Halitosis, commonly known as “bad breath” or “malodorous breath”, has been linked to h. pylori infections in medical studies though it is a rare condition associated with this type of infection.
Peptic ulcers and other gastric conditions associated with h. pylori bacteria in the stomach have also been known to cause bad breath. This is good news for people who have chronic bad breath because h. pylori can be treated and cured with antibiotics and other medications.
Chronic bad breath is not very common in the general population and is estimated to affect only 25% of the population. H. pylori bacteria is very common and present in up to a half of the world’s population so the connection isn’t obvious based on just the “statistics”.
In fact, up to 90% of people have bad breath because of oral issues and the odors originate in the mouth. This can be because of certain foods, obesity, smoking, and alcohol. Bad breath gets worse when there is a lack of oxygen.
Morning breath, as it is known, is a prime example of this type of bad breath. After being closed all night, the over 600 types of bacteria living in the mouth can become putrid.
H. Pylori Doesn’t Always Cause Bad Breath
Recent studies have proven that h. pylori bacteria can live in the mouth for a short period of time, as well. However, the mere presence of this bacterium in the mouth does not directly cause bad breath. Most cases of bad breath related to these bacteria originate from the digestive system and not the mouth.
Although many people have h. pylori bacteria in their stomachs, most cases aren’t severe enough to cause bad breath. This is aligned with the statistic that only 10% of people with h. pylori develop stomach ulcers.
Only a small number of people with chronic bad breath and a small number of people with h. pylori seek treatment. Therefore, many people with h. pylori induced halitosis rarely know the cause of their bad breath. It is only when H pylori symptoms in the stomach – like burning ulcers – become severe enough for treatment that the h. pylori is eradicated, along with the chronic bad breath.
Bacteria in our exhaled breath can create compounds which smell putrid or rotten. Under certain conditions, these compounds are very concentrated and can lend to long standing bad breath. Antibiotics that are used to treat h. pylori infections may cause bad breath and may resolve bad breath, though that may seem confusing.
Antibiotic Treatments for H. Pylori and Bad Breath
H. pylori infections and h. pylori treatments have been found to cause bad breath. However, once the treatment is complete, many find that the bad breath goes away following successful eradication of the bacteria even if they had bad breath before starting antibiotics.
In cases where a person has had bad breath for their entire life, h. pylori bacteria eradication has been known to solve the problem even though no treatment for the halitosis has ever helped.
Since bad breath is not something that can’t be accurately measure for the purpose of research, medical experts commonly use objective testing. Doctors can measure the levels of compounds that are known to have a foul odor in the exhaled breaths of patients. Contemporary technology provides doctors with ways to test for hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan, and dimethyl sulphide.
Gastrointestinal conditions are well known to cause bad breath, so h pylori infections are no exception. Treatment that includes a regimen of antibiotics, PPIs, and H2 blockers can alleviate bad breath if h. pylori infection is the cause.
H. pylori, or helicobacter pylori, is a bacteria living in fifty-percent of the world’s human population that can cause a variety of short and long term effects on a person. In the short term, there are very few symptoms of an h. pylori infection. Over a long-term infection, only 10 to 20% of people will develop a significant condition due to h. pylori effects.
In the United States, h. pylori bacteria affect 20 to 30% of the population; a number that could be tied to growing number of people who experience digestive ailments which have symptoms like common H pylori symptoms.
The highest incidents of h. pylori effects are found in developing countries and in the elderly, though most people with the bacteria contracted it as children. This statistic helps to support the unconfirmed theories about how h. pylori are transmitted from person to person.
Experts believe that we can exchange the bacteria through saliva and fecal contamination – a problem in developing countries. However it enters the body, once it is there it will stay for decades unless treated. Elderly people who develop diseases as a result of h. pylori effects likely have carried the bacteria for most of their lives.
H. pylori effects may increase the risk of asthma and allergies, though these claims cannot be confirmed because studies so far have shown mixed results. The most common effects of the bacteria are chronic gastritis which leads to peptic ulcers, however.
H. Pylori Effects that Show Symptoms in Humans
Though h. pylori effects are often unnoticed in many people, the most common symptoms of the bacteria are related to the digestive system and the effects of the bacteria on the lining of the stomach. The most common of these symptoms are:
Upper abdominal pain
Bleeding, either shown in stool or in vomit
Loss of appetite
The abdominal pain associated with h. pylori effects is often felt as a burning sensation below the ribs and may be thought to be connected to bloating and burping after eating a meal. This may be another reason that so few people are treated for the bacteria infection – they believe it to be a common case of indigestion or heartburn.
H. Pylori Effects on Ulcers
Inflammation is an unseen effect of h. pylori that can cause bleeding and ulcers. When the bacteria has colonized enough (there is a lot of the bacteria in the body), it can cause long-term chronic gastritis – a condition in which the lining of the stomach becomes and remains swollen.
