Do you suffer from abdominal pain, bloating, and frequent burping? You may be among the thousands of people in the UK with a bacterial infection called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). This bacterium causes a variety of chronic stomach and duodenal disorders.

Let’s look at H.pylori’s causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment to understand better how to manage this condition if you are diagnosed. Home testing kits are an easy way to screen for Celiac Disease initially, which can be used at home and give you results in a few minutes. 

What Is H. Pylori

Have you ever heard of H. pylori? It’s a bacteria that can make its home in your stomach lining. While not everyone who has H. pylori will experience symptoms, for some people, it can cause stomach ulcers, abdominal pain, and even lead to stomach cancer. It’s a sneaky little bugger, too – it can be transmitted through contaminated food or water or from person to person. But don’t worry if you have H.pylori. Some treatments can clear it up and help prevent further damage to your stomach. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor if you suspect that you might have it.

How Common Is H. Pylori

Did you know that over 50% of people worldwide suffer from H. pylori bacteria? But just how prevalent is it in the UK? Research has shown that H. pylori infection affects approximately one-third of the population in the UK. However, most people won’t experience any symptoms or health issues due to the infection. It’s important to note that in some cases, H. pylori can cause ulcers, gastritis, and stomach lining inflammation. If you’re experiencing persistent stomach pain or other related symptoms, it’s worth speaking to your doctor.

Symptoms Of H. Pylori Infection

H. pylori infection can cause various symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. Some people infected with H. pylori may not experience any symptoms at all. The symptoms of H. pylori infection can be similar to other digestive disorders, so seeing a doctor for a proper diagnosis is essential. Here are some of the most common symptoms of H. pylori:

  • Abdominal pain: It is the most common sign of H. pylori infection. The pain can range from mild to severe and may be felt in the upper abdomen, near the navel or lower abdomen.
  • Nausea and vomiting: H. pylori infection can cause nausea and vomiting, especially after eating. Some people may also experience a loss of appetite.
  • Bloating and belching: H. pylori infection can cause bloating and belching, which can be uncomfortable and embarrassing.
  • Acid reflux and heartburn: H. pylori infection can cause the stomach to produce too much acid, leading to acid reflux and heartburn.
  • Bad breath: H. pylori infection can cause bad breath, even after brushing and flossing.
  • Diarrhoea or constipation: H. pylori infection can cause changes in bowel habits, leading to either diarrhoea or constipation.
  • Fatigue: H. pylori infection can cause fatigue and weakness, making it difficult to carry out everyday tasks.

It’s important to note that not everyone infected with H. pylori will experience symptoms. However, if you experience any of the above symptoms, it’s essential to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Causes Of H. Pylori Infection

The bacterium Helicobacter pylori cause H.pylori infection. The exact mode of transmission of the bacterium is still unknown, but it is believed to spread from person to person through the following ways:

  • Oral-oral transmission: The bacterium can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s saliva, vomit or faecal matter. This can occur through sharing food, utensils, or kissing.
  • Faecal-oral transmission: Poor sanitation and hygiene practices can lead to the spread of H. pylori. This occurs when infected faecal matter is ingested through contaminated food or water or by touching surfaces contaminated with the bacterium.
  • Animal-to-human transmission: Humans can contract H. pylori from animals, particularly those infected with the bacterium. This is more common in areas where people live close to animals.
  • Genetic factors: Certain genetic factors may increase the risk of H. pylori infection. Studies have shown that individuals with blood type O are more susceptible to H. pylori infection than those with other blood types.
  • Age: The risk of H. pylori infection increases with age. Older adults are more likely to acquire H. pylori during childhood, making it more prevalent in this age group.

Overall, we do not fully understand the exact cause of H. pylori infection, but a combination of genetic and environmental factors likely contributes to its development.

