Is heartburn frustrating you? Do you find it frustrating to avoid the foods you love? Is your heartburn keeping you up at night? Are tired of taking antacids or drugs to mask your heartburn versus finding the underlying cause of it? Have you been tested thoroughly for H. Pylori infection as the cause of your heartburn? If you feel you haven’t been tested throughly for H. Pylori, then you should be seeking out a health practitioner who knows how to do it. Here’s why.
How H. Pylori can cause GERD
We already know that an overgrowth of bacteria in the gut can cause GERD. Researchers also speculate this, and in particular, that H. pylori is one of the possible bacteria involved. (1)
Assessing the role of H. pylori infection in GERD and IBS patients could be a target of future research, as in the present study the prevalence of H. pylori infection in GERD patients was found to be greater than in non- GERD patients.
-Malekzadeh & Moghaddam
H. pylori is the most common chronic bacterial infection worldwide. (2) Infection rates increase with age. In the United States, the estimated prevalence is 20 percent for people younger than 30 years and 50 percent for those older than 60 years. (3)
H. Pylori also decreases stomach acid. (4) Normally, all bad bacteria entering the stomach get killed off because of stomach acid. H. Pylori is able to thrive because it has the ability to decrease stomach acid. In fact, treating people with antibiotics who are infected with H. Pylori, but have no symptoms, increases their stomach acidity. (5) Also, getting rid of H. Pylori with antibiotics improves nearly everyone suffering from low stomach acid. (5)
Remember in the first article we said that stomach acid decreases with age. This is true, but likely not because of age alone. (6) Stomach acid decreases likely because H. Pylori infection increases with age.
Even though H. Pylori infection suppresses stomach acid, researchers believe the initial H. Pylori infection can only take place when the acidity of the stomach is decreased. (7) So if you have heartburn and GERD wouldn’t it make sense to increase your stomach acid and get tested to see if you have an H. Pylori infection?
Another important reason to get tested is infection with H. pylori is the strongest known risk factor for stomach cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. (9)
In the second article of this series, I talked about how undigested carbohydrates because of low stomach acid leads to the production of gas (fermentation). The gas that is produced is hydrogen gas. H. pylori use hydrogen gas as an energy source. So the excess hydrogen gas further strengthens the H. pylori infection.
Guess what types of carbohydrates are more likely to increase hydrogen gas production? Consuming lots of refined flours (particularly wheat) and sugars: Sweets, food and drinks with very high sucrose (table sugar) content and with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), flour, pasta, bread, wheat bran, and whole-grain breakfast cereals. (10) These are staples of the typical North American diet. And eating these will increase your risk of H. pylori infection and other bad bacteria. So if you want to avoid heartburn and GERD or help decrease your symptoms if you have it, minimize (or eliminate) your intake of refined flours and sugars. Certain types of fibre and starches can also lead to an increase hydrogen gas. But this is a whole other topic for discussion in the future.
The sooner you solve the underlying cause of your heartburn and GERD, the better. There are significant health risks involved with having low stomach acid for long periods of time. We’ll discuss these risks in the next article.