While the lining of the stomach is swollen, the body’s normal function of secreting gastric acids can be either stimulated or prevented. When the swelling stimulated the secretion, it causes more stomach acids to be produced.
The acids can erode the lining of the stomach and this causes ulcers. Once an ulcer has formed, the continued overproduction of the acids causes further symptoms that are painful, like rubbing alcohol on an open wound.
When H. Pylori Effects Need Medical Attention
There is much controversy over whether h. pylori is a normal part of the digestive system that can sometimes get out of hand or is a bacteria that is foreign and should be eradicated (removed) as soon as possible to prevent problem. Regardless of the answer to this question, h. pylori effects aren’t life threatening unless they are causing other conditions to develop.
In general, the best way to know if h. pylori infection is something for which we should seek medical assistance is to pay attention to our body. If you are in pain and experiencing abdominal cramps, it is always the best idea to seek a doctor’s opinion. Abdominal pain can be caused by a number of conditions which, if left untreated, can be very threatening to general health.
Additionally, blood is a sign that something is seriously wrong. You would seek a doctor for bleeding on the outside if it were severe enough and you should certainly seek medical attention for an unknown source of blood.
Vomiting blood and passing blood in stool is a sign of bleeding in the digestive system. It can be caused by benign h. pylori effects like peptic ulcers or a malignant cancer tumor somewhere in the digestive system. In either case, the condition requires diagnosis and treatment to prevent a potentially life threatening illness.
Peptic ulcers as an effect of h. pylori infection can also cause gastric perforations, a serious problem in which the lining of the digestive system has developed holes through and through. This can contaminate the body with all sorts of toxins and leads to death. The symptoms of this condition are bleeding, pain, and nausea and should be considered a medical emergency.
Of all bacteria that can live in the human body, H pylori are one of the most resilient and tough to treat. There is presently no evidence of any natural treatment that effectively cures H pylori.
There are plenty of prescription regimens that can be utilized to eradicate the infection, but natural treatments that are sold by homeopathic organization seem to do very little to fend off the germs.
Many make claims about natural treatment products that work, but there is no clinical evidence that this is true. Therefore, one should not rely on home remedies to cure the infection especially if you have a family history or stomach cancers or severe peptic ulcers caused by this type of bacteria.
However, H pylori can cause other h pylori symptoms such as those related to peptic ulcers and there are a slew of natural treatments to help with the symptoms of acid production problems that aggravate ulcers.
Natural Treatments for H Pylori-Related Symptoms
Although no natural treatment has been proven to cure H pylori, there are many natural remedies that treat the symptoms one might associate with an H pylori infection. Some people choose to avoid professional treatment for a number of reasons, such as pregnancy, a holistic lifestyle, or belief that H pylori is a natural bacteria that should be in the body.
Of you decide to take on a prescription treatment regimen, be aware that some natural treatments may interact or interfere with stomach acid blockers and antibiotics. However, any time you can reduce the amount of acid in the stomach, you reduce the amount of hospitable space for H pylori germs.
None of these should be used while undergoing a prescription treatment regimen unless a doctor authorizes you to do so. The natural treatments below are not intended to cure H pylori infection, but rather ease the pain of ulcer related symptoms.
Eating Small Meals, Frequently – This is all about making sure that the acid in your stomach has something else to do besides irritate your ulcers. Don’t let the stomach remain empty for too long unless eating and digestion causes you pain.
Avoid Acid Producing Foods – Citrus fruits, fatty foods, and foods that are heavily seasoned will cause your stomach to produce even more acid that will aggravate ulcers. Try to avoid these items whenever possible.
Eat Raw Yogurt – Dairy products are generally off-limits if you have an acid problem. But the probiotics found in raw yogurt can help with digestion and soothe acids in the stomach.
Garlic – (Raw garlic aggravates gastric problem, so this natural treatment should only be used if you can get enteric coated garlic capsules that contain allicin, a component responsible for an immune boost.) Garlic is a natural immune system booster. While evidence shows that our body’s immune system is significantly disabled when it comes to fighting stomach infections, an overall healthy immune system can help to ward off other types of conditions which may aggravate H pylori related conditions.
Natural Treatments for H Pylori Are Not a Cure
If you continue to experience significant discomfort from H pylori related conditions, it is advisable to visit a doctor for help. After conducting test to confirm the presence of an infection, the doctor can prescribe a regimen of medications that are used in combination to target and eradicate the bacteria.
A strict course of antibiotics in conjunction with proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or h2 blockers seem to be the only proven method to cure the infection. H pylori infections can cause gastritis; a swelling of the stomach lining that may stimulate the production of acids in the digestive system.
The overproduction of these acids can erode the lining of the stomach and eventually cause holes in the lining – these are called peptic ulcers. For people who have a family history of cancer, the cells around an ulcer can mutate into stomach cancer.
