H. Pylori (Helicobacter pylori) is an infection that occurs when the H. pylori bacteria infect your stomach. H.pylori is a common type of bacteria that grows in the digestive tract and has a tendency to attack the stomach lining. It usually infects the stomach during childhood. Roughly 60% of the world’s adults have this infection which is usually harmless but is responsible for the majority of ulcers in the stomach and small intestines. It’s still not known exactly how H. pylori infections are spread and why most people with it don’t exhibit any adverse signs or symptoms. What is known though are risk factors that increase a person’s probability of developing the infection.
Symptoms of H. pylori
After H. pylori bacteria your body, it attacks the stomach lining which usually protects you from the acid used to digest food. Once the lining is damaged, the acid gets through the lining causing painful ulcers. It’s not clear why most people with this infection do not show any signs or symptoms. One of the reasons that has been advanced is that some people may have been born with more resistance to the harmful effects of the bacteria.
- An ache or burning in your abdomen
- Severe, sharp stomach pain
- Abdominal pain that’s worse when your stomach is empty
- Loss of appetite
- Frequent burping
- Feeling bloated
- Unintentional weight loss
See your doctor if your symptoms include
- Severe or persistent abdominal pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- A bloody or black tarry stool
- Bloody or black vomit
Causes and risk factors
H. Pylori is contagious so you can get it through contact with the saliva or bodily fluids of an infected person. Your chances of infection are also partly dependent on your environment and living conditions.
Living in crowded conditions with an unreliable supply of clean water increases your likelihood of infection. For this reason, people in developing countries who live in crowded areas in unsanitary conditions are more likely to be infected. Living with someone who has H. pylori also increases your chances of infection. People of Mexican, Hispanic, and African descent also have a higher likelihood of developing the infection.
Diagnosis and treatment of H. pylori
A doctor conducts a physical exam including examining your stomach for signs of bloating, tenderness or pain. A blood test and stool test are also conducted. You may also get a breath test and endoscopy. A breath test entails swallowing a preparation containing urea. If h. pylori are present an enzyme will be released which will release carbon dioxide which will be detected by a special device. If you have an endoscopy, a doctor will insert a thin instrument down your mouth into your stomach with a camera attached that will send images back to a monitor.
- Medication to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach
- Medication to block the chemical histamine which prompts your stomach to make more acid.
Treatment and management of H. pylori
Avoid poorly cooked food
This includes avoiding cold or raw. Avoid food that you think may have been poorly handled or improperly cleaned including fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish especially purchased in public open-air markets.
Avoid unsanitary areas
This includes areas near unclean water sources and sewage. Also, avoid areas where there are inadequate restrooms and cleaning facilities.
Avoid close contact with infected people and get tested
If someone close to you is infected, don’t let them prepare food, serve drinks, or touch things that are consumed, and they may accidentally contaminate the food. In the case that it’s your partner, avoid kissing or engaging in any sexual activity until they are treated. If a family member or someone close to you is infected, get tested as well just to be on the safe side.
- Thoroughly wash your hands before eating and after using the washroom
- Eat only in sanitary places
- Quit smoking
- Quit drinking alcohol
Foods to avoid
Diet is essential in treating and managing H. Pylori. Here are foods you should avoid while treating H. Pylori.
- Caffeinated drinks including coffee, energy drinks, soft drinks, tea, chocolate and cocoa. Caffeine is by far the most important food to avoid.
- Hot and spicy foods with chilli and peppers.
- A high salt diet.
- Fatty and fried foods including greasy foods, nuts, fatty dairy products like cheese, butter and whole milk, bacon fat, ham fat and fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb.
- Sugary baked goods like brownies, chocolates, doughnuts, ice cream, and all manner of pastries.
- Citrus fruits including lemons, limes, and oranges.
- Alcohol and carbonated drinks like soda.
- Raw tomatoes and tomato containing products like tomato juice, ketchup and puree.
- Cabbage and dried beans.
- Acidic foods including corn oil, mayonnaise, soy sauce, vinegar, and maple syrup.
Home remedies for managing H. pylori
Here are some home remedies to help you ride out the infection
- Green tea
- Honeyed tea
- Olive oil – add some to your favourite dishes
- Turmeric – add some to your milk or tea
- Ginger – add some to your tea or water
- Fermented Foods
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