You’ve probably never heard of H. Pylori, but two thirds of the world’s population are infected with it! (source) I was unlucky – I started to notice the symptoms of a stomach ulcer developing in my early 20s.
I thought it was a result of the stress of my university studies but my doctor told me I had a H. pylori infection.
I was prescribed a hefty dose of antibiotics and acid-suppressing pills. Although I’m reluctant to take antibiotics because they leave you more susceptible to infection later on, the pain was so bad I just did what I was told.
The symptoms eased for a few weeks but eventually came back.
I was told I would need to keep taking acid-suppressing pills, most likely for the rest of my life. That’s not what I wanted to hear at 23 years of age so I started to look into alternatives.
I was pleasantly surprised by the evidence I found – read on to discover what are the H. pylori natural treatment options.
What is H. Pylori?
H. pylori is short for “Helicobacter pylori” – a type of bacteria that lives in your stomach lining. It’s a spiral-shaped little fellow, for what it’s worth. (source)
H. Pylori and Ulcers
Most of us presume that stomach ulcers are due to periods of high stress or eating spicy foods. That was the opinion of the medical community too, until recently.
Although these are factors that can worsen stomach ulcers, the main culprit for creating ulcers is H. pylori. This bacteria is the cause of between 80 and 90% of all stomach and upper intestinal ulcers.
How does H. pylori cause ulcers? Your stomach protects itself by releasing a strong acid which should kill bacteria and other nasties. It also has a protective layer of mucus coating the inside.
H. pylori has adapted to survive despite the stomach acid. Not only that but it produces substances that weaken the protective mucus layer, making it easier for damage to occur from the stomach’s own acid.
Once the protective layer is broken, acid burns away at your stomach walls, eventually leading to one or more painful ulcers. If this wasn’t bad enough, H. pylori also interferes with healing so you’re stuck in a vicious circle until you can kick H. pylori to the curb. (source)
H. Pylori and Other Diseases
Stomach ulcers are awful, but H. pylori doesn’t stop there. H. pylori has been linked to numerous other diseases, including cancer. H. pylori has been identified as the main cause of gastric cancer. It’s theorised that inflammation and damage caused by the bacteria eventually leads to cancerous mutations. (source)
Other conditions linked to H. pylori infection are: stroke, atherosclerosis, insulin resistance, autoimmune disease, heart disease and skin disorders. (source)
Symptoms of H. Pylori Infection
In the early stages of H. pylori infection, you will have no symptoms at all. The only way to detect it is to have tests carried out by a doctor. As it progresses, you will notice the following:
- Aching or burning pain in the abdomen
- Increased burping
- Decreased appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
Conventional Treatment for H. Pylori
Conventional treatment for H. pylori infection starts with a diagnostic test. Usually a “urea breath test” is carried out, in which you drink a special drink and then your breath is analysed for metabolic products from the bacteria. You may also need blood tests or an endoscopy (camera down your esophagus) to check for cancer. (source)
When presence of H. pylori has been confirmed, you will most likely be prescribed “triple therapy”. This is three different drugs – 2 antibiotic tablets and 1 acid blocker. You will take them for at least a week. You may need to continue with the acid blocker for longer. (source)
Why Use Natural Treatment for H. Pylori?
If triple therapy works, why use natural treatments for H. pylori? Well, the thing is, triple therapy doesn’t always work. In fact, it fails in more than 20% of cases. (source)
Since antibiotics are overused in most countries nowadays, the bacteria has adapted to resist it. (source) Antibiotics also have unpleasant side effects such as nausea, vomiting and wiping out all of the “good” bacteria in your system.
As for the acid blocking pills – it may seem like a good idea when your stomach acid is burning through your flesh. However, there is some evidence that suggests that lowering acid levels allows more nasty bacteria to proliferate. Symptoms often return when you stop taking the acid blocker, leaving you dependent on these expensive drugs for life. (source) You can see now why a natural option is appealing, right?