For these reasons, it is important to stop the infection with antibiotics and stop the production and secretion of acids into the stomach with PPIs and H2 blockers.
H pylori blood tests help medical professionals detect the Helicobacter pylori bacteria in a person’s digestive system. H pylori lives in the stomach of at least one-third of the world’s population and can cause mild, moderate, or severe h pylori symptoms in individuals.
The most common effect of an H pylori bacterial infection is gastritis (swelling of the stomach lining) and peptic ulcers as a result of the overproduction of stomach acids that erode the lining. Over time, peptic ulcers and gastritis can cause much discomfort and may be extremely painful in some individuals.
Many people never seek medical attention for this type of bacterial infection because in many cases there is no indication that the infection is present. Most people that carry the bacteria do not develop ulcers as a result of the infection. When symptoms are present, an H pylori blood test is one of the best ways to diagnose the infection.
How H Pylori Blood Tests Detect the Bacteria
H pylori blood tests reveal certain markers in the blood that indicate the presence of an infection. The body naturally creates antibodies to fight off all sorts of bacteria that invade the body. Each type of bacteria living in the body causes our immune system to create antibodies that are specifically design to fight the offending germs. H pylori blood tests look for the unique antibodies in the blood that are used to fight H pylori.
The presence of these antibodies in an H pylori blood test can mean that you currently have an H pylori bacterial infection or that you have had one in the past. The concentration of the antibodies can help doctors determine if you have a current infection, but isn’t an effective way to determine if a recent treatment for this type of infection was successful.
Since the antibodies for H pylori remain in the blood stream long after treatment, H pylori blood tests will show the presence of antibodies even if treatment was successful. To determine the effectiveness of treatment, most experts agree that a stool antigen test provides the most conclusive information.
How H Pylori Blood Tests are Completed
H pylori blood tests are typically recommended when a person has abdominal pain that occurs frequently, but isn’t constant, and is accompanies by any of the common symptoms of an H pylori related disease. (Confirmed peptic ulcers or gastritis are common related diseases.)
Although the H pylori blood test is not conclusive of the current state of an infection, it can provide preliminary insight into the makeup of antibodies in the blood and assist with future diagnosis. Peptic ulcers are treated differently depending on their cause, so it is important to determine the reason one has this condition.
The blood test is completed by simply drawing a blood sample from the vein. A pathologist will examine the blood sample under a microscope to check for antibodies related to H pylori and other blood markers that may be related to a person’s symptoms.
What Happens After a Positive H Pylori Blood Test
If an H pylori blood test reveals the presence of antibodies, further testing may be recommended. A urea breath test or stool antigen test are the most common methods to test for an H pylori infection.
Patients who are older than fifty years of age and those with inconclusive urea and stool tests may be subjected to more invasive forms of H pylori testing. An endoscopy procedure in which a doctor explores the stomach with a tiny camera may be necessary to look for the signs of H pylori. A biopsy sample (tissue sample to be examined) is usually taken at the time of the procedure to test for the bacteria.
If any of these tests shows that there is an H pylori infection in the stomach and ulcers are also present, treatment will be recommended. H pylori treatment is usually accomplished through a combination of several medications that effectively work to kill the bacteria and reduce stomach acids. Treatment for the bacteria is also recommended if a person has a family history of stomach cancer, since genes are one of the many factors that contribute to the likelihood that a person with H pylori will develop cancer.
Antibiotics are administered to eradicate the bacteria from the body, but some antibiotics are ineffective on the bacteria. There are many types of H pylori, so the H pylori blood tests are used to determine which type of strand the person is carrying. This information helps the doctor to choose the appropriate antibiotic.
Additionally, H pylori is treated with medications that reduce stomach acids known as proton pump inhibitors or PPIs. PPIs work by stopping the process that pumps acid into the stomach.
Finally, an H2 blocker is prescribed to stop the histamines that cause the acid to be secreted into the stomach.
In some cases, bismuth subsalicylate may be used to help kill off the bacteria – though it is not effective as a treatment on its own.
H pylori, also known as helicobacter pylori, are bacteria that are estimated to live in 30 to 50% of the world’s general population. This type of bacteria is known to cause all sorts of gastric issues including peptic ulcers, gastritis, and stomach cancer.
Normally, our immune system fights bacteria off before an infection can ever become sever enough to cause something like stomach cancer. H pylori infections are different, however. It has found a way to avoid the body’s natural responses by locating itself in an area where it cannot be reached for attached.
Additionally, H pylori hides away for decades and in most cases, a person infected with the bacteria has no idea that it is even there. It is most often discovered because of stomach ulcers and gastritis, two conditions that develop in only 10% of the people who have H pylori infections.
