Heliobacter pylori are bacteria living in the stomach lining of about 30 per cent of the population, and are present in half of all people over the age of 50. Australian physicians Barry Marshall and Robin Warren won the Nobel Prize in 2005 for discovering that this type of bacteria causes peptic ulcers, dispelling the belief that ulcers are caused by worrying and excess stomach acid. H. pylori bacteria are also linked to gastric cancer, Menetrier's disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
Effects of H. Pylori Infection
About 90 per cent of people who have H. pylori bacteria will not get an ulcer, probably due to genetics. If you have symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, your doctor can test for H. pylori infection. Triple therapy with antibiotics, medication that reduces stomach acid and bismuth has been shown to destroy the infection, allowing ulcers to heal. However, 20 per cent of patients have a relapse within six months.
Support Your Immune System
If you're undergoing treatment for H. pylori or ulcers, check with your doctor about possible drug and food interactions before changing your diet. Antibiotics kill off good bacteria as well as the bad, and supporting the natural flora in your digestive system can lead to a stronger immune system. Lactobacillus salivarius bacteria can prevent and treat infections by H. pylori, and both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in yoghurt and intestinal support supplements have been shown to reduce colonic inflammation. Healthy colonies of these beneficial gut bacteria also keep the bad bacteria and yeast, or Candida, population in check.
Foods for Ulcers and H. Pylori Infections
A diet high in protein (about 20 per cent of daily calories) and vitamin C will encourage the healing of the stomach lining. Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in those with chronic H. pylori infections, so supplementing with B12 or increasing meat and fish consumption can reduce the risk of anaemia. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and broccolini are high in sulphoraphane, nature's antibacterial, which kills H. pylori bacteria. Vitamin A is essential for the healthy function of mucous membranes and tissue repair. Find it in liver, carrots, greens, spinach, asparagus, sweet potatoes, peaches, cantaloupe and apricots. Avoid foods that cause sensitivities or irritate your digestive system, such as alcohol, caffeine, black pepper, cayenne and aspirin. A diet high in fruits and vegetables will provide nutrients that support healing.
H. pylori bacteria are highly sensitive to vitamin C and garlic, and both can be taken for long periods of time with no side effects. DGL liquorice helps heal the stomach lining. Goldenseal and aloe vera are soothing to mucous membranes. Ginger can help alleviate nausea that often accompanies gastritis and ulcers. Gamma oryzanol from rice bran oil acts on the autonomic nervous system to normalise the production of gastric juices. Zinc increases the healing rate and can prevent damage to the stomach lining. Flax seeds contain linoleic acid, and people with duodenal ulcers are low in this essential fatty acid. Check with your doctor before trying alternative therapies, especially if you are taking prescription medications.