacteria.

The appropriate treatment for the patients will depend on a number of factors, including –

  • Their age, health and medical history
  • The severity of infection or stomach damage
  • Their ability to tolerate certain medicine or treatments
  • Their treatment preference

Alternative Treatment

Licorice is a traditional ulcer treatment in Indian, Chinese, and Kampo medicine. Although more evidence is needed, the existing tests on animals and humans are promising. This seems to work by preventing the bacteria from attaching to the stomach, so it works best in the early stages of infection.

Probiotics are sources of the types of “good” bacteria and yeast normally found in the body’s microbiome. This includes species of lactobacillus, acidophilus, bifidobacteria, and the yeast saccharomyces boulardii.

Mastic Gum – This is a resin that is sourced from pistachio tree and it is used as a food ingredient in the Mediterranean region. Studies suggest that mastic is active against Helicobacter pylori, which could explain its therapeutic effect in patients with peptic ulcers.

Berberine is a plant alkaloid isolated from the roots and bark of several plants including golden seal, barberry, coptis chinensis and Yerba mansa. Berberine-containing plants have been used medicinally in ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, and are known to have antimicrobial activity against a variety of organisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoans, helminths, and chlamydia. Currently, the predominant clinical uses of berberine include bacterial diarrhea, intestinal parasite infections, and ocular trachoma infections.

Edible Herbs – Here is a list of edible herbs that are thought to help control H. Pylori bacteria in the body. They can conveniently be added to flavor any foods you may be preparing.

  • Thyme
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Oregano
  • Fenugreek
  • Curry leaves
  • Cinnamon
  • Garlic

Scutelleria baicalensis/ Baikal skullcap can work as an antibiotic. Note that Baikal skullcap can slow blood clotting, so if the patients are taking aspirin, a blood thinner, or have a clotting disorder, or are having surgery, talk to a your doctor before taking this supplement. Baikal skullcap can also affect blood sugar levels and lower blood pressure.

Korean red ginseng has shown anti- H. pylori activity in lab animals. Please be aware that red ginseng is different than American ginseng and has a wide variety of uses. While many regard ginseng as effective in increasing mental performance and sexual function, it also lower blood sugar, increase heart rate and can either raise or lower blood pressure.



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