Since it is undetected in 80 to 90% of people, it has plenty of time to set up house and wreak havoc on healthy stomach cells. After a while, these little germs can cause stomach cell mutations that are best known to most people as stomach cancer.
Why H Pylori Causes so Much Trouble
The bacterium is a spiral-shaped germ that lives in the internal mucous lining of the stomach because of the acidic environment found there. They secrete an enzyme which created ammonia by converting the chemical urea to neutralize the acid, allowing it to live in such a harsh environment.
Since it’s shaped like a spiral, the H pylori germ can bury itself deeper in the stomach lining where there is less acidic and stays put. It is this that makes it possible for the germ to cause cancer after inhabiting the stomach for a long time. The germ can also attach itself to the cells that line the stomach.
Our body’s natural immune system attempts to attach H pylori infections and antibodies can be found in heavy concentrations. However, these immune cells can’t get to the bacteria because the cells can’t reach the stomach. So, without outside treatment the bacteria is virtually unaffected by our natural defenses.
As mentioned earlier, treatment is only sought when there is a confirmed problem like a peptic ulcer. Adding to this, less than half of people who have peptic ulcers seek treatment for the condition. In people who have a family history of cancer, this can spell disaster as the germs do their work on the health of stomach cells.
Types of Stomach Cancer
Known as “gastric cancer” to your doctor, stomach cancer is categorized two ways: as gastric cardia cancer and non-cardia gastric cancer. Cardia cancer develops at the top of the stomach and at the base of the esophagus while non-cardia cancer develops anywhere else in the stomach.
Up to 10,000 deaths in the U.S. alone have occurred in the past five years due to a type of stomach cancer and 21,000 new cases have been confirmed. Stomach is one of the leading causes of cancer death and is second only to lung cancer.
Early detection is the key to survival in nearly all forms of cancer; which is a problem in H pylori stomach cancers since the bacteria so rarely presents H pylori symptoms.
Treatment for an H pylori infection in which the bacteria is completely eradicated (meaning it no longer is active in the body) can help to reduce the risk of stomach cancer.
Per-cancer sores (ulcer-type lesions) that are eliminated because H pylori bacteria are no longer affecting acid secretion can prevent, or at least prolong, the redevelopment of lesions.
H Pylori-Related Stomach Cancers and Cancer Suppression
While there is no conclusive study showing that the bacteria is a direct cause of stomach cancer, it certainly seems to be a risk factor that ranks in with family history and susceptibility to cell mutations that cause some cancer. H pylori infection is associated with more than one type of stomach cancer, though in some cases it seems to decrease the risk rather than increase it.
MALT lymphoma is a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that is well known to include the slow development of immune cells in the lining of the stomach. H pylori actually causes the body to attempt to grow more immune cells in this area, so it is still a mystery to doctors why H pylori seems to be present in nearly all cases of MALT lymphoma.
In cases of cardia stomach cancers, H pylori are present in only a third of cases. This is especially true in Western societies with access to medical care and antibiotics. The region is well treated for infection and has seen a rise in this type of stomach cancer, which further implicated the inverse relationship. This type of suppression may also be present in esophageal cancers, which has also steadily increased in developed countries where H pylori is being eradicated.
H pylori disease, also known as Helicobacter pylori disease, is a term used to generally describe any condition which is caused by a bacteria living in the stomachs of at least a third of the world’s population. By itself, the presence of H pylori disease may not produce any H pylori symptoms or discomfort at all and many people do not know they are carrying the bacteria.
The bacteria can cause diseases such as chronic gastritis (swelling of the stomach lining) and peptic ulcers (ulcers in the stomach or duodenum and elsewhere in the digestive system). These secondary conditions can easily become chronic conditions that cause stomach cancer.
There is some debate about the role of H pylori in our digestive system. Some experts claim that it is a bacterium that should be eradicated while others assert that it is a natural part of the stomach’s ecology. In either case, H pylori can lead to peptic ulcers that are painful and must be treated in many cases.
Some experts have theorized that H pylori eradication (treatment to remove the bacteria) may be responsible for an increase in other conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and asthma. However, other studies indicate that the removal of H pylori have no effect on the factors in these conditions.
It is estimated that 10 to 20% of people who have H pylori bacteria in their digestive system will eventually develop peptic ulcers. Another 1 to 2% eventually develops stomach cancer. With 30% to 50% of the world’s population infected with H pylori, disease attributed to this bacterium is as common as one might expect.
Peptic ulcers and gastric conditions seems to plague the world and are much worse in countries where people struggle to obtain good medical attention for stomach related conditions.
H Pylori Disease Summary: Peptic Ulcers
Peptic Ulcer Disease, or PUD, is the most common gastrointestinal ulcer in humans. An ulcer is an area of irritation or erosion in the internal lining of the stomach or duodenum (the structure directly beneath the stomach) that exposes the nerves inside of the lining to the contents of the digestive system.
