You might have experienced the uncomfortable feeling of having acid reflux from your stomach. It is typically described as an uncomfortable feeling in the chest that coincides with eating. You feel like your chest is burning and you can sometimes feel an unpleasant taste in your mouth.
If you’ve ever experienced these symptoms, you might have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It is a disorder that occurs in which the acid contents of your stomach back up into your esophagus, causing pain and discomfort. Because the pain is located in your chest, it can sometimes be mistaken for a heart attack.
A similar pain can be caused by gastritis or peptic ulcer disease (PUD).
If you experience persistent symptoms of GERD, gastritis or PUD, and you don’t get better with antacids, your doctor might recommend that you get tested for a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
Let’s have a look into what it is, and the treatment options available.
What Is Helicobacter Pylori?
H. pylori is the name of a bacteria that if found in your stomach is known to cause GERD. It is also known to cause gastritis (inflammation of your stomach lining) and stomach ulcers. H. pylori is contagious and can be passed from one person to another through saliva or the accidental ingestion of fecal-contaminated matter.
Before the discovery of H. pylori, it was common to assume that stomach ulcers were caused purely by stress and other lifestyle factors. When the H. pylori bacteria was finally discovered as the source of some stomach ulcers, the medical community was slow to accept it. This led one of the scientists who discovered this bacteria, Marshall, to directly infect himself with H. pylori in 1982 to prove that it causes stomach ulcers. It worked. For his work, Marshall ultimately was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2005.
How Do You Get Tested?
There are a few ways to get tested for the H. pylori bacteria. Among them are:
- Urea breath test
- Blood antigen test
- Stool antigen test
- Endoscopic biopsy
Your doctor should be able to advise you on the type of test that is available.
What Are Treatment Options?
If H. pylori is indeed found to be in your gut, your doctor may start you on a type of drug known as a proton-pump inhibitor, which reduces stomach acid production. This should relieve some of the pain that you’re feeling. Your doctor might also start you on an antibiotic regime consisting of different antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria. This regime usually takes a few weeks to complete.