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Could H. Pylori Be Causing Your Acid Reflux?Many people with acid reflux live on Tums or on medications such as Prilosec and Prevacid that suppress stomach acid and help to manage the symptoms.  However, many cases of reflux I have seen be caused by a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, which when properly treated can permanently resolve acid reflux. So I wonder, could H. pylori be causing your acid reflux?

Helicobacter pylori (or H. pylori) is a bacterial infection that affects the stomach.  It is incredibly common, giving rise to a multitude of symptoms including reflux/GERD, hearburn, nausea, burping/ belching, difficulty digesting protein and even vomiting.  While antibiotic therapy is the routine allopathic treatment, there are also naturals treatments that can be just as effective without the side effects of medications.

H. pylori impacts the cells of the stomach that produce stomach acid, with two main sequelae.  The first is that regulation of the sphincter (like the gate) between the stomach and esophagus is interrupted.  This malfunctioning divider means that symptoms such as reflux occur even if stomach acid levels are actually low, as is often the case in H pylori.  The second is that when the cells that produce stomach acid (aka hydrochloric acid) are damaged, less acid is produced, and proteins are not able to be digested fully.  This leads to a feeling of always being full, being more reactive to foods that never used to be a problem, and the feeling of generally digesting poorly.  I’ve heard a few people describe it as having a brick in their stomach.

The allopathic medical treatment for H. pylori is a combination of two different antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor.  The proton pump inhibitor suppresses stomach acid even further so that the antibiotics can work better.  The two antibiotics most commonly used are amoxicillin and clarithromycin.  The combo of these is sold under the brand name Prevpac in a handy dandy 14-day kit.

Most of the time that treatment is tolerated ok, but people often experience nausea, upset stomach and a metallic taste in their mouth.  Then of course there is the issue of disrupting gut flora as is the case with any antibiotics, so probiotics are imperative during the treatment (just separated from antibiotics by two hours) and for at least a few weeks after.

There are more natural ways to address H. pylori that do not have as many side effects. I have seen them be very effective too, it usually just takes a bit longer.  I have found that people are pretty willing to do 4-6 weeks of herbs though as a preference over 2 weeks of antibiotics.

Some of the natural agents that overcome H. pylori include mastic gum, bismuth, zinc carnosine and berberine.  There are some great combination products that are formulated specifically for this purpose.  My favorite protocol is:-

GastroMend-HP (Designs for Health) – 2 capsules twice daily between meals.

Bio-HPF (Biotics) – 2 capsules three times daily.

Liposomal Vitamin C (LivOn Labs) – 1 packet daily.

One of the challenging things about H pylori is that it be shared among family members.  If one person tests positive for H. pylori, their partner might want to be treated too, just to avoid passing it back and forth. It can be transmitted through saliva.

Testing can be done via bloodwork, but there is a breath test that is more accurate that can be done by standard labs (such as Quest and Labcorp) and is usually covered by insurance.  BioHealth Diagnostics is a private lab that also offers a stool test that is highly sensitive, it costs around $100 and is an out-of-pocket expense.  For those who do not have insurance coverage it’s probably a better value to do the stool test anyway.

If you have recurrent or chronic reflux, rather that submit to a lifetime of medications to suppress the symptoms, you might consider getting tested for H. pylori.  It’s not that all acid reflux can be blamed on H. pylori, but I’ve seen enough cases resolve even with natural treatment that it’s well worth exploring!