Since the digestive system is a very acidic environment, peptic ulcers can be quite painful. Studies find that as many as 90% of peptic ulcers are H pylori related diseases. Other cases of peptic ulcers are likely caused by over the counter pain medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Even fewer peptic ulcers are caused by a malignant cancer tumor in the digestive system.
H pylori causes peptic ulcer disease by chronic inflammation of the digestive lining. A healthy immune system may be unable to kill the infection, leading to a long-lasting condition in the stomach area.
This swelling can interrupt normal regulation of gastrin production, the body’s natural acid for digestion. The interruption may cause the overproduction or underproduction of the secretion. When it causes overproduction, the acids erode the mucosa lining and ulcers form where the erosion occurs.
Most H pylori disease related peptic ulcers occur in the duodenum and not in the stomach. Some people never seek treatment because they do not realize they have an ulcer or the symptoms of the disease are not painful enough to prompt them to seek medical attention.
The most common symptoms of this H pylori disease are abdominal pain (stomach aches), bloating, nausea, loss of appetite, and vomiting blood. A burning sensation in the stomach or sternum may be mistaken for hunger or heartburn.
An uncommon symptom is waterbrash, a rush of saliva after acid regurgitation, often associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). A history of GERD and heartburn can be an indication of peptic ulcers in the stomach or duodenum, as well.
A person over 40 years of age that experiences these symptoms for two weeks or more should seek immediate medical attention.
H Pylori Disease Summary: Chronic Gastritis
Chronic gastritis is an H pylori disease in which the whole body of the stomach remains swollen all of the time. (Gastritis may also be caused by alcohol consumption and over the counter pain medications.)
Most people with chronic gastritis do not experience symptoms and for that reason, the discovery of this condition is often accidental. As mentioned earlier, chronic gastritis can result in peptic ulcers. The H pylori disease can also cause a number of other complications and discomforts.
The most common warnings of gastritis are stomach aches and abdominal pains, but one may experience indigestion, nausea, bloating, vomiting, and a general feeling of “fullness”. Occasionally, people who have chronic gastritis may experience burning in the upper abdomen that can be easily confused with heartburn.
H Pylori Disease Summary: Cancer
H pylori can eventually cause cancer in the stomach, duodenum, or perhaps the esophagus. (Research is inconclusive.) A person is more susceptible to cancer from H pylori if they have a family history of stomach cancer. A very small percentage of the population will develop stomach cancer as a result of H pylori and a biopsy is necessary to determine that cancer is present along with the H pylori bacteria.
H pylori bacteria living in the body is usually benign in most people. In some cases however, it is necessary to eradicate (kill) the bacteria because of infection-related complications and diseases. Eradication helps to heal ulcers, reduce the risk that more will form, and reduces the risk of cancer in the digestive system.
H pylori can cause all sorts of gastrointestinal symptoms and is the culprit in many cases of peptic ulcers and gastritis – conditions related to the inflammation of the stomach’s lining.
Eradicating H pylori symptoms can prove to be difficult in some cases because, as with any bacteria, there are several different strands of the germ and each strand is resistant to certain types of treatment. Determining the best course of treatment must be accomplished through properly testing for the bacteria and using the most recently available medical information as a guide.
The bacteria cause the body to produce antibodies, which are easily detected in blood tests. However, the presence of H pylori antibodies is only an indication that the bacteria have been present in the body. It does not provide conclusive information about the current state of the colonization of H pylori.
In other words, it does not help doctors to determine if H pylori are responsible for a certain symptom or condition. It is important to know for sure that H pylori are responsible for the treatment of certain conditions, especially peptic ulcers which can also be caused by NSAID medications. Ulcers are treated based on their cause.
Any person who has been diagnosed with peptic ulcer disease, an active stomach or duodenal ulcer, and those with a family history of stomach cancer should be treated if H pylori bacteria is discovered.
Once H pylori infection is confirmed however, the general course of treatment used to eradicate the bacteria remains the same – a strong antibiotic along with medications that make the stomach less hospitable for the bacteria.
Eradicating H Pylori with a Multi-Pronged Approach
It is commonly accepted in the medical community and has been proven through vast research on this particular type of bacteria that H pylori cannot be eradicated with antibiotics alone. Eradication depends heavily on reducing the number of bacterium in the body and making the stomach less appealing to the germs. Therefore, treatment usually includes an H2 blocker and proton pump inhibitor (PPI).
To accomplish eradication of the H pylori germs in the body, the first course of medicine is usually an antibiotic that is recommended by the most recent research in the field of bacteria. Antibiotics quickly accumulate in the mucosa (internal lining that secretes fluid like stomach acids) where the H pylori bacteria live.
Amoxicillin is the primary antibiotic used to start the eradication of H pylori. There is a relatively low rate of strands that are resistant to this type of antibiotic, so it can be widely used to kill off the infection. However, a large number of people are allergic to penicillin based medications so this antibiotic is not always an option.
