What Is H. pylori and Why is it a Menace to Gut Flora?

Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori, is one of the most feared stomach bacteria that can live in the gut biome. The bacteria’s discovery in 1982 radically changed the medical field. Finding H. pylori started the shift in how we view certain diseases. You can even say, discovering H. pylori began the research into microbiome testing [1]. Let’s explore H. pylori a bit further.

What is H. pylori?

While we have H. pylori to thank for Thryve Inside being in existence today, we shouldn’t count the blessings of this stomach bacteria.

h. pylori
H. pyroli under a microscope

Unfortunately, H. pylori is a pathogenic bacterium that is undisputedly linked to a multitude of gastrointestinal diseases and conditions [2].

In fact, Australian doctors Barry Marshall and Robin Warren discovered this gram-negative microbe while treating someone for gastric ulcers and chronic gastritis. Now we know that H. pylori has a huge influence on the gut biome.

What Does H. pylori Do to Gut Health?

Essentially, H. pylori infect the stomach lining. This characteristic is why this bothersome stomach bacteria has been linked to a plethora of stomach conditions.

Therefore, the prevalence of H. pylori may lead to:

  • Chronic Gastritis
  • Peptic Ulcer Disease
  • Stomach Cancer

Furthermore, H. pylori leave our body void of nutrients. Research shows this pathogenic bacterium can drain Vitamin B-12 levels. Unfortunately, Vitamin B-12 is an essential mineral that our body can’t produce [2].

anemia from h. pylori
Long-term H pylori infection can lead to anema

This stomach bacteria causes a decreased blood platelet count. Known as thrombocytopenic purpura, this condition causes easier bleeding and bruising.

Ultimately, H. pylori may result in an iron deficiency, which fosters the development of anemia.

How Many People Have H. pylori Infection?

A meta-analysis on global H. pylori brought some alarming results. They noted that H. pylori infection was prevalent in most of the Indian population.

The meta-analysis found,

“A recent report from India indicates that almost 80% of the population is infected with H. pylori. Considering the current population of India, which is 1.15 billion, according to the United States Census Bureau, around 918 million people (80%) are currently infected [3].”


Saudi J Gastroenterol

Researchers further noted that chances of H. pylori infection increase with age. In fact, their analysis found that up to 90% of people have an abundance of this stomach bacteria by age 80.

What Are Symptoms of H. pylori Infection?

What makes H. pylori so problematic is that we don’t know that we have so much of this bacterium in our system.

The previously mentioned meta-analysis looked at cases of H. pylori infection outside of India. They noted that a majority of people showed no signs of H. pylori. Yet, this stomach bacteria was still abundant in their gut biome.

The analysis published,

“In Brazil, an overall prevalence rate of 65% was reported in healthy individuals. In Bangladesh, H. pylori prevalence of more than 90% was reported in asymptomatic adults. We have also found an overall 70% infection rate in asymptomatic Turkish subjects that reached up to 100% in subjects aged 60-69 years [3].”

Saudi J Gastroenterol

Now that you know a bit more about this opportunistic bacterium, let’s look at preventing H. pylori.

How Do You Get H. pylori?

H. pylori is one of the most common infections and is estimated to infect about 60% of the world’s population [4]. That means there is a good chance you or someone you know has an H. pylori infection. The reason for this is that it’s an easy bacteria to spread [5].

Sometime we share too much

The exact mechanism of H. pylori infection is thought to be through:

  • Mouth-to-Mouth Contact
  • Feces-to-Mouth Contact
  • Contact with an Unwashed Hand
  • Drinking Contaminated Water
  • Eating Contaminated Food

The risk of infection from H. pylori is increased in areas of low socioeconomic status, such as developing countries or impoverished neighborhoods [5].

There have also been studies linking genetics to H. pylori infection risk [6]. Results found that families had “mixed infections.” Seeing as H. pylori are one of the most genetically diverse species, these conclusions show how H. pylori can tailor itself to your gut biome.

How to Treat H. pylori Infection

If you are diagnosed with H. pylori as the cause of gastrointestinal distress, you most likely will be prescribed antibiotics. Antibiotics the only known cure for H. pylori infection and is effective [7].

One study denotes to treat H. pylori you will need:

“A standard triple therapy consisting of two antibiotics and a proton-pump inhibitor proposed as the first-line regimen. Bismuth-containing quadruple treatment, sequential treatment or a non-bismuth quadruple treatment (concomitant) are also an alternative therapy. Levofloxacin containing triple treatment are recommended as rescue treatment for infection of H. pylori after defeat of first-line therapy.”

World J Clin Cases.

This treatment can come with some costs, even though it is currently the only option if you are suffering from H. pylori.

Threat of Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance is becoming more of a problem every year. This concern is furthered by the well-known fact that H. pylori have a high mutation rate [8].

That statement is especially true during the onset of infection. Therefore, the fast morphing rate of H. pylori allows the bacteria to quickly evolve and evade antibiotic treatment better than most bacteria [9].

