Do you think you might have H. pylori? You wouldn’t be the only one!
Researchers estimate that an average of 50 percent of the world’s population has been infected at one point in their lives.1Brown LM. Helicobacter pylori: epidemiology and routes of transmission. Epidemiol Rev. 2000;22(2):283-97. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.epirev.a018040.
What is H. pylori, anyhow? Helicobacter pylori is a common bacterium that is passed from person to person through direct contact with saliva, vomit or stool. It may also be spread through contaminated food or water.2Kayali S, Manfredi M, Gaiani F, Bianchi L, Bizzarri B, Leandro G, Di Mario F, De’ Angelis GL. Helicobacter pylori, transmission routes and recurrence of infection: state of the art. Acta Biomed. 2018 Dec 17;89(8-S):72-76. doi: 10.23750/abm.v89i8-S.7947.
What are the statistics on H. Pylori?
The differences of H. pylori prevalence from country to country depend on a number of factors, including socio-economic status and level of urbanisation and sanitation conditions. Based on a recent systematic review of clinical studies from around the world, the rate of prevalence in the UK is just over 35%, but up to 87.7% of people living in countries like Nigeria are active carriers of H. pylori and able to infect others.3Hooi JKY, Lai WY, Ng WK, Suen MMY, Underwood FE, Tanyingoh D, Malfertheiner P, Graham DY, Wong VWS, Wu JCY, Chan FKL, Sung JJY, Kaplan GG, Ng SC. Global Prevalence of Helicobacter pylori Infection: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Gastroenterology. 2017 Aug;153(2):420-429. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.04.022.
These statistics may sound alarming, but the reality is that most people who have a H. pylori infection never develop any symptoms at all. For those who do, the most typical sign is indigestion that doesn’t respond to over the counter or prescription medication.
H. pylori: to test or not to test
How do you know if you have H. pylori? The number one symptom to look out for in H. pylori infection is persistent indigestion or “dyspepsia”.4Wauters L et al. United European Gastroenterology (UEG) and European Society for Neurogastroenterology and Motility (ESNM) consensus on functional dyspepsia. United European Gastroenterol J. 2021 Apr;9(3):307-331. doi: 10.1002/ueg2.12061. Indigestion affects the bit of the gastrointestinal system that’s located upwards from the bottom of your ribs. Abdominal fullness and bloating, vomiting, belching, nausea, and heartburn are also common symptoms.
If you have experienced typical symptoms of indigestion for at least 6 months, it may be time to seek medical advice. Your doctor may then refer you to a gastroenterologist, who can diagnose your condition.
What are the test options?
If your doctor decides to test for H. pylori, they will be choosing from any of these 3 options:5NHS Conditions: Stomach ulcer. 6Helicobacter pylori infection management – NICE guidelines
- a urea breath test – you’ll be given a drink containing urea (a chemical that’s broken down by H. pylori) and your breath is then checked after
- a stool antigen test – a small stool sample is tested for the bacteria
- a blood test – a sample of your blood is tested for antibodies to the H. pylori bacteria. Antibodies are proteins produced naturally in your blood and help to fight infection. This has now largely been replaced by the stool antigen test, but your doctor may still feel it’s the most appropriate test.
Does the CG Microbiome test check for H pylori?
Gut microbiome tests are designed to give you information about the bacteria in your colon, e.g. Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, etc. As H. pylori lives in the stomach, the stool sample used for microbiome analysis will not contain H. pylori, so our test does not offer this information.
If you think you might be dealing with H pylori, we recommend that you consult with your GP for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Is H. pylori always a bad bug?
