Have you ever heard someone grumble about being so stressed out that they’re going to get an ulcer? That’s because doctors used to think ulcers were caused by stress. However, we now know that a little critter called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is the cause of stomach ulcers. And there’s a good chance you’re infected with it.
What is H. pylori?
H. pylori is a harmful bacterium. Most bacteria can’t survive in the acid environment of the stomach, but H. pylori thrives there. In fact, about two thirds of all people worldwide have H. pylori in their digestive systems.[i] In the United States, it’s about thirty to forty percent.[ii]
What problems does H. pylori cause?
For many people, H. pylori is harmless, but others aren’t so lucky. On the fixable-yet-aggravating end of the spectrum, H. pylori can cause ulcers in your stomach or intestinal lining. These sores create burning pain that lasts for minutes or hours. On the serious-and-life-threatening end of the spectrum, a long-term infection with H. pylori can lead to gastritis or even stomach cancer.
How do you get H. Pylori?
You can get H. pylori from consuming contaminated food or water or by coming into contact with the saliva of an infected person. Many people are infected in childhood and don’t develop symptoms until later in life.
How can you find out if you have it?
If you have ulcer symptoms, there are a number of tests your doctor can perform, starting with blood, stool, and breath tests. If the doctor finds evidence of H. pylori, he or she may run additional tests such as endoscopy with a biopsy, a staining barium drink followed by an X-ray, or a CT scan.
How to get rid of H. pylori
The good news is that you can eliminate H. pylori from your system. The conventional method is triple therapy: two antibiotics plus a proton pump inhibitor. Unfortunately, the side effects can be pretty nasty. Diarrhea, constipation, headaches, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and vaginal itching are common. More serious side effects include liver problems, kidney problems, heightened inflammation and severe skin reactions.[iii] That’s why many people choose natural ways to eliminate H. pylori instead.