Diagnosing H. Pylori

The diagnosis of H. pylori includes several techniques that aid in identifying the existence of bacteria within the stomach. Diagnosing H. pylori infection as early as possible is vital to prevent further complications. The diagnostic methods for H. pylori include:

  • Blood tests: Blood tests detect the presence of antibodies produced by the body in response to H. pylori infection. However, blood tests may not always give accurate results and may not differentiate between past and current infections.
  • Stool antigen test: This test detects H. pylori antigen in a stool sample. It is more accurate than blood tests and can also monitor the effectiveness of treatment.
  • Urea breath test: It involves drinking a solution that contains urea and a particular carbon atom. When H. pylori is present, it breaks down urea into carbon dioxide, which a person exhales and can be detected in a breath sample. Doctors often use this highly accurate test to confirm the diagnosis of H. pylori.
  • Endoscopy: This method involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end into the stomach through the mouth. The doctor can take a small tissue sample (biopsy) from the stomach lining during the procedure to detect H. pylori by examining it under a microscope.

Discussing any symptoms or concerns with a healthcare professional who can recommend the appropriate diagnostic method for H. pylori infection is essential.

Treating An H. Pylori Infection

The infection caused by H. pylori can be remedied through antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). The antibiotics work to kill the H. pylori bacteria, while the PPIs reduce the amount of acid in the stomach, making it easier for the antibiotics to work. The treatment regimen can last from one to two weeks, depending on the severity of the infection.

Here is an overview of H. pylori treatment options:

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics are used to kill the H. pylori bacteria. The most commonly prescribed antibiotics for H. pylori infections are clarithromycin, amoxicillin, and metronidazole.
  • Proton pump inhibitors(PPI): PPIs reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. The most commonly prescribed PPIs for H. pylori infections are omeprazole, lansoprazole, and esomeprazole.
  • Bismuth subsalicylate: Bismuth subsalicylate is an over-the-counter medication sometimes used with antibiotics and PPIs to treat H. pylori infections.
  • Sequential therapy: Sequential therapy involves taking two different sets of antibiotics and a PPI for different periods.
  • Quadruple therapy: It involves taking a PPI, bismuth subsalicylate, and two different antibiotics for two weeks.

Completing the full H. pylori treatment regimen is vital, even if symptoms improve before finishing the medication. Failure to complete the entire treatment regimen can result in the infection returning and becoming antibiotic-resistant.

Possible side effects of H. pylori treatment include nausea, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. It is essential to discuss any concerns or side effects with your healthcare provider. Sometimes, a second course of treatment may be necessary if the infection persists.

Preventing H. Pylori

H.pylori is a bacterial infection that may lead to different gastrointestinal issues. Nevertheless, there are available treatments for this condition; it is best to prevent disease in the first place. This section will discuss some strategies for preventing H. pylori infection.

  • Practice good hygiene: H. pylori is highly contagious and can be transmitted through contaminated faecal matter or vomit. To reduce the risk of infection, practice good hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after using the toilet, before preparing or consuming food, and after handling contaminated materials.
  • Cook food thoroughly: Properly cooking meat and poultry can help kill any H. pylori bacteria that may be present. Make use of a meat thermometer to confirm that the internal temperature of the meat reaches a minimum of 165°F (74°C).
  • Avoid sharing personal items: Avoid sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, razors, and eating utensils with others. This can reduce the risk of H. pylori transmission.
  • Avoid contaminated water: H. pylori can also be transmitted through contaminated water. To reduce the risk of infection, drink only bottled or boiled water when travelling to areas with poor sanitation.
  • Maintain good digestive health: A healthy gut can help reduce the risk of H. pylori infection. Follow a diet plan rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and evade processed foods, high-fat foods, and foods that may be challenging to digest. Regular exercise can also help promote digestive health.
  • Manage stress: Stress weakens the immune system and makes the body more susceptible to infection. Managing stress through meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help reduce the risk of H. pylori infection.

Preventing H. pylori infection requires a comprehensive approach that includes practising good hygiene, properly cooking food, avoiding sharing personal items, avoiding contaminated water, maintaining good digestive health, and managing stress. By following these strategies, individuals can reduce their risk of infection and maintain good digestive health.

In Summary

H. pylori can lead to various gastrointestinal problems if left untreated. Proper diagnosis and treatment can effectively eradicate the infection. By being aware of the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for H. pylori, individuals can take proactive steps to protect their digestive health and avoid the potentially severe complications associated with this bacterial infection. Let’s take the first step towards testing for H. pylori with rapid test kits available online.


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