Should I kill Helicobacter, and how?
October 16, 2010 6:49 AM   Subscribe

How advisable is it to eliminate Helicobacter pylori from your gut, and how do I go about it?

The obvious answers are: "Very", and "Go to a Dr.", I know, but:

I've been reading a bit and I'd like to hear your opinions on whether eradication of the bacterium is a good idea in the absence of any symptoms and the fact that according to some, the bug might be a normal denizen of the gut, and might even be beneficial.

Then, if eradication were to be chosen, is there a way to do it without antibiotics? I'm looking for evidence-based options.

posted by Cobalt to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Based on the literature, if you're asymptomatic and you carry H. pylori, you almost certainly have some degree of gastritis. We can define "normal" to mean "at least fairly common" but other than the fairly high prevalence of asymptomatic H. pylori in many populations, there's nothing there to say this is beneficial. To the contrary, it's reasonable to start from the assumption that chronic inflammation is always associated with disease, unless there's evidence to the contrary.

There's probably some millions of dollars for whomever has evidence showing eradication of H. pylori without any of the currently utilized chemotherapies.
posted by rxrfrx at 8:14 AM on October 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's some evidence that bismuth compounds (e.g. Pepto-bismol) can kill H. pylori but I don't think you'll be able to persuade a doctor that massive amounts of the pink stuff will work better than the antibiotics.
posted by greatgefilte at 8:49 AM on October 16, 2010

This fact sheet describes the relationship between H. pylori and various gastric cancers. It would probably be something else to discuss with your doctor.
posted by jingzuo at 9:10 AM on October 16, 2010

Response by poster: Well, just to wrap this up: I called my friendly neighbourhood gastroenterologist and she said that if I had no symptoms, there was no need to do anything. When pressed, she did say that H. pylori can do absolutely no good and that eliminating it poses no risk nor does it result in negative side effects, but she was still adamant that it was not a good idea. Upon further pigheadedness on my part, she said that detection is not a simple, easy, cheap, foolproof affair. I'm not entirely convinced, though, and will seek further information.

My position at this point: If you have any symptoms whatsoever, get rid of it. If not, and you can get tested without undue difficulty or cost, get tested.
posted by Cobalt at 6:58 PM on December 5, 2010

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