Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori)
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Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori)

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacteria that infects the stomach. It may be passed from person to person through contact with saliva, vomit or fecal matter; or spread through contaminated food or water. H-pylori infections are prevalent and are often the cause of stomach ulcers, acid reflux, burping & belching and general upper GI distress (Grisanti & Weatherby, 2016). It is a risk factor for stomach cancer. Acute infections are often highly symptomatic, yet the body has the capability to adapt to long term, chronic H-pyloir such that patients may have either very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all (Grisanti & Weatherby, 2016).

Routine testing for H-Pylori is not recommended because most of the people who have it are asymptomatic. Symptomatic H. pylori can present with the following symptoms (Mayo Clinic, 2015):
  • An ache or burning pain in the abdomen
  • Worse abdominal pain when the stomach is empty
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Burping
  • Bloating

Alarm Signs:
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Severe or persistent abdominal pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bloody or black tarry stools
  • Bloody or black vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds

There is non invasive testing: antibody blood test [not preferred]; stool antigen test & urease breathe test [preferred] to diagnose H. pylori. There is also invasive biopsy-based endoscopic testing. The standard Western treatment protocol consists of antibiotics, plus a proton-pump inhibitor [PPI], a histamine receptor blocker [H2B], and/or a bisthmus compound. These 10 to 14 day drug protocols are effective in eradicating H. pylori! according to the clinical guidelines by the American College of Gastroenterology and the American Gastroenterological Association. The guidelines outline who should be tested for H-pylori, which test should be used, and which treatment to use. 

H. pylori !0 to 14-day Drug Protocols
Metronidazole + Clarithromycin + PPI
Amoxicillin + Clarithromycin + PPI
Metronidazole + Amoxicillin + PPI
Bismuth subsalicylate + Metronidazole + Tetracycline + PPI    
Ranitidine + bismuth citrate + Clarithromycin + Amoxicillin
 Amoxicillin + PPI -> Tinidizole + Clarithromycin + PPI
Chronic, or deep-seated H-pylori infection is difficult to eradicate H-pylori can also develop resistance to traditional antibiotics. Herbal antibiotics, especially essential oils are so complex that microorganisms have a hard time developing resistance to them (Price, n.d.). Some herbs also dissolve biofilms, which is one way bacteria form antibiotic resistance. So, a person may desire to use a Chinese Medicine or Functional Medicine protocol to alone or in conjunction with an drug protocol. Botanical antimicrobials may be taken for a longer period of time compared to drugs.

Chinese Herbals
Jai Wei Tu Yin Chen You Jiao Nang is a Chinese herbal formula specifically for H. pylori. It contains Quisqualis [anthelmintic, augments the Spleen and Stomach], Oregano Oil [highly antimicrobial], Mume fruit [astringent, anthelmintic, epigastric pain due to qi stagnation, ulcers, and Coptis. Coptis is one of the best herbs for bacterial intestinal infections with bleeding, and gastralgia. It is also used to restore antibiotic efficacy after threat of resistance.  

A formula called GI Care [Evergreen Herbs] addresses ulcers & gastritis [excess type], accompanied by nausea, vomiting, indigestion, belching, bloating, epigastric pain, and bleeding. A formula called  Sai Mei An coats the stomach to heal gastric or duodenal mucosa [similar to Carafate]. Another formula called Wei Te Ling is an antacid and analgesic, but does not coat the stomach lining. 

These herbal formulas are  by prescription because correct diagnosis is critical in the overall success of the treatment. This is because in some cases using the above formulas may worsen the condition. Another type of treatment is indicated- even if an ulcer and H-pylori exist. In these cases, the Chinese Medicine diagnosis becomes very specific and individualized. Thus, the treatment no longer falls into the category of a protocol per sea. 

Functional Medicine
Functional Medicine does not use herbs, foods & drugs that temporarily neutralize or stop the secretion of stomach to treat H-pylori. An example of such drugs are proton pump inhibitors [PPIs] and H2 receptor blockers [H2B], even though these ARE used in the Western drug protocols. PPIs and H2B are also contraindicated in those with gallbladder disease, or atrophic gastritis/ hypochloridia [decreased or lack of secretion of stomach acid].

Functional medicine stresses that chronic use of PPIs decreases enzymes, and the ability to break down proteins. This is a risk factor for GI disturbances such as food intolerances/ allergies/ sensitivities, B12 deficiency, GI inflammation, systemic inflammation & broader reactivities.  PPIs block diamine oxidase [DAO], an enzyme that degrades histamine. If histamine in foods like cantaloupe, avocado & tomatoes etc, are not broken down they are going to damage the gut. 

A very nice Functional Medicine proprietary supplement designed for the eradication of H-pylori is Bio-HPF by Biotics Research Corporation. It contains licorice, betonite clay, slippery elm, myrrh, bisthmus, clove, berberine, anise, barberry, oregon grape, and wild indigo root. Other Functional Medicine and/or Complementary & Alternative protocols include:

  • Botanical antibiotics: e.g. Berberine. Oregano Oilis highly anti-microbial. The emulsified, time-released form reaches both the proximal & distal small intestines. 
  • Pre/probiotics such as Bifidus lactis &  Saccharomyces boullardi help re-establish normal gut flora & mucosal health.
  • L-glutamine, Vitamin A, Vitamin D strengthen & repair the gut lining
  • Mastic Gum is not antimicobial against h-pylori but is highly valued for its ability to heal peptic ulcers [Kaliora, Dedoussis, Adrikopoulos, 2005]. Caution: gums can also be a GI allergen. 
  • Lemongrass & Basil essential oils are researched to inhibit H-pylori
  • Manuka honey is valued for both for its wound healing & antimicorbial properties, and inhibition of H-pylori.
  • Thyme, clove, anise, dill for H-pylori accompanied by parasitic overgrowth

INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE TIP: State of the art stool testing identifies which drug antibiotics as well as which botanical/herbal antibiotics an organism like H-pylori is susceptible to (Grisanti & Weatherby, 2016)

Fitzgerald, M. (2016). Testing for H-pylori: Which test, which patients. In Fitzgerald Health Eduction. Retrieved from http://fhea.epubxp.com/i/646449-february-2016.

Grisanti, R. & Weatherby, D. (2016). Stool analysis: Interpretation
and treatment. In Functional Medicine University’s Functional Diagnostic Medicine Training Program.

Kaliora, A., Dedoussis, G., Adrikopoulos, N. (2005). Mastic gum and gastrointestinal diseases. Annals of Gastroenterology 18(2), 110-111.

Mayo Clinic. (2015). H-pylori.

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