Clarithromycin is another antibiotic option employed to eradicate H pylori. This type of antibiotic is resisted by a growing number of H pylori strands, however. Clarithromycin is most often used in combination with a PPI to help increase the amount of antibiotic in the stomach lining.
Other antibiotics that may be employed but have less influence on eradication include erythromycin, azithromycin, and metronidazole. Furazolidone may be helpful, but is known to cause problems with food and drug interactions.
Acid Reducing Medications
Antibiotics are more effective when the pH level of the stomach is higher, so medications that reduce acid are used in conjunction with the antibiotic. These medications also ease the symptoms of ulcers and allow them to heal faster by reducing the amount of acid to which they are exposed.
Since the bacteria prefer an acidic home, acid reducers can also help by increasing the pH level. These medications are known as “h2” blockers and they work by blocking the histamines that cause the acid to be secreted in the stomach lining.
PPIs, or proton pump inhibitors, are preferred when peptic ulcers are present because they help to control pain and pH better than H2 blockers. Additionally, PPIs help to eradicated H pylori in conjunction with a good antibiotic.
Most PPIs and H2 blockers work about the same in regard to eradicating H pylori bacteria levels, so a number of specific medications are appropriate.
While there is no evidence that bismuth is overly effective on neutralizing acid during the eradication of H pylori, it does lend to the protection of the stomach lining from gastric acids by stimulating mucus production.
It also seems to cause the bacterium to release the lining, effectively putting it into a “free fall” of sorts. When this happens, side effects may occur that include darkened stool and mouth. Some bismuth compounds may also kill the bacteria, but aren’t effective on their own.
However, this medication may interfere with prescription treatments, so be sure to confirm with your doctor any over-the-counter medicines you may get.
As you may know by now, the stomach ulcer bacteria that is known by Helicobacter pylori, or H pylori for short, is underlying cause behind the majority of stomach ulcers.
In this article, you will discover how people catch this stomach ulcer bacteria, what its symptoms are, how it is detected, and how it is treated.
How Stomach Ulcer Bacteria Is Contracted
One interesting thing about H pylori is that it’s transmission vector (i.e. how it is passed from person to person) is not fully understood. It is believed that it is transmitted via both human waste (sewage, excrement) and from contaminated food.
In developing nations or in cultures where a fully-functioning sewage system is not present, H pylori rates are extremely high. As an example, the majority of the population on the continent of Africa is infected with H pylori. In many of these nations, the drinking water has tested positive for H pylori.
However, world-wide rates of infection are high as well, with an estimated half of the world’s population being infected, and some 10-30% of the population living in modernized nations (depending on country) is estimated to have H pylori infection.
Note that it does not seem that H pylori is passed directly from person to person like the flu, but rather only through waste and food. You do not contract H pylori from the sneeze or cough of the infected person.
The only way we know of now to protect yourself from this bacteria is to wash your hands regularly and avoid traveling to other nations. If you must travel, try to only drink bottled water.
You can read more about how H pylori is passed from person to person in our article, Is H Pylori Contagious?
Symptoms of H Pylori
In general, H pylori infections seem to be completely symptom-free. If there are symptoms, it is usually just general discomfort (also known as dyspepsia). Symptoms could also include stomach pain, acid reflux, belching, and loss of appetite.
Symptoms of H pylori are much more mild than stomach ulcer symptoms, which the latter are often very painful. Read our article on H pylori symptoms for a full list of what sort of symptoms this stomach ulcer bacteria can cause.
Detection of Stomach Ulcer Bacteria
H pylori is typically detected via an urea breath test, also known as an H pylori breath test. The procedure is very simple and involves drinking a solution containing urea. H pylori likes to metabolize urea, and when it does it gives off ammonia gas.
After drinking urea, the person being tested then breathes into a machine which can detect ammonia gas. Since people do not exhale ammonia under normal circumstances, a detection of this gas after drinking urea is indicative of H pylori.
There are other types of tests which can be used for H pylori such as an endoscopy. For more information, read our article on all of the H pylori test types.
Treating H Pylori
H pylori is treated via antibiotics. The most common therapy type is known as triple therapy, although more types of treatment options are beginning to emerge.
Triple therapy involves the usage of two strong antibiotics and a proton-pump inhibitor or H2-blocker. Both of the later drugs reduce the production of stomach acid and seem to be effective in this procedure.
The two antibiotics are very strong and often can produce a lot of side effects such as indigestion and stomach pain. H pylori is very resistant to typical antibiotics, so stronger measures are necessary to successful remove it.
Some other types of treatment options including quadruple therapy (adding in a third antibiotic) and sequential therapy have begun to emerge to address increasing rates of resistance. You can read more about these therapies in our article, H pylori treatment.
