What’s to know about H. pylori?
Helicobacter pylori, commonly called H. pylori, is a type of bacteria that infects the stomach and small bowel. It was discovered in 1982 by two Australian researchers who also found that it causes peptic ulcer disease.
Peptic ulcers are open sores in the lining of the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. Peptic ulcers are often simply called “ulcers” or “stomach ulcers.” H. pylori also increase the risk of developing stomach cancer and gastritis.
In this article, we will explain what H. pylori is, how it makes you sick, and how it causes stomach ulcers.
H. pylori and stomach ulcers
For years, medical experts believed that peptic ulcers were caused by stress or certain foods.
After the discovery of H. pylori, however, this theory was argued extensively. A study in Digestive and Liver Disease suggests that 60 to nearly 100 percent of peptic ulcers are associated with H. pylori.
Ulcers aren’t the only problems associated with H. pylori; researchers discovered that H. pyloricause gastritis, a condition that involves inflammation of the stomach’s lining. H. pylori infection is also linked to stomach cancer; however, the American Cancer Society states that most people with H. pylori in their stomach never develop stomach cancer.
The stomach has a layer of mucus that is designed to protect it from stomach acid. H. pylori attack this mucus lining and leave part of the stomach exposed to acid. Together, the bacteria and the acid can irritate the stomach, causing ulcers, gastritis, or stomach cancer.
However, many people have H. pylori in their stomachs but do not have ulcers or any other related problems. In fact, two-thirds of the world’s population have H. pylori, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But, for reasons not yet understood, some people get ulcers, gastritis, or stomach cancer from an H. pylori infection.
It is worth noting that peptic ulcers may also be caused by long-term use of certain medicines, including pain relievers such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. These medicines are called NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
A study published in The Lancet found that ulcers are rare in people who don’t take NSAIDs and who don’t have H. pylori in their stomachs
How do you get H. pylori?
No one knows for sure how people catch H. pylori. In some cases, contaminated food or water may be to blame. It has been found in human saliva, so experts think it may be able to spread from person to person.
There is no known way to prevent H. pylori infection, but experts recommend:
- Washing hands before eating and after using the restroom.
- Eating food that has been handled and prepared safely.
- Drinking only clean, safe drinking water.
- pyloriinfections are more common in developing countries where people may not have access to clean, safe food and water.