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Have you ever heard of the bacteria called H. pylori?
H. pylori is commonly found in the stomach of two thirds of the world’s population. This bacteria is responsible for most ulcers of the stomach and top part of the small intestine. Furthermore, H. pylori is a prime cause of gastric cancer. Not to scare you, but gastric cancer is responsible for the second most cancer related deaths in the world and the third most common cancer in China.
What are some common symptoms of H. pylori infection?
- Bad breath
- Deceased appetite
- Peptic Ulcers
- Abdominal discomfort
- Abdominal pain
- Dark or tarry stools
So, how does one get H. pylori?
Over half the Chinese population gets H. pylori in childhood. Typically, it is spread by mouth-to-mouth contact (spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, acquaintance) as well as from contaminated food and water. So, a family member can have it and give it to you usually by sharing their spoon, fork, cup, chopsticks that has been poorly washed. Additionally, one can get it when eating at a restaurant from poorly washed utensils, plates, and cups or someone who is infected with the bacteria didn’t wash their hands after going to the restroom then prepared or served your food.
When H. pylori is treated, make sure to treat the whole family at the same time as they may be also infected with the bacteria. If you miss treating one family member, the whole family can get infected again. Wash everything in hot soapy water.
So, does treating a H. pylori infection reduce your chances of gastric cancer?
In one clinical study, people from Shandong, China who had their H. pylori bacterial infection eliminated 15 years earlier were shown to have an almost 40 percent reduced rate of gastric cancer. There are also other risk factors for gastric cancer which include tobacco smoking (so stop smoking), chronic gastritis (inflammation of the stomach), diet high in smoked, salted, or chemically preserved foods, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables.
How does one fight H. pylori?
- Antibiotics (have a 20% chance of getting the infection again and the treatment destroys most of your good bacteria leading to possible fungal infections)
-Make sure when taking antibiotics you take the proper probiotics during treatment to reduce the chance of a fungal infection
- Probiotics (Fight bacteria with bacteria. Important to know which ones.)
- Some Green tea (Not all green teas are as effective)
- Garlic (Especially raw (not cooked) and well cleaned or lightly cooked)
- Some Raw Honey (Manuka honey)
- Omega 3
- Probiotic foods like (Organic raw dairy from A2 cows, organic raw dairy from goats and sheep, organic kefir)
Make sure to avoid or reduce
- Spicy Foods
- Pickled Foods
- Foods made with white flour
- Caffeine rich foods like chocolate and certain candies
How does one reduce the risk of getting H. pylori again?
- If you suspect that you may be infected, get tested by the doctor
- Good hygiene (hand washing)
- Have a clean source of water
- Avoid unsanitary areas (Don’t eat food from street vendors or from shady restaurants or even your neighbor if he or she has poor hygiene)
- Wash your hands regularly (after shaking hands, going to the restroom, touching unsanitary things)
- If one member has it treat the whole family conventionally or naturally
- Use your own utensils (cup, plate, chopsticks, spoon, fork, knife)
- Do not eat poorly/prepared cooked food.
So, with a change in diet and lifestyle one can lower one’s risks of complications from a H. pylori infection. Have you been tested? Are you ready to make the necessary changes? Are you ready to reduce your risk factors for stomach cancer?
- Ferlay J, Shin HR, Bray F, et al. Estimates of worldwide burden of cancer in 2008: GLOBOCAN 2008. International Journal of Cancer 2010; 127(12):2893–2917.
- Forman D, Burley VJ. Gastric cancer: Global pattern of the disease and an overview of environmental risk factors. Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology 2006; 20(4):633–649.
- Brenner H, Rothenbacher D, Arndt V. Epidemiology of stomach cancer. Methods in Molecular Biology 2009; 472:467–477.
- Ma JL, Zhang L, Brown LM, et al. Fifteen-year effects of Helicobacter pylori, garlic, and vitamin treatments on gastric cancer incidence and mortality. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2012; 104(6):488-492.