Stomach Ulcer Bacteria – Summary
H pylori is typically contracted from contaminated food or water, is typically symptomless, has several testing options, and is often treated with triple therapy. Aside from the basics, we are only just beginning to understand the wide-ranging effects this bacteria has on our body.
Just over a week ago, a group of researchers presenting at the 111th General Meeting for the American Society of Microbiology revealed their research looking into the relationship between the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and the development of Parkinson’s Disease, and their results were surprising to say the least.
Given that many readers of this site are interested in H pylori moreso than ulcers, I figured I would evaluate the study and what it means for the general population (after all, over half of the World’s population is thought to have an H pylori infection).
The researchers reported that both infecting mice with H pylori and feeding mice food contaminated with dead H pylori bacteria led to movement degeneration, typical of Parkinson’s Disease (1). Here is the overview of the results (note: all bullet points reference resource 1):
- 1. Aged mice developed unusual and impaired movement. This signals low levels of dopamine, suggesting that dopamine-producing cells in the brain either died or were impaired. At a basic level, Parkinson’s Disease is the unexplained dying off of dopamine-producing cells.
- 2. Young mice were largely unaffected by both the feedings and infection.
- 3. Mice fed dead H pylori also developed symptoms.
- 4. Different strains of H pylori produced different results. In particular, the “ΔAlpAB” strain seemed to cause more advanced degeneration and increased levels of inflammation.
Now the real question is, what do these results mean for the every day person? Below, we will investigate the four primary findings.
1. Aged mice developed unusual or impaired movement
After consuming H pylori or being infected, the aged mice developed movement deficits. The researchers in this case assumed that the the deficits were due to dopamine-producing cell death, just like in Parkinsons, but these results were not confirmed.
It is possible another mechanism contributed to these movement deficiencies. It also should be known that mice do not get Parkinson’s disease, and that the mice in the study simply developed symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease.
This is not the first time this has been proposed before. In 1965, a researcher proposed that there was a link between stomach ulcers and Parkinson’s Disease, long before H pylori was brought to the attention of the mainstream medical community (2).
2. Young mice were largely uneffected by H pylori infection
In my opinion, this is one of the most interesting results of the study. This seems to verify one of the hypotheses of the researcher behind the African Enigma research paper.
If you are unfamiliar with this paper, the researcher reports that H pylori is very prevalent in Africa whereas ulcers, stomach ulcer symptoms, and other side effects are not very prevalent at all (3). One hypothesis he uses to explain this phenomenon was the notion that people who are infected with H pylori at a young age seem to not be as strongly affected as those who are infected as adults (3).
This mouse study seems to actually corroborate this nearly 20-year old hypothesis; young mice infected with H pylori did not develop symptoms, only old mice infected or fed H pylori developed motor impairments (1).
3. Mice fed dead H pylori bacteria also developed symptoms
The point of feeding mice dead H pylori was an attempt to verify the idea that it is not infection with H pylori itself that causes Parkinson’s Disease, but rather that H pylori produces a neurotoxic compound that might kill off nerve cells. Both dead and alive H pylori possess this compound.
This hypothesis stemmed from the discovery that high rates of Parkinson’s Disease in a certain native tribe were caused by a neurotoxic seed that made up a large part of their diet. The compound produced by H pylori is very similar to the neurotoxin found in the seed which is known to cause Parksinson’s.
This piece is perhaps the strongest bit of evidence presented by the researchers. The only downside of this portion is that mice were exposed to H pylori levels which are not likely to occur naturally; contaminated human food would never contain the same levels of bacteria that was given to the mice in the study.
4. Different strands of H pylori produced different results
This conclusion was also extremely interesting. Once again, the author of the The African Enigma research paper suggested that one reason for differences in response to H pylori on different continents might be due to different strains of H pylori.
The researchers used two different types of H pylori in their experiments, and found that one strain of H pylori in particular caused significantly more damage and inflammation than the “standard” strain of H pylori bacteria (1).
It is within the realm of possibility that certain strains of H pylori might result in different effects on the human body.
H Pylori and Parkinson’s Disease – Conclusion
While the initial evidence linking H pylori and Parkinson’s is strong and based on logical grounds, it is still too soon to take anything away immediately from this particular study, and this study raises at least as many questions as it answers.
The main problem is simple: why is H pylori so much more prevalent than Parkinson’s Disease? It could be for a variety of reasons, such as:
H pylori which does not infect its host until late adulthood may be more dangerous than H pylori present for a lifelong infection;
Different strains of H pylori may exist across regions and continents, making some infections more dangerous than others;
Areas of high H pylori infection rates also tend to lack sanitation and modern medical treatments, resulting in relatively lower life expectencies. It is possible that many people with H pylori just might not live long enough to get Parkinson’s Disease;
And finally, the results of this study may not actually carry over to humans.
