In the past, people thought that spicy food and stress were the main causes of peptic ulcers (open sores on the lining of the stomach). In fact, most stomach ulcers are actually the result of infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori for short). H. pylori bacteria are present in the digestive tract of about 30 percent of North Americans, and they usually do not cause health problems. However, if you experience symptoms of peptic ulcers, such as stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, then it is very likely that H. pylori is the cause. These bacteria are also associated with gastric cancer. The most common treatment for H. pylori infection is a combination of antibiotics and stomach acid-suppressing drugs.
Part 1 of 4: Making sure you are infected or not
Step 1. Look for signs of infection
H. pylori infection has symptoms similar to peptic ulcers. Most people who have H. pylori bacteria in their digestive tract will never experience any symptoms. If you experience symptoms that are similar to those of a peptic ulcer, it's possible H. pylori is the cause. The following are the symptoms you should be aware of:
- Pain in the stomach with an acidic burning sensation
- Indigestion or pain like "gnawing" in the stomach
- Acid reflux (stomach acid rises from the stomach into the esophagus)
- Bloody or black stools like tar
- Vomiting blood
- Suddenly unconscious
- Stiffness in the abdomen (peritonitis), for severe cases of infection
Step 2. Go to the doctor
Prolonged abdominal pain needs to be treated, regardless of the cause of the pain. The infection will not go away on its own, which is why it is important to see a doctor to make sure the H. pylori bacteria is the cause or not. Thus, you can immediately start treatment to heal the stomach.
Although rare, H. pylori infection can cause stomach cancer. That's why it's so important not to ignore abdominal pain, bloody stools, and other symptoms that could indicate an H. pylori infection in your digestive tract
Step 3. Perform tests to confirm the diagnosis
Talk to your doctor about your concerns that H. pylori bacteria may be the cause. Doctors will test for H. pylori bacteria by various methods. Your doctor will choose the testing method that best suits your symptoms and condition. The following are the most common tests performed:
- Urea breath test. These bacteria produce urea compounds. Urea breath testing is the most reliable diagnostic method. This test is the most accurate test for H. pylori bacteria.
- Stool antigen testing, ie stool samples will be examined in a laboratory to determine the presence or absence of signs of H. pylori bacteria. This test is considered the second most effective test.
- Blood testing. This test will reveal the presence of antibodies against the H. pylori bacteria. This test has an effectiveness of about 65 to 95%, which makes it a fairly reliable test.
- Biopsy. A tissue sample will be taken from your stomach using a procedure called an endoscopy. Generally, a biopsy is only done if an endoscopy is needed for other reasons such as treating a stomach ulcer, bleeding, or to confirm the absence of cancer.
- Your doctor will generally perform one of these tests if your symptoms match those of an H. pylori infection.
Step 4. Ask other family members to be tested
H. pylori bacteria are usually transmitted through poor sanitation and hygiene. If you believe you have this bacterium in your digestive tract, you should ask someone else who lives in the same neighborhood as you to be tested too.
- This is important not only for the health of other family members, but also for preventing re-infection.
- This test is especially important for married couples or other intimate partners. The bacteria can be transmitted by kissing with saliva.
Part 2 of 4: Obtaining Medicine
Step 1. Take antibiotics, as prescribed
Since H. pylori is a bacterium, this infection can be treated with short-term antibiotic treatment. In general, you will be given two different types of antibiotics at the same time. Your doctor will most likely prescribe one of the following antibiotics:
- Amoxicillin, 2 grams 4 times daily, for one day, and Flagyl, 500 mg 4 times daily, for one day. This treatment is 90 percent effective.
- Biaxin, 500 mg twice daily orally for 7 days and Amoxicillin, 1 gram twice daily orally for 7 days. This treatment is 80 percent effective.
- Children will usually be given Amoxicillin, 50 mg/kg body weight divided into several doses, twice daily (up to a maximum of 1 gram twice daily) for 14 days. Along with this drug, children will also usually be prescribed Biaxin: 15 mg/kg body weight divided into several doses twice daily (up to a maximum of 500 mg twice daily) for 14 days.
- It is very important to take antibiotics until they are finished during the course of treatment, even after symptoms have subsided. The doctor will prescribe antibiotics in the amount needed to kill the bacteria. Even if the symptoms of the infection have subsided, there may still be H. pylori bacteria in your digestive system.
Step 2. Take medications that protect against stomach acid
In addition to antibiotics, the doctor will also recommend that you take drugs that protect against stomach acid. These drugs prevent stomach ulcers from getting worse. These medications will also give the stomach lining time to heal.
- The stomach naturally produces acid to aid digestion, but when you have a peptic ulcer, it can make the ulcer worse.
- In most cases, your doctor will prescribe Bismuth subsalicylate, or Pepto Bismol. This medicine will coat the stomach to protect it from stomach acid. This drug also helps kill the H. pylori bacteria. The number and frequency of doses of this medicine will vary depending on the type of antibiotic you are taking.