Antibiotics are not without their side effects either, and it is becoming clear that taking broad-spectrum antibiotics is not as harmless as we once thought it was [10].

Since antibiotics can damage your gut bacteria diversity, it’s essential to supplement with probiotics. As you will see, probiotics and H. pylori have a long history with one another.

H. pylori Prevention

Antibiotics are the only cure for H. pylori and the only known way to completely eradicate the pathogen from your system if its presence. Since about 60% of the human population has H. pylori in their stomach, it is important to look after your balance of bacteria. This practice will protect you from overgrowth that could potentially lead to H. pylori doing some real damage.

Probiotics for Bacteria Infections

Studies have shown that probiotics could be a new way to prevent and decrease the severity of H. pylori symptoms [11]. Patients that took probiotics along with their prescribed antibiotics saw a more significant decrease in symptom relief than those who just took antibiotics.

The results stated,

“Seven of 9 human studies showed an improvement of H. pylori gastritis and decrease in H. pylori density after administration of probiotics. The addition of probiotics to standard antibiotic treatment improved H. pylori eradication rates (81% vs. 71%, with combination treatment vs. H. pylori–eradication treatment alone; χ2test: P = 0.03). Probiotic treatment reduced H. pylori therapy-associated side effects (incidence of side effects: 23% vs. 46%, with combination therapy vs. H. pylori–eradication treatment alone; χ2test: P = 0.04)

The Journal of Nutrition

The study also noted that probiotic bacteria also stopped H. pylori from growing when looked at in a lab setting. 

Microbiome Testing for Bacteria Overgrowth

Until recently, we believed that our stomachs were bacteria-free. We thought that healthy stomachs did not have bacteria due to stomach acid. In recent times, this has been proved incorrect.

Today, we now know that a healthy stomach, like the rest of the GI tract, is teeming with beneficial bacteria [12]. It is only when the delicate balance of stomach bacteria gets thrown off do problems arise. That is why it’s best to find out what you have in your gut biome with microbiome testing.

Microbiome Testing
Meet Your Nutritional Goals: Thryve Inside

At Thryve Inside, we send you everything you need to take a gut test at home. Using the sterile materials provided to collect a sample from your toilet paper, mail us in a collection. Our lab specialists can ten test your stool for gut bacteria.

Based on the results of the gut test, we formulate personalized probiotics tailored to your gut biome. Just like H. pylori can tailor itself to your system, we can tailor a probiotic supplement to help keep harmful bacteria at bay.

Thryve Probiotics Gut Health

Resources

[1] Ahmed N. (2005). 23 years of the discovery of Helicobacter pylori: is the debate over?. Annals of clinical microbiology and antimicrobials, 4, 17. doi:10.1186/1476-0711-4-17

[2] Sipponen, P., and H, Hyvärinen. “Role of Helicobacter Pylori in the Pathogenesis of Gastritis, Peptic Ulcer and Gastric Cancer.” Taylor & Francis, 8 July 2009, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/00365529309098333.

[3] Salih B. A. (2009). Helicobacter pylori infection in developing countries: the burden for how long?. Saudi journal of gastroenterology : official journal of the Saudi Gastroenterology Association, 15(3), 201–207. doi:10.4103/1319-3767.54743

[4] Hooi, James K Y, et al. “Global Prevalence of Helicobacter Pylori Infection: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Gastroenterology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28456631.

[5] Mentis, Andreas, et al. “Epidemiology and Diagnosis of Helicobacter Pylori Infection.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (10.1111), 15 Sept. 2015, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/hel.12250.

[6] Raymond, Josette, et al. “Genetic and Transmission Analysis of Helicobacter Pylori Strains within a Family – Volume 10, Number 10-October 2004 – Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal – CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oct. 2004, wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/10/10/04-0042_article.

[7] Safavi, M., Sabourian, R., & Foroumadi, A. (2016). Treatment of Helicobacter pylori infection: Current and future insights. World journal of clinical cases, 4(1), 5–19. doi:10.12998/wjcc.v4.i1.5

[8] Thung, I., et al. “Review Article: the Global Emergence of Helicobacter Pylori Antibiotic Resistance.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (10.1111), 23 Dec. 2015, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/apt.13497.

[9] Linz, Bodo, et al. “A Mutation Burst during the Acute Phase of Helicobacter Pylori Infection in Humans and Rhesus Macaques.” Nature Communications, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 13 June 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24924186.

[10] IIzumi, Tadasu, et al. “Gut Microbiome and Antibiotics.” Archives of Medical Research, Elsevier, 6 Dec. 2017, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0188440917302333?via%3Dihub.

[11] Lesbros-Pantoflickova, et al. “Helicobacter Pylori and Probiotics.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Mar. 2007, academic.oup.com/jn/article/137/3/812S/4664764.

[12] Bik, Elisabeth M, et al. “Molecular Analysis of the Bacterial Microbiota in the Human Stomach.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, National Academy of Sciences, 17 Jan. 2006, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16407106.