The bottom line is that it is far too soon to tell whether or not H pylori contributes to Parkinson’s, and we will not know until more research has been performed.
If you are still concerned about the possible links, be sure to discuss this with your doctor. Perhaps there may be some merit to testing for H pylori in the absence of symptoms if you are an otherwise healthy adult with a family history of Parkinson’s Disease. However, that should be a discussion between you and your doctor.
1. M.F. Salvatore, S.L. Spann, D.J. Mcgee, O.A. Senkovich, & T.L. Testerman. Helicobacter pylori infection induces Parkinson’s Disease symptoms in aged mice. Presentation at the 111th General Meeting for the American Society for Microbiology. 2011 May 22. New Orleans, LA.
2. Strang, RR. The association of gastro-duodenal ulceration and Parkinson’s disease. Med J Aust. 1965 Jun 5;1(23):842-3.
3. Holcombe, C. Helicobacter pylori: the African enigma. Gut. 1992 Apr;33(4):429-31.
While modern research has shown that diet is not a cause of ulcers, certain foods may aggravate or increase stomach ulcer symptoms. Below, you will find a list of these stomach ulcer foods to avoid.
There are three different ways foods can irritate ulcers: by increasing the production of stomach acid, by directly irritating the ulcer, and by causing inflammation (gastritis) of the stomach lining.
Foods that Increase the Production of Stomach Acid
Any food that increases the production of stomach acid is at the top of stomach ulcer foods to avoid. There are certain foods which do actually increase stomach acid production and these can irritate an existing ulcer. Here is a list:
Milk – While milk initially buffers acid in the stomach, the stomach may start producing acid to compensate for this, especially with full-fat milk.
Peppermint and Spearmint – Mints of all sorts seem to increase the production of stomach acid. Despite the soothing flavor, mint flavored foods can make your stomach turn.
Caffeine – Like most stimulants, caffeine can increase the production of stomach acid. Common sources of caffeine in the modern diet are coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks.
Coffee – Even decaffeinated coffee seems to increase stomach acid production, so coffee of all types may irritate your ulcer.
Nicotine – Nicotine is the active ingredient in all tobacco products and as a stimulant, it is thought to stimulate the production of stomach acid.
Foods that Irritate Ulcers Directly
An ulcer is not unlike an open wound in the skin. Think of an ulcer like you would a canker sore (mouth ulcer) or even an open wound on the skin; anything which would irritate these wounds is likely to irritate an ulcer. These include:
Spicy food: Food is spicy because it activates nociceptors (nerve receptors that detect “noxious” or unpleasant stimuli). Nociceptors also report pain. This is why spicy food or sauces sting if you have a cut on your hand or in your mouth. Spicy food will not cause ulcers, but may be painful for an ulcer that already exists.
Citrus and other acidic foods: Very acidic juices, such as orange juice or lemon juice may irritate ulcers.
Alcohol: Alcohol may also irritate ulcers, especially hard liquor. Again, think of the open wound example: if you have a cut on your hand and spill beer on it, it will not hurt; but if you clean out a wound with alcohol, it will sting. Regardless, alcohol can lead to gastritis (see next section) and as a result should be avoided if you have an ulcer.
Note that the irritation these foods cause to ulcers will not mimic the exact pain of a similar irritation for a mouth ulcer or cut on the skin. Ulcer pains are less specific and usually more mild simply because the nerve endings in the stomach are not nearly as fine or sensitive as the nerve endings in the mouth or skin.
Foods that Cause Gastritis
There are not many foods that cause gastritis, but the few things we may eat that lead to inflammation may significantly worsen ulcer symptoms and even slow healing times. As a result, you want to make an effort to avoid everything on this list:
Alcohol – Alcohol can lead to inflammation of the stomach, especially if consumed in large quantities.
Nicotine and tobacco products – Nicotine also may lead to inflammation of the stomach, exacerbating symptoms and slowing healing time.
Food allergies – If you have certain food allergies, you want to make a concerted effort to avoid these foods. Consuming foods which you are allergic to may irritate the stomach and your ulcer as well.
Stomach Ulcer Foods to Avoid Conclusion
By avoiding these foods, you can avoid inadvertently increasing your peptic ulcer symptoms. However, avoiding these foods is not enough for stomach ulcer treatment; proper medical channels still should be followed.
You should know that modern research has shown us that while these foods may irritate and aggravate ulcers, foods that increase the production of stomach acid do not cause ulcers in their own right.
Nearly all ulcers are caused by H pylori infection or as a side-effect of certain medications, such as NSAIDs. However, there are some foods that may benefit ulcers. Read our article on the best H pylori diet for tips on diets that may fight the ulcer-causing H pylori bacteria and our article on millet for information on the shocking discovery that remote cultures around the world who consume millet have much lower rates of stomach ulcers than anywhere else in the world.