Your not so friendly bacteria

Helicobacter pylori, commonly known as H. pylori is a harmful bacterium commonly found in the stomach, where it can thrive. It is a condition that affects almost 50% of the population with no symptoms in most cases. In other cases, H. pylori can cause a host of issues, including digestive problems, ulcers, inflammation of the protective lining of the stomach leading to gastritis, duodenitis and even stomach cancers.

The bacteria spreads in numerous ways, including water contaminated with faecal matter and food. The symptoms often include:

  • Discomfort in the upper abdomen
  • Bloating
  • Feeling full after eating a small amount of food
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Dark stools

As symptoms are wide and varied, H. pylori diagnosis is tricky. However, once identified as a possible cause, there are a number of tests (with varying degrees of accuracy) that can be performed.

The most common being blood tests, breath tests, stool tests and stomach biopsy test in more chronic cases. The good news is that is that once identified, eradicating H. pylori is a reasonably simple process and usually involves triple therapy involving a 7-day course of two antibiotics and a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI). See our earlier post about PPIs

If you suffer for some of the above-mentioned symptoms and feel you might be one of the lucky few, consider requesting your GP for a test, especially if you have a history of ulcers.

NB: Although H. pylori infection is the most common cause of ulcers, not all patients with ulcers have H. pylori.

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