If you’ve read my recent confession post, then you know that in my recent healing journey I’ve been dealing with h. pylori. Considering that h. pylori causes ulcers and other digestive problems (including being linked to cancer), it is certainly no bueno!
The good news is that I’ve kicked h. pylori to the curb! And I did it without any antibiotics or regimens of pills or medicines. Before I tell you how to treat h. pylori naturally, I do have to remind you that I am not a doctor, so please don’t take my experience as medical advice or diagnosis. Please consult a naturopathic doctor if you suspect you may have h. pylori.
So, what the heck is h. pylori?
Helicobacter pylori, aka h. pylori, is a type of bacteria which resides in our stomach. To be specific, it is found in the mucus lining of the stomach and duodenum, but can also adhere to the cells lining the stomach. It has a rod-like, helix shape (see photo below) which allows it to burrow deep into the lining. Now, keep in mind that the stomach is a very acidic environment. To survive in the acidity, h. pylori bacteria release an enzyme called urease. This enzyme turns urea into ammonia. Yes, I know it sounds weird, but there is actually urea (like found in urine) in gastric juices.
Well, all that ammonia neutralizes the gastric juices around the h. pylori bacteria so they can thrive. Normally, your body would send immune cells to attack and kill bacterial invaders. But immune cells can’t burrow into the lining of the stomach, so h. pylori gets to have a party in your digestive system. There is also evidence showing that h. pylori bacteria can block immune responses so they can’t crash the party.
Depending on which report you go by, 1/3 to 2/3 of the world’s population is infected with h. pylori. Researchers aren’t sure exactly how h. pylori bacteria are transmitted, but they guess is it from fecal to mouth contamination. Considering that sanitation has improved so much in developed countries, they also guess that h. pylori can be transmitted from oral-to-oral contact (such as from contaminated food).
How h. pylori causes ulcers
Researchers have known about h. pylori for over 100 years. It wasn’t until fairly recently that they figured out that h. pylori causes ulcers though. In the 1970s, an Australian pathologist named Robin Warren was looking at samples of inflamed stomach tissue. He found that h. pylori was all over the gastric mucus of the inflamed samples. Interestingly, there wasn’t any inflammation in samples without h. pylori. This led him to believe that h. pylori causes irritation to the stomach.
Warren and his partner Barry Marshall had trouble isolating the bacteria. When they finally did, Marshall actually swallowed a sample of the bacteria to prove it caused ulcers. Talk about taking one for the team! He didn’t develop an ulcer, but he did get a serious case of gastritis (inflamed stomach). This proved that h. pylori bacteria did cause stomach irritation. Luckily for Marshall, the infection cleared up without any treatment (guess I’m not the only one who’s kicked h. pylori without drugs!).
Researchers still aren’t exactly sure how h. pylori causes ulcers. The most common theory is that h. pylori damages the mucus lining of the stomach and duodenum. Without this protective mucus layer, the acid from the stomach can damage its own cells. The fact that h. pylori causes inflammation is also likely to be a factor.
Today, researchers know that h. pylori causes about 80% of ulcers in the stomach and 90% of ulcers in the duodenum. What they don’t know is why some people with h. pylori get ulcers and others don’t. Keep in mind that h. pylori is a bacteria which affects upwards of 2/3 of the world!
From my own experiences and research, I’d have to surmise it all comes down to gut health. Even if you do have bad h. pylori bacteria in your stomach wearing away at the mucus, a healthy gut could still repair the mucus before any real damage is done. But, if your gut isn’t healthy, then the bacteria are going to do a number on your mucus and gastric acid will be able to damage cells. Remember when doctors used to think that ulcers came from stress and bad diet? Well, those factors are definitely not good for your gut! So, if you’ve got h. pylori and you are also eating a bad diet and are dealing with stress constantly, then the h. pylori are gonna take a toll.
H. pylori and stomach cancer
As if an ulcer wasn’t bad enough, h. pylori is also linked to numerous types of gastric cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute SEER Program, nearly 11 thousand people will have died of gastric cancer in 2013. And the rates are on the rise.
H. pylori has been identified as the main cause of gastric cancer (even before causes like smoking). Again, researchers can’t be positive how h. pylori causes gastric cancer, but the theory is that the inflammation caused by the bacteria predisposes the tissues to becoming cancerous. Since damaged cells have to replicate more frequently, they also are more likely to get cancerous mutations. According to a study in Clinical Microbiology, people with h. pylori have a 1-2% chance of getting stomach cancer.
