According to the World Health Organization, H. pylori affects about half of the world’s population. In Peru, the incidence rate (new cases) is estimated at 15%, while the prevalence rate (infected people) is about 80%. This bacterium is one of the leading causes of gastritis, and worryingly, an estimated 1-3% of H. pylori infections can progress to gastric cancer.
Dr. Sebastián Arrieta, Obesity Medicine Specialist provides us with some guidelines to help us learn more about this bacterium that many of us have heard of.
Step 1: Identify symptoms
– Pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or premature fullness may be signs of gastritis.
Step 2: Medical Consultation
– Do not ignore symptoms. See a doctor who will evaluate your medical history and symptoms.
Step 3: Diagnostic Tests
– Your doctor may order one or more of the following tests:
– breath test: Detection of Helicobacter pylori by analyzing breath samples after ingestion radiolabeled urea or stable isotopes (e.g. carbon-13). The test is about 90-95% sensitive.
– upper gastrointestinal endoscopy: It allows you to look directly at the stomach wall and perform a biopsy if necessary. The sensitivity is close to 90%.
– Blood, stool, or stomach tissue tests: Sensitivity varies, but is usually in the 85-90% range.
NOTE: Not all of these tests are required. Your doctor will determine which one is best for your situation.
Step Four: Eat Right
– While awaiting diagnosis, avoid foods that irritate the stomach:
– Spicy food, coffee, alcohol and greasy food should be limited.
– Choose a light diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Step 5: Follow your doctor’s instructions
– If you are confirmed to have H. pylori infection, your doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics and medicines to reduce stomach acid.
Extra tips: holistic care
– Don’t smoke, avoid alcohol and stress.
– Keep exercising regularly to improve your overall health.
– Make sure you get enough sleep; rest is essential for recovery.
– Avoid overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, which can irritate the stomach.
According to research published in the journal Gastroenterology (Malfertheiner, P., et al., 2017), effective treatment of Helicobacter pylori can prevent disease progression in patients with gastritis, which is a critical step in preventing more serious complications.
– World Health Organization. (date unknown). Helicobacter pylori.
– Malfertheiner, P., Megraud, F., O’Morain, CA, et al. (2017). Management of Helicobacter pylori infection – Maastricht V/Florence consensus report. Gastroenterology, 152(1), 51-69. DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2016.09.060.
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