Herbs and Helicobacter Pylori
Infection with H. Pylori
A peptic ulcer is a sore or hole in the lining of the stomach or duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). People of any age can get an ulcer and women are affected just as often as men. Over 25 million Americans will suffer from an ulcer at some point during their lifetime. The good news is that most ulcers are caused by an infection with the bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, and can be cured in about two weeks with antibiotic herbal medicines.
Most ulcers are caused by an infection, not spicy food, acid or stress.
The most common ulcer symptom is burning pain in the stomach.
Your doctor can test you for H. pylori infection.
Antibiotics are the new cure for ulcers. Specific herbal antibacterial medicines are safer.
Eliminating H. pylori infections with antibiotics means that your ulcer can be cured for good.
Helicobacter pylori (which is written in an abbreviated form as H. pylori) is a form of bacteria, a bug or germ, that lives in the sticky fluid (mucus) which coats the lining of the human stomach and duodenum. It is usually a life-long infection and may cause no problems. However, it is often associated with peptic ulcer.
Here are answers to questions that you may want to ask about H. pylori, or call or email the Herbactive Clinic:
What is a peptic ulcer ?
Peptic ulcers look like mouth ulcers. They are sensitive raw patches in the lining of the stomach or duodenum (the part of the gut immediately after the stomach).
What are gastric and duodenal ulcers ?
Gastric ulcers are ulcers in the stomach, and duodenal ulcers are those of the duodenum.
Research has shown that H. pylori is an important cause of peptic ulcers.
Where does H. pylori come from ?
Helicobacter pylori is a Gram-negative, spiral-shaped microaerophilic bacterium often implicated in duodenal and gastric ulcerations, gastritis, gastric carcinoma, colorectal cancer, peptic ulcer disease, nonulcer dyspepsia and gastroeosophageal reflux disease (GERD). However, many who are infected by H. pylori do not show any symptoms is disease. Having been classified as Group 1 carcinogen in man by the International Agency on Cancer in 1994, H. pylori has a high global prevalence, especially in developing countries.
Two antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor are used to treat H. pylori. But there is increasing antibiotic resistance by the organism.
Theobroma cacao (cocoa) has been found to kill H. pylori. H. pylori is a germ that can only infect human beings. Animals have similar bacteria, but they cannot infect humans. Hence, H. pylori must pass from one person to the next.
How do we get infected with H. pylori ?
It is still not certain how this germ moves from the stomach of one person to the next. These bacteria are rarely detected in saliva, gastric juice or stools. The latest theory is that people may be highly infectious for only a matter of days or weeks - and transmission may be via the fingers when coming into contact with infected vomit or stools. Good hygiene in the home seems to decrease transmission.
How long does H. pylori infection last ?
This is a life-long infection for most people. Without medical help, the infected person seems incapable of getting rid of it. Long-term infection, perhaps for up to 50 years, can result in loss of the stomach's layer of mucus. At that stage, the infection disappears in some people.
Where does H. pylori live in the stomach ?
The normal human stomach has a very thin layer of mucus that coats the whole of its inside surface. This mucus has a protective role, acting as a barrier between the acid in the stomach and the sensitive stomach wall. The duodenum can also have this type of mucus, particularly if the stomach secretes a great deal of acid, and in these people H. pylori can also survive in the lining of the duodenum. H. pylori has become adapted to live exclusively in this layer of mucus.
How many people are infected with H. pylori ?
In Britain, about half the population over middle age is infected with H. pylori. It seems likely that most people get infected in childhood. Probably, almost all of our grandparents were infected with these bacteria but, because of improved hygiene in the modern home, very few children are now infected in Britain. Unfortunately, most children in the developing world still get infected. This means that almost everybody in these countries has a chronic infection with H. pylori.
What does H. pylori do ?
H. pylori acts as an irritant to the lining of the stomach, and this causes inflammation of the stomach (gastritis). H. pylori also appears to be important in the development of peptic ulceration. A combination of factors (including H. pylori, gastric acid, genetic background, use of aspirin or drugs for arthritis, and cigarette smoking) may combine to cause ulcers of the stomach or duodenum. It is possible that a small proportion of people who are infected develop a cancer of the stomach in later life. This is probably because of the chronic irritation to the lining of the stomach throughout decades of long-term infection. There is no evidence at present that eradication of H. pylori in adults will reduce the risk of gastric cancer.
