What is H-pylori (Helicobacter Pylori)?
H-pylori is a specific bacteria found in the stomach that can cause an infection in the stomach that may lead to stomach ulcers.
What causes an H-pylori infection?
It is not clearly understood the exact cause or how the H-pylori bacteria enter and create damage to the stomach. Because of the bacteria’s shape and movement they weaken the stomach’s protective mucosal lining. This puts the stomach and duodenum (first part of the small intestine) at risk for damaging effects of the stomach’s strong acid. Acid in your stomach helps grind down food for digestion.
What are the symptoms of H- pylori?
Some people have no symptoms. Others may have some symptoms of a dull, gnawing pain in the stomach, weight loss, loss of appetite, bloating, burping, nausea and vomiting. Please call your doctor if your symptoms get worse.
How is H-pylori diagnosed?
In addition to a medical history and physical exam, testing for H-pylori includes:
- Breath test- a patient is given a solution to drink that causes the H-pylori bacteria to break down into a gas (urea) that is exhaled and can be measured.
- Blood tests that measures the antibodies that work against the H-pylori bacteria in the blood.
- Upper endoscopy (EGD) procedure. A thin flexible lighted tube is guided into the mouth to the stomach where small samples of tissue are removed and sent for test. The tissue is examined to see if the H-pylori bacteria are present.
How is H-pylori treated?
- Treatment for H-pylori is antibiotics to kill the bacteria and treat the infection along with acid-reducing medications for a period of time prescribed by your doctor.
- Many people with H-pylori have gastritis (redness and inflammation of the lining of the stomach). Reducing the stomach acid is helpful. General guidelines are:
- Medication that blocks the stomach from producing acid (proton pump inhibitors or H-2 blockers)
- Stop the use of aspirin, NSAIDs or alcohol if they are causing problems.
- Do not smoke.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks and caffeine products.
- Avoid foods that increase acid like greasy, spicy and fatty foods, citrus, chocolate, onion, tomato sauces and peppermint.
- Avoid large meals, eat slowly, and eat 4 to 5 small meals a day.
- Do not eat anything for at least 2 hours before bedtime.
- Raise the head of your bed 4-6 inches with wooden blocks or bricks. Gravity then helps keep stomach acid out of the esophagus while sleeping.
- Do not bend over or lie down immediately after eating.
- Avoid tight fitting pants and belts.
- Lose weight if overweight.
- Do not strain during bowel movements, urination, or lifting.
What is the prognosis for gastritis?
With proper treatment, eliminating the infection and measures to reduce stomach acid are effective. If the infection is still present, ulcers could recur and perhaps stomach cancer can develop. Your doctor will let you know your treatment plan based on your situation.