Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) is a spiral (helical) bacterium, usually found in the stomach. H. pylori has infected humans for more than 58000 years. About 40% of people in the UK have Helicobacter pylori in their stomach, so it is very common in general population. Amongst many people who have it, the infection is kept under control and therefore does not cause any problems. However, about 15% of people with the condition get ulcers either in the stomach (gastric ulcer) or in the duodenum (duodenal ulcer). The propensity of H.pylori to cause disease depends upon a number of factors including the complex interplay between the bacterial interaction with the body’s tissues and functioning of the host’s the immune system[i].
Stomach cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide, and Helicobacter pylori infection is one of the known risk factors for this malignancy. In the early 1980s, H.pylori was identified in connection with irritation of the stomach lining (gastritis), and H. pylori colonisation of the stomach is now widely recognised as the strongest known risk factor for stomach cancer [ii] [iii].
Symptoms of H.pylori include severe, on-going indigestion which may not respond to over the counter or prescription medication. Other associated conditions include stomach (gastric) and duodenal ulcers (of the duodenum) [iv] [v].
A urea breath test (helicobacter pylori) This is a simple breath test that can be used to determine whether or not you have an infection in your stomach caused by the bacteria H.pylori. Other testing options include a blood test or endoscopy. Additionally, a stool test can detect traces of H pylori in the faeces [vi] [vii].
Conventional treatment includes antibiotics and drugs to reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach [viii].
Recent study has outlined the ability of H.pylori to interfere with metabolism of nutrients, resulting in poor absorption of nutrients like iron, B12, vitamin C and vitamin E. Additional risk factors for gastric cancer include specific human genetic profiles and specific dietary preferences (for example, a high-salt diet or a diet deficient in fruits and vegetables). Recent reviews demonstrate dietary fibre appears to reduce cases of gastric cancer [ix] [x]. The effects of a high-salt diet on H. pylori infection and gastric cancer have been investigated using mice, one study in mice showed that a high salt diet elevated levels of H. pylori in the stomach and enhanced its detrimental effects[xi]. Therefore it would be advisable to increase fruit and vegetable intake and reduce salt if you suspect, or have been diagnosed with a H.pylori infection.
Iron deficiency anaemia is also a risk factor for stomach cancer and studies have investigated the possibility that H.pylori may accelerate the formation of cancer in such cases. It was suggested that low dietary levels of iron significantly increases the severity of inflammation in the stomach and raises the risk of cancer development in the stomach [xii]. Try to include iron rich foods in the diet such as meat, fish and seafood. Vegetarian sources includegreen leafy vegetables (such as kale), seeds, nuts and legumes.
Probiotics: Probiotics help to maintain a healthy microbiome in the gut. Beneficial bacteria fight the bad bacteria whilst competing for space. A study showed administration of probiotics before or after standard triple therapy may improve H. pylori eradication rates [xiii]. A good variety of beneficial bacteria can also be achieved by eating a balanced diet.
Slippery Elm is known to soothe gastritis [xiv]. By the same token, it may reduce symptoms associated with H.pylori. Gastritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach and is thought to be caused by damage to the mucous lining that protects the stomach from acid.
Sulphoraphane: The compound in broccoli sprouts, called sulphoraphane may be effective against H. pylori. A study found that, taking broccoli sprout extract alongside traditional antibiotic therapy has favourable properties on cardiovascular risk factors following H.pylori eradication [xv].
Green tea: A study in mice found that green tea inhibits H.pylori growth. Green tea consumption was associated with a lower bacterial load in stomachs of mice drinking green tea before and/or after infection [xvi]
Honey: Research suggests honey to be a useful adjunct to other anti H.pylori strategies. Using honey with standard treatments may shorten treatment time. Raw honey and Manuka Honey may have the most antibacterial effects [xvi].
[i] Hu, Y. Zhu, Y. & Lu, N. H. (2017). ‘Novel and Effective Therapeutic Regimens for Helicobacter pylori in an Era of Increasing Antibiotic Resistance’. Frontiers in cellular and infection microbiology, 7, 168.
