Helicobacter Pylori and Low Stomach Acid

Excerpts from: Nutritional Causes, Prevention and Therapies

While "stress" was a popular basis for stomach ulcers years ago, Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori) has become the ever popular cause for peptic and duodenal ulcers since its discovery in the early 1980’s.

Some doctors place the bacterium’s involvement as high as 90%, however medical drugs, alcohol, poor nutrition, high-carb and sugar diets, and an overload of toxins are a much bigger factor in the development of ulcers than given credit by conventional medicine.

H. Pylori is easily inhibited by raising stomach acid, provided this is done before much damage is done by the bug, which is the reason why people with normal acid levels are generally asymptomatic and don’t get ulcers unless they are on certain drugs or consume large amounts of alcohol. Coffee has been found to aggravate the symptoms of H. Pylori infections.

Unfortunately, people with reduced acid levels often times suffer from what they assume is high stomach acid (heartburn, bloating, nausea, frequent burping), and as a result frequently take antacids. By doing so, they encourage greater H. Pylori activity and thus increase the risk for ulcers or gastric cancers, with the bug also being implicated for heart disease, gum disease, asthma, rosacea, and chronic headaches or migraines as well. If patients had indeed high acid levels (as some physicians still have them believe), then why do symptoms quickly improve when stomach acid levels are raised?

The confusion usually stems from the fact that esophageal reflux (GERD) causes heartburn, from acid getting up into the esophagus, which doesn’t have the acid-protective mucus coating of the stomach. However, H. pylori reduces stomach acid.

The paradox IS that having enough stomach acid keeps the valve to the esophagus closed so it cannot be harmed by stomach fluids. Also when the stomach produces stomach acid it also produces bicarbonate of soda. Bicarbonate of soda is what protects the stomach lining from being damaged by the acid. Therefore, it stands to reason that IF the stomach isn’t producing enough acid it also won’t be producing enough bicarbonate of soda which also allows ulcers to form inside the stomach.

After the discovery of H. Pylori, and once medical science accepted it as being a significant factor with ulcers, predictions were made that ulcers and related stomach complaints would become a thing of the past. However, there are as many patients as ever complaining of stomach problems, including those who had been “supposedly” "cured" of H. Pylori.

The reason is very simply low stomach acid – which had not been corrected, even though that was the cause in the first place. Antibiotic-resistant Helicobacter Pylori cases have now become a commonplace occurrence as well, and there are also plenty of patients who simply don’t tolerate any of a number of antibiotics used in the treatment of H. Pylori. That is because antibiotics are toxic, and while they kill H. pylori they will also wipe out good organism as well, leaving the door open to candida/yeast overgrowth.

Following are some "Natural Remedies" that have been used with mixed results for H. Pylori:

Whether regular consumption of sulfur-containing sources such as Garlic and Onions is of
any benefit for H. Pylori symptoms is unclear, as some individuals seem to benefit, while others don’t.

A similar question mark applies to the regular intake of Licorice and Cinnamon, larger amounts of Vitamin C, as well as Coconut oil, or spicy foods such as Hot (Chili) Peppers which all have shown to inhibit Helicobacter Pylori in clinical trials.

Probiotic-types of remedies (friendly bacteria) consisting of Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Bifidus are an important addition to any therapy for H. Pylori infection, which will help inhibit it, and counteract any headaches, early-morning nausea, or general dyspepsia associated with low stomach acid alone, or following antibiotic therapy, with the acidophilus being best taken at bedtime. Some patients only tolerate the non-dairy lactobacillus acidophilus without the bifidus.

An optional adjunct remedy in the treatment of H. Pylori is Bismuth, which is also part of over the counter products such as Pepto-Bismol. Cellular bismuth and lithium levels routinely test below normal with low acid levels, respectively to upper stomach involvement (bismuth), and lower stomach / duodenal involvement (lithium).

Sulforaphane is a promising compound that inhibits extracellular, intracellular, and antibiotic-resistant strains of Helicobacter Pylori. This effect was identified by scientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore while investigating sulforaphane – one of a class of chemicals called isothiocyanates – for its protective effect against cancer.

Sulforaphane is found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, and kale, with broccoli sprouts containing anywhere from 30 to 50 times the concentration of the chemical as contained in the mature plants.

Most patients who don’t produce enough stomach acid will continue to experience problems, even if antibiotic therapy or any other "natural" approach has successfully killed the it, but not everyone necessarily always suffers from "heartburn"-like symptoms, or bloating.

Low stomach acid can be a factor with headaches, chronic fatigue, non-specific aches and pains, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and other calcium metabolism-impaired problems — all the way to various cancers. Many of these complaints are rectified by normalizing stomach acid, and from personal clinical observation, I’m convinced that even several non-gastric types of cancers could be prevented, since they never seem to develop in the presence of normal acid levels.

To help the symptoms, or until any of several possible causes for low stomach acid are resolved, taking betaine hydrochloric acid with meals is indicated.

When nothing has been successful, or when there is intolerance to most of the remedies that are usually helpful with low-acid symptoms, then regularly eating 1 to 2 tablespoons of sauerkraut whenever symptoms occur is the best option. Sauerkraut has the unique ability to lower stomach acid levels when they are too high and increase stomach acid levels when they are too low. If a person cannot digest the cabbage in the sauerkraut they can drink the juice instead.