Ask Dr Heather Blog

H. Pylori, Good or Bad?
July 9, 2012
Dr. Heather Boyd Roberts

H. pylori has been a highly sought after bacterium thought to cause gastric ulcers. To eradicate it requires 3 separate types of antibiotics over an extended course of treatment. Now there is suspicion coming to the surface that perhaps that course of therapy wasn't beneficial to the patient.

H. pylori is just one bug that is isolated from a bacteria rich stomach environment. And, like many bacteria in our system is not only harmless when kept in balance with the other microbes, but may be beneficial.

Dr. Martin Blaser of the New York University Langone medical Center, has found that when H. pylori is eradicated with antibiotics, the hormone ghrelin is affected. Ghrelin is a hunger hormone secreted by the stomach that should decline to signal you that you are full. Without H. pylori, blood levels of ghrelin remain the same and signal your brain to keep eating. (Nature 11;476:393-394) (EMBO Rep 06;7(10):956-960)

Dr. Blaser also published findings showing that once H. pylori is eradicated the chances of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) increase. EAC was once rare, but it is rapidly growing in many developed countries. EAC is a know consequence of gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Dr. Blaser and others have examples of how H. pylori may be involved in the protection of the esophagus, but the mechanism is not yet understood. However, it is very clear that as the levels of H. pylori drop, the risks of EAC, a once rare form of cancer, increase. (Cancer Prev Res 08;1(5):308-311).

Other conditions have also been found to increase as a result of declining levels of H. pylori. Lower H. pylori results in higher rates of childhood asthma, wheezing, allergic rhinitis, dermatitis, eczema and rashes. (JID 08:198:553-560).

H. pylori is one of a number or bacterium that are wiped out when antibiotics are used. There are literally hundreds of different types of bacteria that normally reside in a healthy gastrointestinal tract. When antibiotics are used, they are not selective, they wipe them all out, leaving behind an environment where anything can grow, whether beneficial or not. So be cautious with choosing to just 'kill' bacteria when our understanding of the bacterium in the human GI tract is so limited.

(Alternatives Vol 15, No4, April 2012; pg 3)

Written by Dr. Heather Boyd Roberts of Natural Choice Healthcare Vancouver, Washington