H. Pylori Natural Treatment Options
Ginger is a really useful plant – in medicine and food. It has been used as a natural remedy for morning sickness and travel sickness with great results. Ginger extract has been shown to inhibit growth of H. pylori in vitro and also prevent ulcer formation. (source)
2. Broccoli Sprouts
I was surprised to hear that boring old broccoli is effective in treating many diseases. I knew it was high in fiber but it’s powers go beyond that. A study in “Digestive Diseases and Sciences” found that 78% of participants who ate broccoli sprouts twice daily for 7 days tested negative for H. pylori infection. It’s believed this is due to high levels of the compound “sulforaphane”. (source)
Thyme isn’t just a delicious seasoning for your roast dinner, it’s also one of the most potent natural antibacterials. A study showed that thyme extract has “a significant inhibitory effect on H. pylori, reducing both its growth and potent urease activity”. (source)
I’m a big fan of probiotics, i.e. foods or supplements containing “good” bacteria to keep our digestive system healthy. A study in “Inflammation and Allergy Drug Targets” found that one-third of participants experienced complete eradication of H. pylori. (source)
Probiotics work by taking up all the space and resources in your digestive system, thus pushing out “bad” bacteria. If you want to include probiotic foods in your diet, try natural yoghurts, pickles, miso soup and sauerkraut.
5. Cranberry Juice
I always turn to cranberry juice when I notice the symptoms of a urinary tract infection beginning, however I’d never have thought to take it for my digestive system. Much like in the urinary system, cranberry may stop bacteria from sticking to the stomach lining. One study recommended a glass of cranberry juice daily. The success rate is quite low at 14% but it’s worth a try. (source)
Another delicious natural medicine – licorice has been used for hundreds of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Licorice extract protects your stomach and digestive lining from acid. It also helps repair the mucus layer in heartburn. In some studies, it even out-performed standard anti-ulcer medications. (source)
Curcumin is the active compound in the Indian spice turmeric. It’s often used in curries but it packs a powerful punch when it comes to health benefits. Amongst these is the ability to inhibit growth of H. pylori. (source)
The same compounds responsible for the characteristic odour and flavour of garlic impart medicinal effects. It was found that garlic consumption decreased occurrence of gastric cancer. However, other studies using garlic against H. pylori have given mixed results.
Garlic extract was found to reduce gastritis in lab animals. A 7 year study in humans found no change in the occurrence of gastric cancer as a result of garlic supplementation whereas conventional H. pylori treatment produced a 39% reduction. (source)
9. Green Tea
Green tea is well known in the health and nutrition community. In fact, it’s one of the most widely consumed beverages in the word. In vitro studies have shown green tea to have strong antibiotic activity against H. pylori. It also decreased inflammation and bleeding in lab mice. (source) Drinking green tea daily seems like a good idea for stomach protection.
10. Red Wine
I’m not a big drinker but if you can use red wine as a medicine I might just be convinced to have a glass with dinner. The evidence is promising. The compound “resveratrol” in wine has been found to inhibit activity of H. pylori. It also has a protective effect on stomach lining. (source)
When you are suffering from the symptoms of H. pylori infection, there are a few lifestyle changes that will help reduce pain and further damage to your stomach lining.
First of all, you need to cut certain foods out of your diet. Spicy foods, caffeine and high acid drinks such as soda and citrus juices can lead to reflux and burning pain. Fatty foods and large amounts of alcohol are a no-no.
Smoking is always a bad idea, but in addition to causing cancer, lung and heart disease it slows down the healing process when you have an ulcer.
Smoking also makes it more likely for your ulcer to recur after you’ve gotten rid of it so put those cigs down!
You need to be really careful with painkillers when you have stomach ulcers. You might find yourself reaching for a pack of pills when you have gnawing pain in your stomach but a class of painkillers called “NSAIDs” can make it a lot worse. Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are in this class. NSAIDs lower levels of protective chemicals in your stomach so never ever take them if you suffer from ulcers. Instead, try paracetamol. (source)
I hope this article has shed some light on your stomach conditions and the natural treatment options for H. pylori. Of course, you should always have your symptoms assessed by a doctor to rule out gastric cancer before turning to natural remedies.
I found some of the above methods useful after triple therapy had already failed. Now I keep a strict watch on my diet and only suffer from heartburn occasionally.