Because H. pylori has been successfully co-evolving with us for thousands of years, scientists question whether it actually may play a beneficial role in human health. 7Talebi Bezmin Abadi A. Helicobacter pylori: A Beneficial Gastric Pathogen? Front Med (Lausanne). 2014 Aug 25;1:26. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2014.00026. 8Reshetnyak VI, Burmistrov AI, Maev IV. Helicobacter pylori: Commensal, symbiont or pathogen? World J Gastroenterol. 2021 Feb 21;27(7):545-560. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v27.i7.545. People who’ve had a H. pylori infection have a lower risk of developing autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, as well as a lower risk of asthma, eczema, and cancer of the oesophagus.9Luther J, Dave M, Higgins PD, Kao JY. Association between Helicobacter pylori infection and inflammatory bowel disease: a meta-analysis and systematic review of the literature. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2010 Jun;16(6):1077-84. doi: 10.1002/ibd.21116. 10Chen Y, Blaser MJ. Helicobacter pylori colonization is inversely associated with childhood asthma. J Infect Dis. 2008 Aug 15;198(4):553-60. doi: 10.1086/590158. 11Raghunath A, Hungin AP, Wooff D, Childs S. Prevalence of Helicobacter pylori in patients with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease: systematic review. BMJ 326(7392), 737 (2003). 12Herbarth O, Bauer M, Fritz GJ, Herbarth P, Rolle-Kampczyk U, Krumbiegel P, Richter M, Richter T. Helicobacter pylori colonisation and eczema. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2007 Jul;61(7):638-40. doi: 10.1136/jech.2006.046706. This opens the possibility that there may be a sophisticated communication system operating between H. pylori and the human body, which is more beneficial than we suspect.
It’s also important to note that H. pylori is a “transient microbe,” meaning that it comes and goes. You may have had a H. pylori infection in the past without even realising it!
What can you do about H. pylori?
A resilient gut microbiome can endure infections by H. pylori and other bugs, bouncing back to a stable state afterwards. Probiotic and prebiotic foods – like our Kefir and Complete Prebiotic – help promote that resilience13Dogra SK, Doré J, Damak S. Gut Microbiota Resilience: Definition, Link to Health and Strategies for Intervention. Front Microbiol. 2020 Sep 15;11:572921. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.572921. and can reduce the chance of complications from H. pylori infections.14Nair MR, Chouhan D, Sen Gupta S, Chattopadhyay S. Fermented Foods: Are They Tasty Medicines for Helicobacter pylori Associated Peptic Ulcer and Gastric Cancer? Front Microbiol. 2016 Jul 25;7:1148. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.01148.
Probiotics like kefir have been found specifically helpful in dealing with Helicobacter pylori.15Ruggiero P. Use of probiotics in the fight against Helicobacter pylori. World J Gastrointest Pathophysiol. 2014 Nov 15;5(4):384-91. doi: 10.4291/wjgp.v5.i4.384. If you happen to test positive for H. pylori and your doctor prescribes antibiotics for the infection, there is also evidence that kefir improves the efficacy and tolerability of the drugs, so eradicating H. pylori should be easier for you.16Bekar O, Yilmaz Y, Gulten M. Kefir improves the efficacy and tolerability of triple therapy in eradicating Helicobacter pylori. J Med Food. 2011 Apr;14(4):344-7. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2010.0099. 17Oh Y, Osato MS, Han X, Bennett G, Hong WK. Folk yoghurt kills Helicobacter pylori. J Appl Microbiol. 2002;93(6):1083-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2672.2002.01779.x
Research shows that Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is also a potential preventive or therapeutic agent for H. pylori-mediated gastric inflammation.18Ha JW, Yu JS, Lee BS, Kang DM, Ahn MJ, Kim JK, Kim KH. Structural Characterization of Withanolide Glycosides from the Roots of Withania somnifera and Their Potential Biological Activities. Plants (Basel). 2022 Mar 13;11(6):767. doi: 10.3390/plants11060767.
If you have any questions about how our products can help you, please do feel free to get in touch with one of our Nutritional Therapists, via live chat, 8 am to 8 pm weekdays.
Dr Miguel & The Goats
- 3Hooi JKY, Lai WY, Ng WK, Suen MMY, Underwood FE, Tanyingoh D, Malfertheiner P, Graham DY, Wong VWS, Wu JCY, Chan FKL, Sung JJY, Kaplan GG, Ng SC. Global Prevalence of Helicobacter pylori Infection: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Gastroenterology. 2017 Aug;153(2):420-429. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.04.022.