Ulcers & H. pylori Infection
What Is A Stomach Ulcer?
Stomach ulcers are painful sores that can be found in the stomach lining or small intestine areas that come into contact with stomach acids and enzymes. Stomach ulcers are also known as peptic ulcers. They occur when the thick layer of mucus, that protects your stomach from digestive juices, is reduced.
According to the American Gastroenterological Association, an estimated four million people have stomach ulcers and one in 10 people will develop the condition over their lifetime (AGA).
Stomach ulcers can be cured; however, they can become severe without treatment.
What Are the Causes of Ulcers?
Stomach ulcers are not necessarily caused by one single factor. The decrease in the stomach’s mucus lining that leads to an ulcer is commonly caused by: an infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) long-term use in excess of the recommended dosage of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen Zollinger-Ellison syndrome—a rare disease that makes the body produce excess stomach acid.
Peptic Ulcers are holes or breaks in the protective lining of the duodenum (the upper part of the small intestine) or the stomach — areas that come into contact with stomach acids and enzymes.
If you have a stomach ulcer most likely you are infected with the bacteria H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori). H. pylori damages the mucosa lining of the stomach. H. pylori in the stomach causes chronic, low-level inflammation and is linked to gastric ulcers and stomach cancer. How does it do this? H. pylori must cope with highly acidic conditions in which other bacteria are unable to survive. It is well known however, that the bacterium accomplishes this by producing ammonia to neutralize the acid in its surroundings area. The pH change allows H. pylori two swim across and through its mucin barrier infecting the stomach with the bacterium, establishing colonies, and attacking surface cells forming ulcers. The stomach should not have bacteria. In fact one of the major roles of stomach acid is the killing of bacteria before they can reach the small intestine
The most common symptom is a burning sensation or pain in the area between your chest and belly button. Normally, the pain will be more intense when your stomach is empty and it can last for a few minutes or several hours.
Stress and Ulcers
Stress, especially prolonged stress, can have an effect on stomach acid production and ulceration can happen. Although many doctors do not equate stress with cause, there is a direct correlation to the Endocrine System and long term stress that affects the Thyroid, Pituitary, Parathyroid and Adrenal functions. When any of these glands become underproductive it affects the entire body system including the liver, pancreas, spleen and gall bladder and their digestive roles that effects digestion and weakens the acids and other enzyme functions. Bacteria, fungus, and viral pathogens can begin to invade the stomach and lining as well as leaching into the intestinal tract if the acids are not doing their job and killing off these pathogens.
Common Symptoms Include:
- A burning sensation or pain in the area between your chest and belly button
- Dull, burning pain in the stomach
- Weight loss
- Not wanting to eat because of pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Heartburn (burning sensation in the chest)
- Pain improves when you eat, drink, or take antacids
How Are Stomach Ulcers Diagnosed?
Diagnosis and treatment will depend on your symptoms and the severity of your ulcer. To diagnose a stomach ulcer, your doctor will review your medical history along with your symptoms and any prescription or over-the-counter medications you are taking. To rule out H. pylori infection, a blood, stool, or breath test may be ordered. In a breath test, you will be instructed to drink a clear liquid and breathe into a bag, which is then sealed. If H. pylori is present, the breath sample will contain higher-than-normal levels of carbon dioxide.
Certain Factors and Behaviors That Put People at Higher Risk for Developing Stomach Ulcers:
- Stress that weakens the stomach lining and digestion
- Frequent use of steroids (such as those for treating asthma)
- Hypercalcemia (overproduction of calcium)
- Family history of stomach ulcers
- Usually occurs after 50 years old
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
Treatment of Ulcers:
Changing the Stomach/Gut Environment
Controlling the amount of bad bacteria is vital to healing and repairing the stomach and lining. Traditional medicine uses a number of antibiotics, H2 inhibitors and other medications. These pharmaceuticals can appease the problem but not necessarily cure the long term condition. Bacteria that invades the lining and outer wall of the stomach must be destroyed and gut repaired. Through diet and reintroducing good flora (bacteria) into the system with pre and probiotics are the beginning steps to repair the gut. These first steps are some of the essential treatments necessary for a healthy digestive tract. Most importantly, testing the stomach acids for pH levels is also vital to create an environment in the gut that does not allow bad bacteria to proliferate. As this bacteria is identified and destroyed, rebalancing of the stomach acid for proper digestion and breaking down of foods and nutrients will restore good health throughout the body. Detoxing the liver is essential to clear out the pathogens and mending of the mucosal lining of the stomach. Therapeutic Enzymes are another support element in the repair of the stomach lining. Our team specializes in healthy gut repair and will assist through an evaluation and specific Nutraceuticals that can expedite repair and recovery from ulcers.
The Roles of Proper Stomach pH
Potentially harmful micro-organisms present on food are sterilized by our stomach’s pH. Thus reducing our risk of being colonized by harmful micro-organism we all ingest daily. Proper pH in the stomach helps leach minerals from the food we ingest, such examples being calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
Stomach acid lowers the pH, allowing the enzyme pepsin to start breaking down protein molecules and also activates that same enzyme (pepsin) which is required for protein digestion. Stomach acid plays an important role in the digestion and absorption of vitamins, e.g., B-complex vitamins, including folic acid. The rhythmical contraction of the intestines, that crush and move food through the GI track, called peristalsis, is triggered by the stomach acid. Our team specializes in healthy gut repair and will assist through an evaluation and specific Nutraceuticals that will expedite repair and recovery from ulcers.
The closing pyloric sphincter(http://remodelingyourhealth.com/bloating-gas/ – see Role of Stomach) —the valve which holds stomach contents until they are ready to flow down to the intestines—is initiated by the stomach acid. The pyloric sphincter works in exactly the opposite way as the Lower esophageal sphincter. This is nature’s way of ensuring that food is properly digested before it flows through the rest of the gastrointestinal system.
Since ulcers can recur and become a chronic problem or can lead to a number of serious complications including bleeding, it is important to treat them promptly. Instead of pursuing the most common conventional ulcer treatment option, which only leads to further digestive problems. There are alternative methods including supplements and diet that include;
- Vitamin E