H Pylori bacteria grows in the stomach and causes symptoms like stomach pain, bloating, belching, and others. Diet and nutritional and herbal supplements can help eradicate the bacteria to prevent it from affecting digestion, your gut microbiome, and other aspects of your health.
What’s H Pylori?
H Pylori, or Helicobacter Pylori, is bacteria that can grow in the stomach. Infection rates vary between 20-50% of people and up to 80% in certain countries. It’s a helix-shaped bacteria that can drill through and burrow in the lining of the stomach.
H Pylori thins out the lining of the stomach, causing atrophy (or damage) and inflammation. This makes your stomach sensitive to hydrochloric acid (HCL), enzymes, and gastric juices even though you need them for proper digestion. As a result, you stop tolerating foods you used to comfortably enjoy before like certain fruits, vegetables, or proteins. H Pylori can even reduce your ability to digest foods, which in return will affect how well you absorb nutrients, leading to nutrient deficiencies.
Why is it important to address H Pylori?
- H Pylori thins out the stomach lining so you start to experience pain in the upper part of the abdomen, right under your chest
- H Pylori can cause stomach ulcers and gastritis, and in certain cases increase the risk for stomach cancer
- H Pylori interferes with HCL production, which has a detrimental domino effect on digestion and the health of the gut
Hydrochloric Acid, H Pylori, and Stomach Acidity
Hydrochloric acid (HCL), also referred to as stomach acid, is produced by the parietal cells in the stomach. It is needed to activate proteolytic enzymes (protein-breaking enzymes, or the conversion of pepsinogen to pepsin). Without this important step, you will have a hard time digesting and therefore utilizing proteins from your diet. People with H Pylori tend to report more difficulty tolerating proteins like chicken or beef.
The acidity is needed to be able to absorb important nutrients like vitamin B12, iron, selenium, and zinc. You are not just what you eat—you are what you digest and absorb. This can further lead to nutrient deficiencies or anemia that will affect your energy level, your hair, nails, and other parts of your body.
The acidity is also important for triggering the next steps of digestion. Think of digestion as a chain reaction. As partially digested food leaves the stomach, ideally with an acidic pH of 2, it enters the duodenum that has receptors for acid. These receptor send signals that trigger the release of cholecystokinin (CCK) hormone from the small intestine. The acid also signals the gall bladder to release bile that helps absorb fat and the pancreas to release digestive enzymes that are responsible for breaking down fats, starches, and protein. This is a critical step in digestion. If the signal is not present and enzymes are not released, the end result is indigestion, bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, and even bacterial overgrowth.
Acid helps keep the digestive tract “clean” from pathogens. The stomach is so acidic for a reason. It kills pathogens or microbes that you may contract from contaminated food or water. You can’t live in a bubble, and the body is designed to protect us. If the stomach is not acidic, pathogens can reach your intestine and cause infections and inflammation.
What are the H Pylori Symptoms?
- Dull or burning pain in the stomach, usually in the upper part of the abdomen. It may come and go, and it may come on an empty stomach. This may be a sign of an ulcer.
- Acid reflux, heartburn, or laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR)
- Bloating and gas
- Nausea and vomiting
- Indigestion, food stuck in the upper stomach feeling like a rock
- Bad breath
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
- Other non-digestive symptoms like mood swings, anxiety, fatigue, joint and muscle pain
How is H Pylori diagnosed?
- Urea breath test: elevation in CO2 is a positive breath test.
- Stool Antigen testing: not as accurate
- PCR DNA technology stool test to check for H Pylori. There are 3 advantages to this type of testing, and I talk in detail about them in the video above:
- It quantifies the bacteria numbers
- Shows the absence of presence of virulence factors. These are cytotoxic proteins produced but the H Pylori. The more present they are, the stronger and more likely H Pylori is creating inflammation in the gut and have increased risk of developing ulcers. They’re not always high, but when they’re high, it definitely makes eradicating H Pylori more of a priority.
- it provides antibiotic resistance information. Antibiotic resistance is common. Conventional therapy includes 2-3 antibiotics along with a PPI. Many patients develop resistance to antibiotic, so without knowing this data, you may not be able to eradicate the bacteria.
- Blood antigen tests: IgG for past infections and IgA and IgM for acute infections
What are the options for H Pylori Treatment?
