meet a secret bacteria terrorist: h pylori

There are a lot of bacteria out there, and some of them aren't that great, but there are a few that are just downright nasty. When it comes to acid reflux and GERD, there's one bacteria in particular that's the worst of the bunch!

Meet H. pylori. It’s a bacteria and the real (fancy) name is “Helicobacter pylori.” It grows in the digestive tract and has a tendency to attack the stomach lining. H. pylori infections are usually harmless however the reason you may want to be familiar with it, or are already, is because the infection rears its ugly head in the form of heartburn, GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease), and acid reflux disease.

If you’ve got this type of bacteria, you may not even show signs or symptoms of having it. Many people get H. pylori during childhood, but adults can get it too. The germs live in the body for years before symptoms start, but most people who have it will never get ulcers. Just because you have an H. pylori infection doesn’t mean you’ll develop symptoms of heartburn, GERD, and acid reflux disease. You won’t necessarily develop gastritis, cancer or an ulcer either. It does put you at a significantly higher risk, though.

H. pylori attacks your stomach lining, which usually protects you from the acid your body uses to digest food. You can get H. pylori from food, water, or utensils and it’s more common in countries or communities that lack clean water or sufficient sewage systems. You can also pick up the bacteria through contact with the saliva or other body fluids of infected people.

It’s believed that the H. pylori infection plays a substantial role in the pathogenesis of other digestive disorders, like “silent reflux.” Silent reflux, Laryngopharyngeal reflux, or LPR, is a medical condition that results from the backflow of stomach contents, including stomach acid and digestive enzymes, into the airway. It incorporates acid reflux into all parts of the airway, including the trachea, nose, sinuses, voice box, throat, bronchi and lungs. 

Those afflicted with LPR may have a chronic cough, become hoarse, always have to clear their throat, have a feeling that something is stuck in the back of the throat, or have trouble swallowing. LPR can also exacerbate existing asthma and sleep-breathing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea. These types of symptoms may be mistakenly attributed to an allergy, sinus issue or pulmonary disease, especially given that a majority of patients do not experience obvious heartburn or indigestion. Because of this, LPR is commonly referred to as silent reflux. 

There are some natural ways to attack H. pylori, beginning with limiting or removing these from your diet:

1)    Sugars. One of the biggest culprits is agave nectar, which many regard as a “healthy sugar”. Remember, bacteria eat all forms of sugar. Even fructose can lead to an increase in bacterial overgrowth.

2)    Prebiotics. Many times a prebiotic can help intestinal health. However sometimes they just provides more food for unwanted bacteria.

3)    Fiber and carbohydrates. A certain percentage of fiber and carbohydrates that we consume escape absorption, which means they may also become food for unwanted bacteria.

So here’s the lowdown: if you have heartburn, ulcers, gastritis acid reflux, GERD, or other GI symptoms and you test positive for H. pylori, the wiser move would be to treat it. The most common reason being is that is has been shown to suppress stomach acid, which you need to fix to finally get rid of the symptoms of heartburn once and for all.

Written by: Cindy Stephens

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