It started as indigestion. Then it became indigestion, gas, and bloating every single day for the next month, regardless of what I ate. Fatty and oily foods were worse than other foods and could result in diarrhea. Antacids and anti-gas pills did not work. The only time I felt kind of normal was when I didn’t eat anything at all. After going to the doctor and eliminating the more serious possibilities, I tried some H. Pylori treatments and responded to them.
Heliobacter Pylori is a bacterial colony that lives in your stomach. It is thought that half the world’s population is infected with this, but most people are asymptomatic. Those who do exhibit symptoms tend to have low stomach acid. Symptoms are highly variable, and can include any kind of gastro intestinal distress, including nausea and bad breath. The symptoms can be very similar to acid indigestion, but taking antacids when you actually have H. Pylori can make it much worse because it thrives in low acid conditions. There is lots of information on the internet (somtimes conflicting) about H. Pylori, but I found a good consensus view here.
H. Pylori was first identified in 1982 by Barry Marshall and Robin Warren. For decades, conventional medical science thought that stomach ulcers were caused by excess acid and stress. Marshall and Warren determined the true culprit to be H. Pylori. To prove his point, Marshall drank a batch of H. Pylori to intentionally infect himself, and then subsequently cured himself with antibiotics. In 2005, both won the Nobel prize for this.
Because about half of H. Pylori species are antibiotic resistant, and administering mastic gum can be 80% effective, I chose the self cure route. Not sure if these internet statistics are actually true, but it served as a starting point. Here are all this things I took in the self remedy:
- Mastic gum is a dietary supplement and comes from a tree from Greece, and can be found in Greek or Turkish cuisine. I found this extremely difficult to find in retail stores, I tried Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall, and GNC with no success. The cheapest place I found online was Swanson Vitamins for $17 for a bottle of 60x 500mg capsules, on sale for $10. While you wait for the pills to arrive in the mail, do the other treatments below to relieve symptoms. I took 2 pills a day for 14 days, and then 4 pills a day for 2 additional days (to really make sure its gone), for a total of 36 pills. Note that mastic gum can have side effects similar to the disease, so there may not be any relief of symptoms while you take this, but this is the only thing that will get rid of it for good, the other items below will relieve symptoms temporarily. Not only will mastic gum kill off the H. Pylori, it will also kill off the good gut flora too, so expect an additional week of recovery time after you stop taking it. Continue to eat probiotics to aid in digestion during this period.
- Bismuth (Pepto Bismol, check the ingredients to make sure it is the original formula). Reduces symptoms, but will make your poop turn black.
- Lemonade. Since H. Pylori thrives in a low acid environment, try to raise your acid level by consuming acidic foods like lemonade, grapefruit juice, and vinegar. I observed that when you drink lots of lemonade, things will start tasting differently.
- Spicy food. By happy accident, I discovered that eating spicy chicken wings would make me feel normal for a day. It turns out that the capsaicin in spicy foods can inhibit H. Pylori. Go figure. The hot sauce on chicken wings is also very acidic.
- Hard liquor. There is no better antiseptic than alcohol. I drank a shot before going to sleep at night. If I skipped a night, I would feel worse the next day. Do not administer if you have an ulcer or any other gastrointestinal problem because it will make the problem worse. Do not operate heavy machinery while intoxicated.
- Manuka honey. I did not observe any direct effects of this, but the internet says it works, and I like the taste of honey.
- Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Bifidus probiotics, commonly found in probiotic yogurt. I did not observe any effect with the H. Pylori, but it will help you digest your food.
- Mouthwash with flouride. The idea is that the mouthwash will kill off any H. Pylori hiding in your mouth so it doesn’t reinfect you once you get rid of it in your GI tract. However, using it did seem to reduce symptoms, which I was not expecting (it’s a mystery). Use as directed, do not ingest.
Total treatment time: 16 days
The mastic gum treatment will reboot your GI tract, and I have observed it’s behaving better than even before the H. Pylori infection. Yay.