Diagnosed with H. Pylori Infection: What Do I Do?

What is H. Pylori?

H. Pylori is a bacteria that results in ulcers of the stomach or early small intestines, specifically the duodenumWhile most people who have the bacteria don’t have any symptoms, in some the bacteria can result in ulcers. The symptoms of H. pylori infection include:

·         Pain in the upper belly, particularly a burning pain in the midline under the ribs

·         Bloating

·         Feeling full quickly after eating a small amount of food

·         Decreased appetite

·         Nausea or vomiting

·         Dark or black color bowel movements

·         Increased fatigue

How is H. pylori diagnosed?

H. pylori is diagnosed through several standard tests which indicate the presence of the bacteria. These include blood tests, breath tests, stool sample tests, and stomach biopsy.  Breath tests measure substances in a person’s breath after he or she has been given a special liquid to drink, which lab tests check a sample of stool for H. pylori infection.  During a biopsy a doctor takes a small piece of tissue from the lining of the stomach, to test for the bacteria’s presence.  

What does treatment for H. pylori entail?

The gold stand for treatment of H. Pylori is triple therapy of antibiotics for 7 to 14 days.  Antibiotics given consist of a proton pump inhibitor (like lansoprazole, omeprazole, pantoprazole, or rabeprazol), amoxicillin, and clarithromycin.

Due to increasing antibiotic resistance, some doctors prefer a combination of 4 drugs, adding bismuth to the normal regiment along with a proton pump inhibitor and 2 different antibiotics. Unfortunately, these drugs come with their own side effects, such as metallic taste, photosensitivity, diarrhea, allergic reactions, skin rash, nausea, vomiting and headaches. Probiotics may reduce side effects form the standard treatment especially diarrhea. 

Completing the prescribed therapy is essential to ensure that the bacteria was in fact eradicated.  This is especially important as chronic stomach irritation can put on at increased risk for gastric cancer as well as a specific type of lymphoma.  Additionally, the ulcers can result in chronic blood loss leading to eventual anemia, this can result in decreased energy, but forces the heart to work harder in order to ensure proper oxygenation of the body.

It is also important to remember that, not all ulcers are due to H. pylori.  Chronic use of anti-inflammatory or NSAID, pain relievers, Plavix and celecoxib B inhibitors increases ones risk, also increase your risk of developing ulcers.  If you experience abdominal pain, or any other ulcer-like symptoms, be sure to see your physician for evaluation.