What are the symptoms of h. pylori?
Most people (85%) with h. pylori won’t have any symptoms at all. About 10-20% of people will get a peptic ulcer. 1-2% will get stomach cancer. The rest will have symptoms like stomachache, belching, indigestion, bloating, and other symptoms of stomach inflammation. Super sexy, huh?
Testing for h. pylori
Because h. pylori usually doesn’t have any symptoms and the symptoms it does cause are so similar to symptoms of other conditions, the only reliable way to know if you have an h. pylori infection is to get tested.
UPDATE: Good news! There is now an h. pylori test that you can order directly without a doctor’s order! While I’m a HUGE fan of having a doctor’s guidance, I understand the need to know whether you have h. pylori or not before you invest in a practitioner.
What do mainstream docs use to treat h. pylori?
Since h. pylori is a bacteria, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the mainstream treatment for h. pylori is antibiotics. Hardcore antibiotics. Along with two antibiotics (usually clarithromycin and amoxicillin), doctors will also give a proton-pump inhibitor. Proton-pump inhibitors are drugs which reduce gastric acid formation (over-the-counter stuff like Prilosec). The idea is that the ulcer will be able to heal if there isn’t so much stomach acid eating away at it.
Back when this “triple therapy” of drugs was prescribed, it was actually pretty effective. Now, the 3-way of drugs fails for about 35% of patients – and the effectiveness is still falling. The reason is because bacteria has become resistant to antibiotics. Not shocking considering the majority of docs are quite trigger happy when it comes to prescribing antibiotics. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place for modern medicine and antibiotics but prescribing them each time you have a sniffle is probably going to do more harm than good. To be fair, we’d have to point a finger at CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) for pumping our meat full of antibiotics as well. Not helpful guys. Not helpful at all.
Aside from the whole antibiotic resistance issue, this approach doesn’t seem so wise. For starters, proton-pump inhibitors block stomach acid formation. Remember how we said that h. pylori secretes enzymes to reduce stomach acid, and that is what allows them to thrive? So, if you are reducing stomach acid, then you are just going to make an even more hospitable environment for h. pylori. Oh, and those antacids aren’t doing you any favors! If you have acid reflux, GERD or hearburn, The 30 Day Heartburn Solution will show you how to treat it naturally.
But the antibiotics should take care of the h. pylori before they go haywire in the now low-acid environment of your stomach, right? Well, antibiotics are also going to kill off the good bacteria in your stomach. If you do go the antibiotic route for this or anything else make sure to include a dose of therapeutic grade probiotics like Prescript Assist alongside it. You’ll also want to add naturally-fermented foods to your diet, like these easy to make pickled carrots. Good bacteria found in probiotics are essential for reducing inflammation and maintaining the health of your stomach lining. Numerous studies now even show that taking antibiotics can increase incidence of gut-related diseases. There are now also many studies which show that ingesting probiotic good bacteria can eradicate h. pylori. So, do you really want to be taking antibiotics which will kill off the good bacteria you need to keep your digestive system healthy?
How to treat h. pylori naturally
The good news is, you don’t need harsh antibiotics to eradicate h. pylori! There are a couple of natural treatments that work just as well if not better and don’t wreck your gut along the way. Please consult with your naturopathic doctor to see which of these treatments is right for you.
H. Pylori Natural Treatment #1: Mastic Gum
Mastic Gum has gotten a lot of attention as a natural cure for h. pylori and there is no shortage of evidence showing that it is effective. Heck, even the likes of Dr. Oz and The Daily Mail are behind this one. A friend of mine, who is also a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, eradicated h. pylori using this treatment.
Mastic gum (which you can buy here) is a resin from the pistachio tree. In stores, you might find it under the name Arabic gum. Don’t confuse this with gum arabic, the emulsifier which is found in a lot of processed foods. They are completely different things.
As far back as the Greek Empire, mastic gum was used to treat ulcers. It wasn’t until 1998 that mastic gum finally got its due. That is when a study called Mastic Gum Kills Helicobacter pylori was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers found that even small amounts of mastic gum (1 g per day over a course of 2 weeks) could cure ulcers and kill h. pylori. Later studies confirmed that mastic gum has antibacterial properties. It also is antifungal too. It is thought that mastic gum works by causing changes to the h. pylori bacteria so it dies.
