Flatulence is not usually considered a serious medical problem. Doctors see it as more of a nuisance, although severe gas, whether it is loud or merely smelly, can have a terrible impact on the sufferer’s quality of life. We often look to diet as the underlying cause of flatulence, but there is a strong possibility that some of the microbes living in our intestinal tract also contribute to this problem. One such bug is H. pylori.
H. Pylori, Bad Breath and Gas:
Q. People who have persistent excessive flatulence should ask their doctor about H. pylori. This bad bug affects many children and adults and may lead to serious complications.
The bacteria thrives in the digestive tract but can be detected with a blood or breath test. Doctors may not always check for this infection, so you may have to ask.
I had the problem years ago. My 10-year-old godchild became very ill this year, unable to attend school. After repeated medical exams and hospitalization, a doctor finally tested her for H. pylori. She recovered when she was treated with antibiotics.
Effects of Helicobacter:
A. Helicobacter pylori is a type of bacteria that infects the lining of the stomach. It is a prime cause of stomach ulcers, as Australian researchers and Nobel prize winners Barry Marshall and Robin Warren demonstrated in 1982.
H. pylori can cause a range of GI symptoms including nausea, stomachache, gas and bad breath. More worrisome, the germ has been linked to stomach cancer. Because it changes the stomach environment, different intestinal microbes begin to thrive, leading to a cancer-promoting assemblage of microbes (Ferreira et al, Gut, online Nov. 4, 2017).
Treating the Infection:
To get rid of H. pylori in a person with ulcers, doctors use multiple antibiotics in combination with bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) or a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) such as esomeprazole (Nexium). A follow-up test should show whether the treatment was successful. Bismuth quadruple therapy serves as a last resort (Fiorini et al, Helicobacter, online Nov. 1, 2017).
Once the microbe has been eliminated, it might make sense to take a probiotic for a while. Test tube research indicates that a chemical (reuterin) produced by the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus reuteri makes H. pylori less virulent (Urrutia-Baca et al, Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins, online Nov. 4, 2017).
A Reader Shares Her Concern about PPIs:
Most gastroenterologists prescribe acid suppressing drugs for those with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Gina in Arizona has a concern about the routine use of PPIs:
“Those of us who suffer from H. pylori bacteria in the stomach cannot go off these meds [PPIs] because of the horrid heartburn caused by the bacteria. I would bet that many of the folks who have GERD are actually suffering from from H. pylori.”
“Isn’t any research going on to find a way to kill this very difficult bacteria? If we could kill it, we would be able to go off the very nasty PPI’s.”
You can learn more about Helicobacter pylori and PPIs at this updated link:
PPIs and the Liver:
Over the last several years PPIs have been associated with a number of serious complications including heart attacks, strokes, fractures, infections and kidney damage. A study in Nature Communications (Oct. 16, 2017) now links PPIs to liver problems:
“Reduction of gastric acid secretion therefore appears to promote overgrowth of intestinal Enterococcus, which promotes liver disease, based on data from mouse models and humans. Recent increases in the use of gastric acid-suppressive medications might contribute to the increasing incidence of chronic liver disease.”
The investigators conclude:
“Importantly, we demonstrate that in alcohol-dependent patients, gastric acid suppression promotes the onset and progression of liver disease. Although a randomized study is required to confirm data from our cohort study, our findings indicate that the recent rise in use of gastric acid-suppressing medications might have contributed to the increased incidence of chronic liver disease…Clinicians should consider withholding medications that suppress gastric acid unless there is a strong medical indication.”
We provide additional information on H. pylori and its consequences as well as details on treatment in our Guide to Digestive Disorders. You might also be interested in listening to our interview on how to rebalance your digestive tract bacteria. The streaming audio and mp3 download are free. It is Show 1023.