How do we know H. pylori is an important cause of peptic ulcers ?
Without treatment, almost every ulcer sufferer experiences repeated episodes of painful ulceration. However, such relapses become extremely rare if H. pylori is cleared from the stomach by medical treatment. Eradicating H. pylori infection can give a permanent cure of most gastric and duodenal ulcers.
How can H. pylori infection be detected ?
When you are infected with H. pylori, you will produce antibodies to fight against these bacteria. It is possible to detect these antibodies by a blood test either using a finger prick or a larger blood sample. The bacteria can also be discovered by taking a sample (a biopsy) of the lining of the stomach during endoscopy. This is a procedure in which a flexible instrument is passed into the stomach so that its lining can be seen. A biopsy can be taken and sent for testing in the laboratory. There is also a rapid urease test in which the endoscopist will perform an immediate analysis in the endoscopy room. Finally, a breath test (the 13C or 14C Urea Breath Test) may be used. This test involves swallowing a harmless substance that will be broken down in the stomach, if bacteria are present. The breakdown products are detected in the breath. This Urea Breath Test probably provides the most accurate assessment as to whether or not H. pylori is in the stomach. It is very useful in proving whether treatment has eradicated the infection.
Online Helicobacter stool test, post sample you take at home, results in 48 hours - Click for details
How can a person get rid of H. pylori infection ?
H. pylori is a bacterium, and it should respond to antibiotics. Unfortunately, the bacteria have proved very difficult to clear from the human stomach. This is probably because it is hard to get high concentrations of an antibiotic into the mucus that lines the stomach. Most treatments involve swallowing several different types of tablet simultaneously for 7-28 days. These will include one or two antibiotics and also a drug which controls acid secretion and/or contains bismuth. Almost all H. pylori infections can be eradicated if the course of treatment is completed. However, the treatment may cause a range of side effects - particularly abnormal taste, nausea or mild diarrhoea. Many combination treatments are only for one week but if any of these symptoms become intolerable, you should contact your doctor. However, the course of treatment should be completed, if at all possible.
Who should receive treatment to eradicate H. pylori infection ?
Patients with definite proof of peptic ulceration are the ideal people to receive treatment to eradicate H. pylori infection. These patients will usually have a long-term cure of their ulcer disease, if the treatment clears all traces of H. pylori infection from the stomach. However, if it proves impossible to clear the stomach, ulcer patients can be protected from relapse by long-term daily treatment with a drug to decrease gastric acidity.
What about people who are H. pylori positive, but without any sign of peptic ulceration ?
This type of person is often well with no symptoms and no treatment is indicated. A person who suffers from indigestion without evidence of a peptic ulcer will often feel no better after eradication of H. pylori infection.
Should everyone be tested for H. pylori ?
In the future, it may well be worthwhile to search out every person with H. pylori infection. However, at the moment we do not have a simple and inexpensive form of treatment to provide mass eradication of H. pylori infection, nor do we know that doing so would help people without an ulcer. It is possible that vaccination may prove the answer, but no vaccines are available against H. pylori at the moment.
What research is needed ?
H. pylori has stimulated an enormous amount of research over the last 10 years. Many questions remain unanswered - for example, the exact method by which the germ passes from one person to another, the reasons why it causes peptic ulceration, and new strategies for eradicating infection using either antibiotics or vaccines.
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General advice to consumers on the use of herbal remedies from the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency
From the website of the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (www.mhra.gov.uk) Department of Health, UK
• Remember that herbal remedies are medicines. As with any other medicine they are likely to have an effect on the body and should be used with care. • Herbal remedies may sometimes interact with other medicines. This makes it particularly important to tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking a herbal remedy with other medicines such as prescribed medicines (those provided through your doctor or dentist). • Treat with caution any suggestion that a herbal remedy is '100% safe' or is 'safe because it is natural'. Many plants, trees, fungi and algae can be poisonous to humans. It is worth remembering that many pharmaceuticals have been developed or derived from these sources because of the powerful compounds they contain. Any medicine, including herbal remedies, which have an effect on the body should be used with care. • Treat with caution any herbalist or other person who supplies herbal remedies if they are unwilling or unable to provide written information, in English, listing the ingredients of the herbal remedy they are providing. • If you are due to have a surgical operation you should always remember to tell your doctor about any herbal remedy that you are taking. • Anyone who has previously experienced any liver complaint, or any other serious health complaint is advised not to take any herbal remedy without speaking to their doctor first.