The really good news? The studies found absolutely no side effects of taking mastic gum for h. pylori treatment!
Again, I didn’t try this myself and you will have to talk to your doctor to figure out what regimen you should use if you go this route. With this in mind, here is the recommended mastic gum dosage for h. pylori that I found:
Mastic Gum Dosage
- Week 1: 1000mg of mastic gum daily on an empty stomach
- Week 2: 2000mg of mastic gum daily, divided into two dosages taken on an empty stomach (take in the morning and afternoon)
- Week 3: 3000mg of mastic gum daily, divided into three dosages taken on an empty stomach (morning, afternoon, and evening)
***You can buy mastic gum here***
H. Pylori Natural Treatment #2: Matula Tea
The other effective natural treatment for h. pylori – and the one I tried myself — is Matula tea. You can buy matula tea online here. Matula tea is actually made of up five different herbs:
- Oleaceae (a relative of the olive tree)
- Asteraceae (aster)
- Alliaceae (related to onions, leeks, and chives)
- Fabaceae (related to the bean family)
- Myrtaceae (related to spices like allspice, guava, and clove)
These herbs are picked in the wild, don’t contain any pesticides, and are sundried. They work together to fight h. pylori naturally in a few ways. For starters, like with the mastic gum, some of these herbs have antibacterial properties which can kill h. pylori. Matula tea also helps your stomach lining heal by stopping bleeding and regulating gastric acidic production. Finally, Matula tea can help you rebuild your mucus lining so the damage caused by h. pylori is reversed and the bacteria can’t re-infect.
Under the advice and guidance of my doctor I ordered 1 case of matula tea (buy it here) for myself (and preventatively, since it can’t hurt, 1 for my husband, 1 for my teenage daughter and 1 for my toddlers to split since their dose is halved). We drank 1 cup in the morning and 1 cup nightly on an empty stomach each time for the 30 days that it took to finish the case. I forgot once or twice but really tried to stay on top of it as much as possible.
***You can buy Matula Tea here***
How does it taste? It is kind of like a mild unsweetened green tea. Since I usually drink unsweetened tea and coffee, I found it quite pleasant. Admittedly though, it wasn’t something that my kids jumped right into. I had to put some raw honey in it for them and then they liked it. Since raw honey is chock full of healthy gut probiotics, it was a win-win (where to buy raw honey).
Drinking Matula tea is literally all I did to cure my h. pylori. The proof is in the poop. Sorry, but it’s true. Here are my before and after stool tests.
As with any protocol, I recommend you seek the guidance of your naturopathic doctor before starting your treatment.
The Good News? You don’t need a doctor to order the tests and you can do them at home!
The best test to order is the H.Pylori stool antigen test, available here.
Note on Curing H. Pylori Naturally
Both mastic gum and Matula tea are good options for people who want to get rid of h. pylori without damaging their bodies with antibiotics and proton-pump inhibitors. But I want to emphasize that these treatments are going to work a lot better if you are taking care of your gut. Remember how I mentioned that studies found probiotics reduce stomach inflammation and may even kill off bad bacteria like h. pylori? Likewise, you will want to avoid any food stuffs which irritate your stomach. This means refined sugars, wheat (gluten) and processed foods. When your gut is healthy, it will be in a much better position to fight off h. pylori and heal itself of the damage that was caused.
If you’re currently eating a Standard American Diet and aren’t sure how to transition to a healthier real food diet, my ebook Paleo Made Easy: Getting your Family Started with the Optimal Healthy Lifestyle can teach you how to start.
***Buy Mastic Gum here***
***Buy Matula Tea here***
What was it like during the h. pylori detox?
Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. (I wish I could say the same for the heavy metal chelation I did). I did notice some acne/breakouts on my face and also uncharacteristically bad breath during the month I was drinking the tea. Energy levels and everything else remained constant. It was the easiest detox treatment I’ve ever done!
Other detox protocols I’ve tried include:
Have you cured h. pylori? What treatments have you used? Would love to hear from you in the comments below!
“Effects of ingesting Lactobacillus- and Bifidobacterium-containing yogurt in subjects with colonized Helicobacter pylori“.