Gastrointestinal issues plague millions of Americans, but narrowing down the causes of the bloating, nausea, fatigue, and heartburn that are associated with GI distress is often like finding a needle in a haystack…unless your upset stomach is because you have an H. pylori infection.
H. pylori (Heliobacter pylori) are bacteria that an estimated 50% of Americans have in their bodies right now, and it creates a multitude of symptoms, stomach ulcers, and even stomach cancer. In fact, research has shown that 80% of stomach ulcers and 90% of duodenal ulcers can be attributed to H. pylori. Many individuals pick the bacteria up in childhood, often from eating off another person’s fork, or from kissing.
This bacterium wreaks havoc with the mucosal lining of the stomach; thanks to its helical shape, it’s able to penetrate deep into that stomach mucosa and create inflammation and open the door to infection in the body. Once inflammation is present in the stomach mucosa, the stomach reduces acid production. This, in turn, then causes difficulty in digesting protein, bloating, GERD, and atrophy and ulceration in the stomach lining.
Other symptoms of an H. pylori infection may be black and tarry stools, vomiting, excessive belching, and severe fatigue. However, it is also possible to have no symptoms whatsoever – which makes diagnosis difficult.
Dr. Daniel Kalish, of “The Digestion Sessions” series, suggests that the simplest way to see if you have an H. pylori infection is with a series of staggered stool samples to see if the bacteria are present. A simple antigen test will confirm if the bacteria are present, which will also confirm if you have an active H. pylori infection. Blood and urea breath tests should also be used at the same time to be absolutely sure the infection is active.
Once an infection is confirmed, treatment is simple and straightforward; antibiotics, followed by probiotics, will clear out the H. pylori and allow the stomach to heal, and rule out the most basic cause of one’s gastrointestinal distress.