Sometimes we all have some unusual symptoms and we just cannot identify the culprit. Even doctors are sometimes baffled and wouldn’t know the cause of our issues despite all the tests and checks. One such issue or rather inconvenience is bloating. Today this is so common among many people that it’s simply being ignored or people just get on with it and suffer in silence. However, you should know that persistent bloating and expanding of your stomach so that you look like you are 6 months pregnant is not normal. You should seek advice from a qualified specialist to help you determine the cause of your bloating. There could be many reasons for it and some of them could be quite serious.
If you’ve been trying to resolve your bloating issues for a long time and with help from various doctors and specialists but you are not getting anywhere, there is one thing that could be the cause and that is Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria commonly found in people’s stomachs.
What is H. pylori?
H. pylori is the name for bacteria that lives in the sticky mucus that lines the stomach. It’s very common to have these bacteria in the stomach, in fact, around 40% of people in the UK have H. pylori. Usually, people catch these bacteria in their childhood, most likely from other children. Then they carry this infection throughout their adulthood and it stays with them all their life unless it is treated with antibiotics.
For most people, having these bacteria doesn’t represent any problems and they continue living their lives with no issues or symptoms. However, about 15% of people with this infection develop ulcers in the stomach or small intestine. Having H. pylori is also associated with an increased risk of developing stomach cancer.
How do you know if you have H. pylori infection?
There are some common symptoms which could indicate that you may have H. pylori infection, for example, ongoing indigestion and bloating. The following can also occur:
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pains
- Unintentional weight loss
However, these symptoms could be a sign of other illnesses as well so to really confirm that you have H. pylori infection, you need to have some tests.
There are a few types of tests available to diagnose H. pylori:
- A blood test – This will confirm you have H. pylori but it’s not going to be accurate if you’ve just been treated for these bacteria and you got rid of it. That’s because the test will still show positive although the bacteria have recently been cleared.
- A breath test – To perform this test you first need to drink a liquid containing a substance called urea. After drinking this, a sample of your breath is collected and then analysed. This test is useful to determine whether you still have an infection about a month after you’ve finished a course of treatment.
- An endoscopy – This is a more invasive procedure which can be done at the same time when doctors are checking your stomach with a small camera. While they are doing that, they will take a small sample of tissue from your stomach for analysis. This is the most accurate test available for H. pylori but the patient will experience some physical discomfort during this procedure.
- The stool test – A straight forward test which will analyse your stools for infection.
According to the review from Cochrane, the urea breath test is highly accurate, even more so than the stool test.
Talk to your personal doctor to decide on the best H. pylori test for you. Or, alternatively, if you know exactly what you need you could do a test at home which you can purchase online and then send it off to the laboratory for analysis.
Is it dangerous to have H. pylori?
Although many people with H. pylori don’t develop complications you should know the following:
- H. pylori causes ulcers in some people. This is a problem because ulcers could become quite serious and may bleed and even burst. Those people with ulcers need to get their H. pylori infection treated first. Once the infection is gone, this will help ulcers to heal.
- H. pylori increases the risk of stomach cancer. The bacteria causes long-lasting inflammation of a stomach called SCAG or ‘severe chronic atrophic gastritis’. This could develop into stomach cancer. However, only very few people get cancer from these bacteria (between 1 and 3 out of 100). It’s not totally clear why some people are affected and why some are not but the researchers think it’s because some types of H. pylori are more likely to cause issues. Also, lifestyle plays a role.
- H. pylori is also linked to other types of cancer. Apart from stomach cancer, bacteria is also linked to Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Bowel Cancer.
- H. pylori affects the absorption of nutrients. The infection could be the cause of iron-deficiency anaemia and could also cause vitamin B12 deficiency. What’s more, it can also cause a deficiency of other essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin A and folic acid.
How to treat H. pylori
Once you know you have the H. pylori infection, the doctor will prescribe you a course of antibiotics which you need to take together with a tablet to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach. There could be some side effects of this treatment so you may want to decide to try natural treatments instead.
There are several different things you can try to eliminate H. pylori naturally, for example:
- Take mastic gum (a resin from the pistachio tree) – This is one of the most commonly used natural treatments for H. pylori and probably the cheapest. A study in 2010 has shown that pure mastic gum eliminated H. pylori in one-third of the patients. The results may not seem impressive but this is a natural treatment that doesn’t come with side effects of antibiotics. You can buy mastic gum supplements on Amazon.
- Drink Matula herbal tea. Matula tea is a quite expensive H. pylori treatment but it does work. The manufacturers are so confident in their product that if it doesn’t work for you in 30 days they will give you a refund. This tea is only available online.
- Consume black seeds (Nigella sativa). – When consumed for 2 weeks, 3 times a day, black seeds with honey helped 8 patients out of 14 eradicate the infection.
How to test for H. pylori at home
Finally, if you are finding it difficult to get hold of your doctor or your doctor is not willing to send you for various tests to determine the cause of your symptoms such as bloating, you have an option to do an H. pylori test at home. It’s very easy. First, you need to decide whether you should buy the stool test or blood testing kit. These are the two main options of testing for H. pylori at home that you can find online. I recommend you go for Medichecks who are trusted and reliable provider offering various blood tests and home health checks. I’ve used them several times before and they never disappoint. To learn how to do one of their home blood tests, check out this post.
If you’d rather not deal with blood, then go for the stool test. It’s easy and simple to do, just a little bit messy. You will get results in about 3 days. Once the results are in, you will also get a recommendation from a doctor and you will have an opportunity to ask any questions.
Getting yourself tested for H. pylori is important especially if you have some of the symptoms such as bloating and indigestion. If the test comes out positive you are now at least aware of the treatments available to get rid of these bacteria. If it’s negative, not a problem, you luckily don’t have this issue and can move on to explore what else could be causing your digestive discomforts.