Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) are bacteria that infect the lining of your stomach. According to 1998 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these bacteria are responsible for up to 80 percent of gastric ulcers and 90 percent of duodenal ulcers. They may also cause other stomach problems, including:
The use of conventional treatments like antibiotics can be difficult for some people. It’s possible to experience negative side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite. Some people are resistant to antibiotics, which can complicate traditional approaches to treatment. As a result, interest in natural treatments is growing.
7 natural treatments for H. pylori infection
Many in vivo and in vitro studies on natural H. pylori treatments have been done. Most treatments reduced the number of bacteria in the stomach but failed to permanently eradicate them.
Be sure to talk with your doctor before beginning a natural treatment regimen. You shouldn’t replace your recommend treatment for H. pylori with natural remedies.
With your doctor’s approval, you can use natural treatments as adjuvant therapy. This may increase the effects of conventional drugs.
Probiotics help maintain the balance between good and bad gut bacteria. According to a 2012 study, taking probiotics before or after standard H. pylori treatment may improve eradication rates. Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria in your stomach. Probiotics help replenish good bacteria. They may also reduce your risk of developing yeast overgrowth. Researchers found evidence to suggest that the bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus delivers the best results.
A 2009 study on mice showed that green tea may help kill and slow the growth of Helicobacter bacteria. The study found that consuming green tea before an infection prevents stomach inflammation. Consuming the tea during an infection reduced the severity of gastritis.
Honey has shown antibacterial abilities against H. pylori. Additional research supports this conclusion. No research to date has shown that honey can eradicate the bacteria on its own. Researchers suggest that using honey with standard treatments may shorten treatment time. Raw honey and Manuka honey may have the most antibacterial effects.
Olive oil may also treat H. pylori bacteria. A 2007 study showed that olive oil has strong antibacterial abilities against eight H. pylori strains. Three of those strains are antibiotic-resistant. Olive oil also remains stable in gastric acid.
Licorice root is a common natural remedy for stomach ulcers. It may also fight H. pylori. According to a 2009 study, licorice root doesn’t directly kill the bacteria, though it can help prevent it from sticking to cell walls.
A compound in broccoli sprouts called sulphoraphane may be effective against H. pylori. Research on mice and humans suggests that it reduces gastric inflammation. It also may lower bacteria colonization and its effects. A study on people with both type 2 diabetes and H. pylori showed that broccoli sprout powder fights the bacteria. It also improved cardiovascular risk factors.
Studies show that H. pylori are vulnerable to light. Phototherapy uses ultraviolet light to help eliminate H. pylori in the stomach. Researchers believe phototherapy used within the stomach is safe. It may be most beneficial when antibiotics are not an option.
Traditional treatments for H. pylori infection
Doctors typically prescribe a combination of two antibiotics and an acid-reducing drug to treat H. pylori. This is known as triple therapy.
If you’re resistant to the antibiotics, your doctors may add another medication to your treatment plan. The goal is to get rid of 90 percent or more of the H. pylori bacteria present.
Treatment usually lasts no more than two weeks. Using two antibiotics instead of one may reduce your risk of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics used to treat H. pylori include:
Acid-reducing medications help your stomach lining to heal. Some of these are:
- proton pump inhibitors, such as omeprazole (Prilosec) and lansoprazole (Prevacid), which stop acid production in the stomach
- histamine blockers, such as cimetidine (Tagamet) and ranitidine (Zantac), which block acid-triggering histamine
- bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol), which coats and protects the lining of your stomach
Many people have the bacteria their entire lives and experience no symptoms. When it causes chronic gastric inflammation and remains untreated, serious complications may occur. These may include bleeding ulcers and stomach cancer. H. pylori is the main risk factor for some types of stomach cancer.
According to the 1998 data from the CDC, eradication rates of H. pylori are 61 to 94 percent when an FDA-approved antibiotic treatment is used. Rates are highest when antibiotics are combined with an acid reducer. Adding natural treatments may offer additional healing benefits.
What you can do now
In the United States, doctors seldom test for H. pylori unless you have symptoms. If you have symptoms, call your doctor for an evaluation. H. pylori infection shares symptoms with other stomach conditions, such as acid reflux and GERD. It’s important you get the right diagnosis to make sure you’re treated correctly.
If you test positive for H. pylori, the sooner you start treatment, the better. Natural treatments aren’t likely to harm you, but they aren’t proven to eliminate the infection. Don’t use them instead of conventional treatments without your doctor’s supervision.
How to prevent future infection
The source of H. pylori is unclear. There are no formal recommendations from the CDC to prevent it. In general, you should practice good hygiene by frequently washing your hands and properly preparing your food. If you’re diagnosed with H. pylori, complete your full course of treatment to reduce your risk of recurrence.