H Pylori: How to Identify the Signs and Get the Right Treatment
H. pylori infection: what is it?
H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) infection is a bacterial infection affecting the stomach lining. This bacterium is commonly found in the digestive tract and is estimated to infect nearly half of the world’s population. The infection can cause various symptoms and sometimes lead to more severe conditions.
When should you suspect an H. pylori infection?
You should suspect H. pylori infection if you are experiencing symptoms such as:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially in the upper abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Burping or acid reflux
- Dark or black stools (a sign of bleeding in the digestive tract)
While the above are common symptoms of H. pylori infection, there are some less common symptoms as well, including:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Unexplained iron-deficiency anemia
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Persistent bad breath
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
In some cases, H. pylori infection can cause peptic ulcers or gastritis, leading to additional symptoms such as heartburn and indigestion.
How do you get H. pylori infections?
How H. pylori spread from person to person has yet to be fully understood. However, there are several potential modes of transmission, including:
Direct person-to-person contact: Through kissing or sharing utensils.
Contaminated food or water: H. pylori can also be spread through contaminated food or water.
Poor hygiene: Poor handwashing and sanitation practices can also increase your chances of contracting H. pylori.
Crowded living conditions: People living in overcrowded conditions, such as in developing countries, are more likely to become infected with H. pylori.
Family history: H. pylori infection can also run in families, which suggests that genetic factors may also play a role in its transmission.
It is also worth noting that while most people with H. pylori infections do not develop symptoms, the bacterium can still cause long-term damage to the digestive tract if left untreated.
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Can the H. pylori infection be cured?
Antibiotics and acid-reducing medications can be used to treat H. pylori infection. The treatment plan will differ depending on the severity of the disease and the individual patient’s needs and health history.
Treatment typically involves a combination of two antibiotics and an acid-reducing medication, such as a proton pump inhibitor, taken for 7–14 days. This combination of drugs effectively eradicates the H. pylori bacterium and reduces symptoms. However, in some cases, a longer course of treatment may be necessary.
While antibiotics are commonly used to treat H. pylori infections, their efficacy or success rate has been found to be only about 70%. This means that for every 100 people treated with antibiotics for H. pylori, about 70 will have their infection eradicated. At the same time, the other 30 may continue to experience symptoms or have the condition persist.
Various factors, including the strain of H. pylori, the type and duration of antibiotic treatment, and the presence of antibiotic resistance, can influence the effectiveness of antibiotics. In addition, the infection may reappear after treatment in some cases, requiring additional rounds of antibiotics or alternative treatment methods.
It’s important to note that while antibiotics may not be 100% effective in treating H. pylori, they remain the most commonly prescribed treatment for this condition. In addition, combination therapy, which involves taking two or more antibiotics simultaneously, has been shown to be more effective than using a single antibiotic.
It is essential to follow the treatment plan prescribed by your doctor and to complete the entire course of antibiotics, even if your symptoms have improved, to ensure that the H. pylori bacterium is entirely eradicated.
After treatment, your doctor may recommend a follow-up test to confirm that the infection has been successfully treated.
Diagnostic Tests for H. Pylori Explained
Blood tests are an indirect method used to diagnose H. pylori infections. These tests measure specific immune responses to the H. pylori bacteria, including H. pylori antibodies (IgA, IgG, and IgM) in the blood.
Suppose a person tests positive for IgA or IgM antibodies. In that case, it can indicate that they have an active H. pylori infection. This is because these antibodies are produced in response to a recent or current H. pylori infection.
On the other hand, a positive result for IgG antibodies may indicate a past H. pylori infection. Research has shown that test results in patients who test positive for IgG antibodies tend to decrease within six months of H. pylori removal. This suggests that these antibodies may persist in the blood even after the infection has been successfully treated.
The H. pylori breath test is a diagnostic tool used to detect the presence of bacteria in the stomach. The test measures carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the breath, a by-product of the bacteria’s urease and nitrogen.