If you suspect you have H Pylori, it’s important to test and not self-diagnose, and consult with a doctor.
Conventional treatment of H Pylori is typically either triple therapy (PPI + 2 antibiotics)or quadruple therapy (PPI/H2 blocker + bismuth + 2 antibiotics).
I run a PCR stool test for all my patients, and if we find H Pylori, there are certain herbs and supplements that help support and build the lining of the gut and have been found to eradicate H Pylori or reduce its levels. Some of these supplements include mastic gum, zinc carnosine, glutamine, Berberine, and bismuth. It’s also important to incorporate things like aloe vera, DGL, marshmallow root, slippery elm, and okra to build up and soothe the lining of the gut. Sometimes antioxidants like quercetin help too.
Diet and Lifestyle Tips with H Pylori
- Chew your food thoroughly. This is the most important and often overlooked tip for overall digestive health and especially with H Pylori. If your body is not producing enough enzymes, you don’t want to make its job harder by swallowing clumpy food. Break it down until soft baby food consistency. The more you break it down, the more surface area available for enzymes to work on the food.
- Water: Only drink 2-4 ounces of water with meals if needed or just enough if you have to take medications or supplements. Water has a pH of 7 so it will raise the pH in the stomach.
- Eat cooked soft food. Steam or simmer with liquid is better than dry grilled foods. Avoid raw foods or lots of fiber or a big salad. If you have problems with meats and chicken, try ground versions or cook them very thoroughly.
- Avoid processed foods and sugars that can cause inflammation.
Other Tips for H Pylori
- It can be spread via saliva so it can be shared back and forth between couples and families. Even sharing utensils not just in a sexual mean.
- Avoid supplements with HCL or digestive bitters, or using raw apple cider vinegar.
- H Pylori is a gram-negative bacteria, which means it has an outer layer than produces Lipoprotein saccharide, called LPS, which is endotoxins. Endotoxins are inflammatory compounds, so when you kill H Pylori, it can cause stress on the body.
What’s the best H Pylori diet?
There’s no one diet that fits everyone with H Pylori as the diet may vary according to your symptoms. If you have acid reflux or heartburn, avoid acidic foods, coffee, chocolate, garlic, and onions. If you have bloating, gas or burping, you may want to avoid gas-forming foods like beans, lentils, and certain fruits and vegetables that contain fibers and carbohydrates that are easily fermented by bacteria in the gut. You may also have food sensitivities, and the best way to determine your reactive foods is through food sensitivity testing.
What’s the best H Pylori test?
There are several ways to test for H Pylori and your doctor may have already done one of them. I find that getting quantitative PCR stool testing is the most useful as it allows us to see early signs of H Pylori growth before it reaches a disease state or a level that may cause more serious damage in the gut. Because the test is very sensitive, it can detect a small amount of genetic material for the bacteria before other tests. Consult with your doctor or consider working with me in order to get comprehensive gut testing.
What to expect after H Pylori treatment?
Ideally, you want to get retested using the same testing method after treatment to make sure the bacteria is gone. H Pylori can be stubborn to eradicate as it can be antibiotic-resistant and may create a biofilm that prevents the medical or natural active ingredients from reaching the bacteria. During the treatment protocol, you may experience a hexamer die-off reaction where you feel worse before you feel better. You may experience fatigue, joint pain, headaches, stomach pain, or others. As the bacteria is getting eradicated, it can release endotoxins that create an inflammatory response in the body. I highly recommend that you don’t self-treat and consult with your healthcare provider if this happens to you. If the bacteria has been eradicated properly, you should notice an improvement in your symptoms and be able to reintroduce foods that used to trigger symptoms in the past. If you continue to have symptoms or unable to eat a variety of foods without triggering symptoms, the bacteria may still be there, or you may have other root causes like food sensitivities, SIBO, dysbiosis, or something else.
Disclaimer: Don’t stop any mediation on your own. This post is educational, doesn’t replace medical advice, and doesn’t claim to diagnose or treat any conditions. In some cases, PPI use may prevent serious complications like esophageal cancer and it’s better to analyze if the benefits outweigh the long-term risks. Stopping a PPI medication without tapering off can backfire and cause a rebound (more!) acid production, which may worsen your symptoms and create more serious damage. Discuss tapering your dose with your doctor.