[ii] Polk, D.B. & Peek, R.M. Jr. (2010) ‘Helicobacter pylori: gastric cancer and beyond’. Nat Rev Cancer. 10:403–14
[iii] Marshall, B.J. & Warren, J.R. (1984) ‘Unidentified curved bacilli in the stomach of patients with gastritis and peptic ulceration’. Lancet. 1:1311–5
[iv] Toh, J., & Wilson, R. B. (2020). ‘Pathways of Gastric Carcinogenesis, Helicobacter pylori Virulence and Interactions with Antioxidant Systems, Vitamin C and Phytochemicals’. International journal of molecular sciences, 21(17), 6451.
[v] Baj, J., Forma, A., Sitarz, M., et al. (2020). Helicobacter pylori Virulence Factors-Mechanisms of Bacterial Pathogenicity in the Gastric Microenvironment. Cells, 10(1), 27.
[vi] Testerman, T. L., & Morris, J. (2014). ‘Beyond the stomach: an updated view of Helicobacter pylori pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment’. World journal of gastroenterology, 20(36), 12781–12808.
[vii] Pohl, D., Keller, P. M., & Bordier, V. (2019). ‘Review of current diagnostic methods and advances in Helicobacter pylori diagnostics in the era of next generation sequencing’. World journal of gastroenterology, 25(32), 4629–4660.
[viii] Hu, Y. Zhu, Y. & Lu, N. H. (2017). ‘Novel and Effective Therapeutic Regimens for Helicobacter pylori in an Era of Increasing Antibiotic Resistance’. Frontiers in cellular and infection microbiology, 7, 168.
[ix] Zhang, Z. Xu, G. Ma, M. et al. (2013) ‘Dietary fiber intake reduces risk for gastric cancer: a meta-analysis’. Gastroenterology. 145:113–20.
[x] Nozaki, K. Shimizu, N. Inada, K. et al. (2002) ‘Synergistic promoting effects of Helicobacter pylori infection and high-salt diet on gastric carcinogenesis in Mongolian gerbils’. Jpn J Cancer Res. 93:1083–9.
[xi] Fox, J.G. Dangler, C.A. Taylor, N.S. et al. (1999) ‘High-salt diet induces gastric epithelial hyperplasia and parietal cell loss, and enhances Helicobacter pylori colonization in C57BL/6 mice’. Cancer Res. 59:4823–8.
[xii] Noto, J.M. Gaddy, J.A. Lee, J.Y. et al. (2013) ‘Iron deficiency accelerates Helicobacter pylori-induced carcinogenesis in rodents and humans’. J Clin Invest. 123:479–92
[xiii] Du, Y. Q., Su, T., Fan, J. G. et al. (2012). ‘Adjuvant probiotics improve the eradication effect of triple therapy for Helicobacter pylori infection’. World journal of gastroenterology, 18(43), 6302–6307.
[xiv] Hawrelak JA, & Myers SP. (2010) ‘Effects of two natural medicine formulations on irritable bowel syndrome symptoms: a pilot study’. J Altern Complement Med.16(10):1065-71.
[xv] Mirmiran, P., Bahadoran, Z., Golzarand, M. et al. (2014). ‘A comparative study of broccoli sprouts powder and standard triple therapy on cardiovascular risk factors following H.pylori eradication: a randomized clinical trial in patients with type 2 diabetes’. Journal of diabetes and metabolic disorders, 13, 64.
[xvi] Stoicov, C., Saffari, R., & Houghton, J. (2009). Green tea inhibits Helicobacter growth in vivo and in vitro. International journal of antimicrobial agents, 33(5), 473–478.
[xvi] Abdel-Latif MM, Abouzied MM. Molecular Mechanisms of Natural Honey Against H. pylori Infection Via Suppression of NF-κB and AP-1 Activation in Gastric Epithelial Cells. Arch Med Res. 2016 Jul;47(5):340-348.
Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.