The incidence of stomach ulcers is high in the developing countries. About 4 million people in the United States suffer from stomach ulcer every year.
According to the estimates, approximately twenty million Americans develop at least one stomach ulcer during their lifetime.
Regardless of the popular long belief that stomach ulcers are due to spicy foods, acid, stress or lifestyle, the reality is that stomach ulcers develops due to infection of the stomach with a bacterium-Helicobacter pylori (H pylori).
Helicobacter pylori and stomach ulcers:
The bacteria “Helicobacter pylori” is contagious. It enters the body easily from an infected person via fecal-oral means or oral-oral means. Sources of contaminated water may also be a means of H. pylori transmission.
Stomach mucosa (the lining of the stomach) and small intestines have protection against the strong acid (gastric juice) produced in the stomach. Gastric juice is basically a powerful mixture of dietary enzymes and hydrochloric acid. Because of this strong acid, the stomach remains sterile.
The presence of spiral-shaped micro-organisms “helicobacter pylori” in the stomach weakens the protective mucosa and burrows through the lining. This way, the bacterium Helicobacter pylori enters and safely ensconces in the thick protective mucous layer, which prevent the acid from injuring the wall of the stomach.
The bacteria survive in the strong acid, produced by the stomach, by secreting enzymes that deactivates the effect of the acid. In other words, the bacteria that survives in the mucosa starts protecting it by secreting large amounts of urease, the enzyme that hydrolyze urea.
The secretion of urease leads to the conversion of urea into ammonia (a strong base) and generates a cloud of acid neutralizing chemicals in the region of the H. pylori. This protects it from the stomach acid.
As H. pylori grow in microaerophilic (low-level oxygen) atmosphere, it survives easily in the gastric mucosa. Moreover, the spiral shape and rapid movement of H. pylori allows it to oppose the peristalsis, the rhythmic wave-like contractions that propel food through the digestive tract.
On the other hand, the body’s defenses cannot respond effectively to offense the bacterium in the lining of the stomach. The immune system responds to the bacterium through white cells and other antibodies (infection fighting agents). But, these fighting agents can neither penetrate through the stomach lining nor depart.
Thus, the fighting agents accumulate in the area and the immune response increases even more where it provides extra nutrients to reinforce the fighting agents. These agents die and spill the vicious compounds (superoxide radicals) that spoil the mucosa.
The nutrients released from the dying agents offers food for the bacteria. Within a few days, gastritis develops and progresses into a stomach ulcer.
How to eradicate H. Pylori and Stomach ulcers?
Bacterium eradication and stomach ulcer often involves medications, which kills the bacteria, lowers the acid levels in the stomach, and protects the lining of the stomach and duodenum.
With the link between H.pylori and stomach ulcers, the researches have discovered a new treatment option to eradicate bacteria and stomach ulcer. Eradication of bacteria means the stomach ulcer cures and probably won’t recur.
H. Pylori Bacteria is eradicated using a combination of antibiotics: Metronidazole, Tetracycline, Clarithromycin and Amoxicillin. However, antibiotics alone are not effective in treating H Pylori and stomach ulcer. So, additionally, ‘proton pump inhibitor’ is used for two weeks.
Lifestyle modifications (spicy food, alcohol, caffeine and smoke) also heal stomach ulcers. Therefore, stomach ulcers can be cured by medications along with simple lifestyle changes!