My health
Could your stomach ache be caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori?
My health

Could your stomach ache be caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori?

Have you heard of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori? Perhaps not, as awareness of this pathogen is far from widespread, despite it being responsible for many cases of stomach ache. Indeed, around 50% of us may be harbouring this germ which is believed to be the principal cause of gastro-duodenal ulcers. Where and how does it develop? What is its impact? Who does it affect? Read on to find out how to protect yourself effectively and durably against this pathogenic bacteria.

Where does Helicobacter pylori grow?

For a long time, it was thought that no bacteria could survive the acidity of the stomach. However in 1982, two Australian scientists were surprised to discover that the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) was indeed able to withstand the effects of gastric juices. This bacteria forms part of the Helicobacter genus because of its external, corkscrew-like, helicoidal structure. The term pylori refers to the pylorus where the stomach meets the small intestine.

How does Helicobacter pylori survive in the stomach?

The scientists who discovered Helicobacter pylori in the human stomach were actually awarded the Nobel prize for physiology and medicine in 2005. Following this major advance, further research has expanded our understanding of the mechanism responsible for its development. Its very specific structure means it is able to penetrate the stomach’s mucus and mucosa. Once there, H. pylori produces significant amounts of an ammonia-producing enzyme called urease, which enables it to survive in the gastric mucosa.

What are the consequences of H. pylori infection?

As well as secreting urease, Helicobacter pylori produces toxins which damage the stomach, weakening the gastric mucosa and leaving it vulnerable to attack by gastric juices. They may also increase gastric acid production which encourages the development of chronic inflammation in the stomach, manifesting in frequent stomach pain.

What is the risk of complications from H. pylori infection?

In some cases, the gastritis caused by H. pylori can result in a gastroduodenal ulcer, a deep lesion in the stomach wall (gastric ulcer) or intestinal wall (duodenal ulcer). Helicobacter pylori infection is now considered the leading cause of gastroduodenal ulcers. In rare cases, it can contribute to the development of stomach cancer (gastric adenocarcinoma).

Who is affected by this infection?

It’s estimated that half the world’s population may be infected by the bacteria H. pylori. Though contamination happens more frequently in childhood, Helicobacter pylori infection can remain asymptomatic and undiscovered for many years. A significant number of people are thus living with this bacteria without realising it.

How do you recognise and diagnose infection by H. pylori ?

It can be difficult to diagnoseHelicobacter pylori infection - medical tests are needed to confirm the presence and growth of this bacteria. There are, however, certain warning signs such as persistent, increasingly frequent stomach aches, abdominal pain accompanied by bloating, and nausea with loss of appetite.

How is H. pylori infection treated?

Helicobacter pylori is normally treated with antacid-based triple therapy, aimed at reducing gastric acid production and limiting damage to the gastric mucosa. This tritherapy usually includes a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) and two antibiotics. In some cases, quadri-therapy with a PPI and three antibiotics may be used. Unfortunately, more and more cases of antibiotic resistance are being reported. The bacteria H. pylori is mutating and becoming resistant to antibiotics.

Are natural treatments available?

In view of this growing antibiotic resistance, a number of studies have highlighted the benefits of natural treatments for combatting gastritis and ulcers. Widely-studied, liquorice extractHelicobacter pylori: mastic gum. This natural gum has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for stomach aches and as an antiseptic. Studies show that this extract may inhibit or kill certain bacteria, including H. pylori.

How can you prevent infection by H. pylori?

The above-mentioned liquorice extract and mastic gum can also be used in a preventive capacity. Their activity is particularly useful in helping to protect the gastric mucosa from attack by H. pylori. Improving digestive transit may also be beneficial for prevention given that good digestive transit encourages the elimination of toxins including those produced by Helicobacter pylori. Alongside a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, certain dietary supplements can help to maintain good digestive transit. One such supplement is psyllium seed husk, which contains a large quantity of soluble fibre, and probiotics, microorganisms recognised for their beneficial effects on the digestive system.

Further reading
Honey, royal jelly and propolis: what are their health benefits?
Beehive products have been growing in popularity over the last few years, though enthusiasm for these substances is far from a recent development: packed with benefits, they have in fact been used for thousands of years. Treatment with honeybee products is actually a branch of alternative medicine called apitherapy. Read on to find out more about the positive effects of honey, royal jelly and propolis.
My healthRead article
Lack of magnesium: symptoms and solutions
It’s still too often the case that inadequate magnesium levels are going undiagnosed; indeed, many people fall into this camp without realising it. Persistent fatigue, dizziness, tingling, loss of appetite, cramps … these are all potential signs of magnesium deficiency. These symptoms occur because the body can’t actually function properly without this mineral; it plays a part in balancing many biological mechanisms. To help reduce the risk of magnesium deficiency, the experts at SuperSmart have put together this practical guide on inadequate magnesium levels: the causes, consequences, symptoms, solutions and prevention …
My healthRead article
Benefits of omega-3: all you need to know about ‘good fats’!
Nowadays, the health benefits of omega-3 are widely-recognised. Like vitamins and minerals, they are actually considered to be essential - the body needs them in order to function properly. Known as ‘good fats’, omega-3 fatty acids are attracting considerable interest among the scientific community. In addition to providing multiple advantages for the cardiovascular system, these lipids offer a number of other health benefits – for the brain, eyes, skin, hair … The experts at SuperSmart have put together this guide which provides everything you need to know about omega-3: their definition, origins, different types, properties, effects, sources and how much omega-3 the body needs …
My healthRead article
Same topic


Thank you for visiting our site. Before you go

Club SuperSmart
And take advantage
of exclusive benefits:
  • Permanent 5% discount on all your orders
  • Free: our weekly science-based newsletter "Nutranews"
  • Special offers for club members only
Continue shopping