Is an H. pylori infection curable or do you have to deal with it your whole life? H. pylori is an infection in the stomach and sometimes doesn’t show any symptoms. However, it can lead to serious complications.
So, if you have received an H. pylori diagnosis, you’re probably wondering if there’s a way to manage it. Is there a diet or supplements that can help with the condition?
We’re going to answer all of these questions below.
Is H. Pylori Completely Curable?
The majority of people with an H. pylori infection do not experience symptoms. Therefore, they have no idea they have it unless they get tested. Only 15% of people have symptoms of gastritis or peptic ulcer. Another 3-5% of cases may lead to stomach cancer.
In terms of treatment, there are a few options available with medication. This therapy involves two or three antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor. We call newer protocols sequential therapy. These treatments are successful for many people.
So, to answer if H. pylori is curable – it can be completely cured!
Doctors can confirm eradication of the bacteria overgrowth with special tests or endoscopy.
For some people, one round of treatment does not completely treat the infection. You often need a second round of treatment with different antibiotics.
Antibiotic-Resistant H. Pylori Infections
There are hard-to-treat cases because H. pylori is becoming resistant to antibiotics. Resistance to commonly used antibiotics is reaching levels higher than 15%, according to recent data. These antibiotics include clarithromycin, metronidazole, and levofloxacin. Metronidazole resistance appears to be the most prevalent, with levels between 44% and 65%.
What does this mean? If resistance to antibiotics is on the rise, doctors must find new treatments. Otherwise, they cannot cure more cases of H. pylori infections.
There is one more concern. An H. pylori infection eradicated during a first round of treatment may come back within a few years. Recurrence of the infection is common. On average, about 4% of people who had the infection treated developed another within a year. The new infection was either the same or a different strain of H. pylori.
In some countries, over 11% of those treated experienced a recurrence within a year. There are risk factors that can further increase infections and re-infections. These include living in crowded conditions, lack of a reliable water supply, and living in developing countries. In fact, simply living with someone infected increases the risk of you catching it.
So, let’s revisit the question if H. pylori is completely curable? Yes, in many cases it can be completely cured with one round of antibiotics and PPI within 10-14 days. Some individuals may require a second treatment. Some cases are refractory to treatment, though, and may increase in the future due to resistance to antibiotics.
Is There an H. Pylori Diet?
Our diet can have great effects on our health. So, is there a diet to prevent or treat H. pylori infections? Unfortunately, there is no specific diet for it.
However, it is best to avoid highly processed foods and stick to a clean diet. During treatment, a simple diet with easy-to-digest food can help your body fight the infection. Your stomach and digestive tract will also need to heal during this time. A clean diet consists of the following foods:
- Some grains
- Lean meats
Many foods can limit H. pylori overgrowth, based on preliminary studies. For example, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, and brussel sprouts contain isothiocyanates, which seem to have the ability to inhibit H. pylori. Berries also contain phenolic compounds that show anti-H. pylori activity. Cranberry juice, when consumed twice daily during treatment with three antibiotics helped increase the efficacy of the treatment, according to one study. Smaller studies found honey, alone or with black seed oil, may inhibit the bacteria’s growth too.
Garlic and ginger can also help when added to meals. Garlic seems to work together with PPIs to manage the infection. It could even reduce the risk of stomach cancer due to H. pylori too. In large quantities (one to five grams daily) ginger may inhibit the bacteria’s growth. Ginger may also work against problematic H. pylori strains like CagA+ strains, which researchers have linked to cancer.
Supplements for H. Pylori Infections
When it comes to natural supplements, the first to consider is mastic gum. Researchers have documented anti-H. pylori activity and may work in cases resistant to antibiotics. It also has anti-ulcer effects and can help manage symptoms like bloating and abdominal discomfort.
One small randomized controlled trial found black seed powder plus a PPI had comparable effects with two antibiotics and a PPI. Other herbs and supplements with potential benefits include licorice and lactoferrin. Researchers used licorice as an alternative to bismuth in one study. Lactoferrin showed to increase the efficacy of antibiotic therapy when used together.
Zinc carnosine when added to a triple antibiotic therapy can make it more effective. It also helps repair the lining of the stomach due to its anti-inflammatory qualities. Zinc carnosine is a combination of L-carnosine (an amino acid) and the mineral zinc. Although it’s available over the counter in North America, in Japan it is a prescription drug for H. pylori treatment.
While we need more research to better understand how food and supplements work to treat H. pylori, the results are promising. The studies show they are well tolerated and helpful. You can use some supplements as add-on therapy to increase the antibiotics-PPI treatment.
It is best to seek a healthcare professional who specializes in natural supplements. They can help you with an individualized diet and supplement protocol.