If you develop an ulcer you’re most likely a victim of the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria. About two-thirds of the world’s population has H. pylori bacteria living in the lining of their stomachs.
Worldwide this organism causes 50 percent of peptic ulcers – sores that develop on the lining of the stomach (a gastric ulcer), the upper small intestine or duodenum (duodenal ulcer) or in the esophagus (esophageal ulcer). Research shows that probiotics may be a safe, natural way to treat H. pylori infection.
Contamination with Helicobacter pylori bacteria is common, especially in developing countries, usually developing during childhood. Most people remain symptom free of the bacteria but others start to develop symptoms during adulthood. It damages and inflames the protective mucous coating of the digestive tract and causes open sores or ulcers to form.
As a result powerful stomach acid leaks into the sensitive lining and exposes underlying tissue. These ulcers can bleed or perforate, which causes food and acid to leak into the abdominal cavity causing serious pain and the need for immediate medical treatment.
Causes and Symptoms
Likely contributing factors of ulcers include stress, smoking, alcohol abuse, and long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
The most common symptom is abdominal discomfort. You may also experience a dull or burning pain, usually when your stomach is empty. Other symptoms include a poor appetite, burping, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss. Symptoms can last for a few minutes or hours and come and go over time.
How Does H. pylori Spread?
Although experts aren’t completely sure about how H. pylori passes from person to person, some suggest that it may be transmitted through contaminated food or by drinking unsanitary water.
Studies show that you can also contract H. pylori if you come into contact with the stool or vomit of someone who has the infection. The bacteria is also present in the saliva of H. pylori-infected people so it’s quite possible that you can catch it from a kiss or other exposure to an infected person’s saliva.
How Do Probiotics Treat H. pylori?
A randomized study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) suggests that probiotic yogurt increases the quadruple therapy’s effectiveness for reducing the prevalence of H. pylori infection. Quadruple therapy includes proton pump inhibitor, metronidazole, tetracycline and a bismuth salt.
In the AJCN study 38 patients were split into two groups: One group received a probiotic plus quadruple therapy; the other received quadruple therapy only. After 4 weeks the first group receiving yogurt and therapy experienced a decrease in H. pylori loads.
In a systematic review of clinical trials three different probiotics – heat-inactivated L. acidophilus LB, Lactobacillus GG and a yogurt (AB yogurt) containing L. acidophilus La5 and B. lactis Bb12 – significantly increased eradication of H. pylori in patients with gastroduodenal illnesses. Lactobacillus GG reduced side effects such as diarrhea, bloating and taste problems.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006;83:864-9 Pretreatment with Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium containing yogurt can improve the efficacy of quadruple therapy in eradicating residual Helicobacter pylori infection after failed triple therapy, Bor-Shyang Sheu et al.
Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 2006;23(8):1077-1086. Systematic review: are probiotics useful in controlling gastric colonization by Helicobacter pylori? Gotteland M, Brunser O, Cruchet S.
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