Few conventional medicines have been established as safe to take during pregnancy and it is generally recognised that no medicine should be taken unless the benefit to the mother outweighs any possible risk to the foetus. This rule should also be applied to herbal medicinal products. However, herbal products are often promoted to the public as being “natural” and completely “safe” alternatives to conventional medicines. Some herbal ingredients that specifically should be avoided or used with caution during pregnancy. As with conventional medicines, no herbal products should be taken during pregnancy unless the benefit outweighs the potential risk.
Many herbs are traditionally reputed to be abortifacient and for some this reputation can be attributed to their volatile oil component.(6) A number of volatile oils are irritant to the genito-urinary tract if ingested and may induce uterine contractions. Herbs that contain irritant volatile oils include ground ivy, juniper, parsley, pennyroyal, sage, tansy and yarrow. Some of these oils contain the terpenoid constituent, thujone, which is known to be abortifacient. Pennyroyal oil also contains the hepatotoxic terpenoid constituent, pulegone. A case of liver failure in a woman who ingested pennyroyal oil as an abortifacient has been documented.
A stimulant or spasmolytic action on uterine muscle has been documented for some herbal ingredients including blue cohosh, burdock, fenugreek, golden seal, hawthorn, jamaica dogwood, motherwort, nettle, raspberry, and vervain. Herbal Teas Increased awareness of the harmful effects associated with excessive tea and coffee consumption has prompted many individuals to switch to herbal teas. Whilst some herbal teas may offer pleasant alternatives to tea and coffee, some contain pharmacologically active herbal ingredients, which may have unpredictable effects depending on the quantity of tea consumed and strength of the brew. Some herbal teas contain laxative herbal ingredients such as senna, frangula, and cascara. In general stimulant laxative preparations are not recommended during pregnancy and the use of unstandardised laxative preparations is particularly unsuitable. A case of hepatotoxicity in a newborn baby has been documented in which the mother consumed a herbal tea during pregnancy as an expectorant. Following analysis the herbal tea was reported to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which are known to be hepatotoxic.
A drug substance taken by a breast-feeding mother presents a hazard if it is transferred to the breast milk in pharmacologically or toxicologically significant amounts. Limited information is available regarding the safety of conventional medicines taken during breast-feeding. Much less information exists for herbal ingredients, and generally the use of herbal remedies is not recommended during lactation.
Herbal remedies have traditionally been used to treat both adults and children. Herbal remedies may offer a milder alternative to some conventional medicines, although the suitability of a herbal remedy needs to be considered with respect to quality, safety and efficacy. Herbal remedies should be used with caution in children and medical advice should be sought if in doubt. Chamomile is a popular remedy used to treat teething pains in babies. However, chamomile is known to contain allergenic sesquiterpene lactones and should therefore be used with caution. The administration of herbal teas to children needs to be considered carefully and professional advice may be needed.
The need for patients to discontinue herbal medicinal products prior to surgery has recently been proposed. The authors considered eight commonly used herbal medicinal products (echinacea, ephedra, garlic, ginkgo, ginseng, kava, St John’s Wort, valerian). On the evidence available they concluded that the potential existed for direct pharmacological effects, pharmacodynamic interactions and pharmacokinetic interactions. The need for physicians to have a clear understanding of the herbal medicinal products being used by patients and to take a detailed history was highlighted. The American Society of Anaesthesiologists (ASA) has advised patients to tell their doctor if they are taking herbal products before surgery and has reported that a number of anaesthesiologists have reported significant changes in heart rate or blood pressure in some patients who have been taking herbal medicinal products including St John’s Wort, ginkgo and ginseng. MCA is currently investigating a serious adverse reaction associated with the use of ginkgo prior to surgery. In this case, the patient who was undergoing hip replacement experienced uncontrolled bleeding thought to be related to the use of ginkgo.
From the website of the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (www.mhra.gov.uk) Department of Health, UK
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