Acidity changes the entire lifestyle of an individual. People continue to suffer from it for their entire life but fail to solve the issue. People live with acidity, peptic or duodenal ulcers for decades and follow restrictive dietary habits and suffer heartburn. They assume that acidity is aggravated by alcoholic beverages, smoking and hot food items. They have been told that this is a long term medical problem with no solution and that you can only reduce the symptoms and live with it all your life. Whenever they suffer from acidity, they just pop up few pills of antacids to reduce the pain. Using antacids only alleviates acidity temporarily but in turn it also increases the risk of developing ulcers and gastric cancer.
It can come as a knock on the head if someone is informed that they can be permanently cured of acidity. One can find it hard to believe that there is a magic bullet that can help get rid of acidity once and for all. The solution to this problem was found in early 1980’s by Warren and Marshall when they proved that many stomach ulcers and gastritis occurs due to infection caused by H. pylori bacteria. Their works remained in oblivion for long period and gained credibility only after they got Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2005 for their work.
About H. pylori bacteria:
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacterium which can infect or contaminate the human stomach, using the stomach’s mucus lining. It is a common bacterium infecting nearly half the world’s population. This bacterium can lead to digestive illnesses, peptic ulcers (sores), gastritis and even cancers.
H. Pylori increases the secretion of stomach acid, which allows acid to burn the sensitive lining which is beneath the protective mucous layer of the stomach and duodenum. Gastric ulcers (in stomach) or duodenal ulcers (in duodenum) are caused due to irritation of lining by both acid and bacteria and also creates holes (or perforation) if not treated in time.
H. pylori can survive in stomach acid as it secretes enzymes which will neutralize (nullify) the acid. This process makes H. pylori to safely survive in the protective mucous lining. The bacterium’s spiral (helical) shape assists in burrowing through the lining.
Symptoms of H. pylori infection:
The reason why many people will not sense symptoms of the presence of H. pylori in the digestive system, as increase of stomach acid or lowering of acid’s PH which generally obstructs the bacteria from migrating. Symptoms of H. pylori infection are burning abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating (swelling of belly), sudden weight loss, problems in swallowing, bloody vomit or stools.
Diagnose of H. pylori:
In order to get confirmed that symptoms are caused due to an ulcer, the doctor will perform an upper gastrointestinal (GI) series (X-ray of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum) or an endoscopy. If an ulcer is detected in these tests, then the doctor will test for H. pylori. This test is necessary because treatment for an ulcer produced by H. pylori and an ulcer produced by NSAIDs is different. H. pylori bacteria is diagnosed or recognized using blood, breath, stool, and tissue tests of which blood tests are most commonly conducted.
Treatment for H. pylori infection:
H. pylori peptic ulcers must be treated with drugs which can destroy the bacteria, reduce the secretion of stomach acid, and protects the stomach lining.
Treatment generally includes a combination of antibiotics (to kill bacteria), acid suppressors (H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors), and stomach protectors. The most convinced effective treatment for H. pylori infection is a 2-week course of treatment known as triple therapy. This therapy involves consuming of two antibiotics and either an acid suppressor or stomach-lining shield. Recent studies proved that 2 weeks of triple therapy is ideal and excellent even though it had some side effects.
Causes of H. pylori infection:
Swimming in or drinking contaminated water and lack of hygiene serves as a source of bacteria. H. pylori bacteria are contagious and get transmitted mostly through oral to oral or fecal-oral route from the infected person. The process of how H. pylori spreads is not known to anyone, so prevention will be difficult.
Even the Pharma companies are reluctant to actively promote a permanently cure for acidity. Recently allegations are being made that big Pharma companies unnecessarily flared up the swine flu scare to rake in huge profits. In similar way, the Pharma companies, inspite of knowing that acidity is caused by H. pylori did not actively promote this information and increase awareness among affected people. May be, loss of decades of antacid sales from each patient was a big disincentive.