During the test, the patient drinks a solution containing a special substance and then breathes into a bag at regular intervals. The special substance in the breath will change if H. pylori are present. The increase in CO2 levels in the breath can indicate the presence of the bacteria.
It is important to note that H. pylori breath tests tend only to show acute infections, which are the most accurate in detecting recent, active infections. However, suppose an individual has had a long-standing H. pylori infection. In that case, the breath test results may need to be more accurate.
A stool test is a diagnostic tool used to detect the presence of H. pylori antigens in a person’s stool sample. This test is non-invasive and involves collecting a small sample of stool to be sent to a laboratory for analysis.
The stool test looks for specific antigens produced by the H. pylori bacteria in the stool sample. If antigens are present, it is an indication that the individual is infected with H. pylori.
The stool test is a highly accurate method for diagnosing H. pylori infections. It is also less invasive than other tests, such as endoscopy or biopsy, which may be necessary in some cases.
This test involves inserting a small, flexible tube with a camera into the digestive tract to visualize the stomach and small intestine directly. In addition, a biopsy may be taken during the endoscopy to test for H. pylori.
During the endoscopy, a biopsy may also be taken to test for the presence of H. pylori. A biopsy is a small sample of tissue removed from the lining of the stomach or small intestine and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
Endoscopy and biopsy are considered the most accurate methods for diagnosing H. pylori infections. This is because they allow the doctor to visualize the inside of the digestive tract and obtain a tissue sample for analysis.
However, it is essential to note that endoscopy may not always be the most reliable test for H. pylori, especially if the individual has no overt symptoms. Other tests, such as blood or stool tests, may be more appropriate in these cases.
It is also essential to consider that endoscopy is an invasive procedure with some risks, such as bleeding or infection. Therefore, for most individuals, endoscopy is unnecessary and is only recommended for high-risk patients or in cases where other tests have not been able to confirm the diagnosis.
Urea Breath Test
The urea breath test is a non-invasive diagnostic test used to detect the presence of H. pylori in the digestive tract. The test measures the amount of carbon dioxide in the breath after drinking a solution containing a special substance called urea.
During the test, the individual drinks a solution containing a specific dose of urea labeled with a harmless isotope, such as carbon-13 or carbon-14. Suppose H. pylori are present in the digestive tract. In that case, it will produce an enzyme called urease, which breaks down the urea into carbon dioxide and ammonia.
The amount of carbon dioxide produced is then measured in the breath using a specialized machine. An increased amount of carbon dioxide in the breath indicates the presence of H. pylori.
The urea breath test is a quick and non-invasive method for diagnosing H. pylori infections and is often used in combination with other tests, such as a blood test or stool test, to confirm the diagnosis.
It is crucial to remember that a diagnosis of H. pylori infection should not be based on a single test alone. Instead, your doctor may recommend additional testing or a combination of tests to confirm the diagnosis.
How to treat H. pylori infection naturally?
While antibiotics and acid-reducing medications are the most effective ways to treat H. pylori infection, some natural remedies may help reduce symptoms and promote healing. However, it is essential to remember that these remedies do not replace medical treatment. Therefore, speaking with your doctor before trying any natural remedies would be best.
Some natural remedies that may help with H. pylori infection include:
Probiotics: Probiotics can help restore the balance of good bacteria within the gut, which can help in symptom reduction and healing.
Garlic: Garlic has antibacterial properties and may help fight H. pylori.
Ginger: Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce symptoms of H. pylori-related gastritis.
Manuka honey: Manuka honey has antibacterial properties and may help reduce H. pylori.
Aloe vera: Aloe vera may help soothe the digestive tract and reduce symptoms of H. pylori-related gastritis.
Dietary changes: Making nutritional changes, such as avoiding spicy or acidic foods and reducing stress, may help reduce symptoms and promote healing.
Remember that these natural remedies may only be effective for some. The best treatment for H. pylori infection will depend on the patient’s needs and health history. If you have any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, click here to schedule a complimentary consult.