Step 3. Take proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
Your doctor will also prescribe proton pump inhibitors. These drugs prevent gastric acid production by blocking the "pumps" in the gastric cells that activate gastric acid secretion.
- Generally, you will receive a prescription for Lansoprazole. The number and frequency of doses of this medicine depend on the type of antibiotic you are taking.
- Children may be prescribed Omeprazole, 1 mg/kg body weight divided twice daily (up to a maximum of 20 mg twice daily) for 14 days.
Step 4. Retest one month later
Your doctor will do a second test after four weeks to make sure you don't have any more H. pylori infection in your body. Make sure you follow the instructions your doctor gives you during treatment and before the second testing session.
- If the whole family does not recover from this infection, reinfection can occur and start the cycle again. This should be confirmed after four weeks of treatment.
- If you experience severe symptoms during treatment, make an appointment with your doctor immediately. Antibiotics are not always successful in treating the disease, and your doctor will prescribe another treatment for you.
Part 3 of 4: Using Natural Remedies
Step 1. Eat broccoli
Research shows that eating broccoli can help lower the number of H. pylori bacteria. Eating broccoli regularly does not completely kill the H. pylori bacteria. However, this method can reduce the population.
Eating a serving of broccoli several times a week can be beneficial for your health
Step 2. Drink green tea
Research shows that green tea causes a significant reduction in the number of H. pylori bacteria in people who drink it daily. Green tea contains high levels of polyphenols, which inhibit the production of H. pylori bacteria.
- If you don't like the taste of green tea, green tea extract has the same benefits.
- Red wine, which is also high in polyphenols, has the same benefits as green tea.
Step 3. Take probiotics
Probiotics are good bacteria that prevent harmful bacterial populations from growing out of control. Research shows that taking probiotics regularly can be a great natural way to prevent the H. pylori bacteria from harming your health.
Yogurt, kimchi (a Korean vegetable dish), kombucha (a type of tea mushroom) and other fermented foods contain probiotics
Part 4 of 4: Preventing H. Pylori Infection
Step 1. Wash your hands frequently
The main factors for preventing H. pylori infection are good hand washing and proper hygiene. You should wash your hands, especially after using the toilet, or before handling food. Wash your hands in the following way:
Use warm water (49 degrees celsius) and 3-5 ml (about 1 teaspoon) of liquid soap. The soap you use doesn't have to be antibacterial soap. Wash your hands for 15-30 seconds
Step 2. Set a balanced diet
Set a diet that contains carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water in sufficient proportions. This diet will help you maintain good health. Having a strong immune system can reduce the risk of infections caused by various bacteria.
- The exact proportions vary depending on weight, gender, activity level, etc. However, the calorie intake should be around 2000 calories a day, for most people. Get most of your daily calorie intake from fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and low-fat protein.
- Despite consuming a balanced diet, 67% of dietitians recommend taking dietary supplements. This supplement will fill the lack of nutrients that can not be met by food alone.
Step 3. Take vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential for a healthy immune system. Doctors generally recommend taking vitamin C at a dose of about 500 mg per day.
- Please note that vitamin C is acidic and can irritate the stomach. It would be better if you take vitamin C in a buffered form (a mixture of acid and salt forms) or try taking vitamin C through food. Good food choices that contain vitamin C include cantaloupe (yellow melon), cabbage, citrus fruits, and red peppers.
- Because of its acidic nature, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor about the vitamin C supplements you're taking if you're being treated for an H. pylori infection.
Step 4. Avoid contact with saliva
Research shows that H. pylori bacteria can be transmitted through saliva. If you know the person has an H. pylori infection, avoid contact with saliva until you are sure the treatment is working.
For example, if your spouse has an H. pylori infection, don't kiss him, and don't share the same toothbrush
Step 5. Take precautions when traveling abroad
Be careful what you eat or drink, especially when traveling to countries with poor sanitation.
- Drink bottled water when visiting countries with poor water sanitation.
- Avoid eating in roadside food trucks or trucks with questionable hygiene, etc. Eat only in restaurants that have sanitary standards. Kitchen utensils should be washed in hot water (as hot as you can safely handle) and antibacterial soap.
- Using hand sanitizer can also help in these situations. Washing hands with unclean water does more harm than good.
- Urea breath testing is great for post-treatment testing. Blood testing is not recommended as a post-treatment test. The antibodies tested in the blood test are still present after the H. pylori bacteria have died.
- If you are currently taking other medicines or have other health problems, tell your doctor. Certain combinations of drugs can be harmful to health.
- Do not stop taking the medicine yourself if you experience side effects. Ask your doctor for other drugs that will not have side effects.
- Natural remedies are helpful, but they are not guaranteed to cure the infection.