Stomach complaints due to helicobacter pylori bacteria

In the Netherlands, it is assumed that approximately 40% of all people over the age of 60 have been infected with the helicobacter pylori bacteria in the past. Not all cases will cause complaints. But a large proportion of people do develop complaints that can be serious in nature and can even lead to a stomach ulcer and in extremely rare cases even to stomach cancer. We are infected with the bacteria very early in life.

  • What is the Helicobacter Pylori bacteria
  • The stomach
  • Complaints due to infection with the helicobacter pylori bacteria
  • Stomach ulcer
  • The research
  • Therapy
  • Probiotics

What is the Helicobacter Pylori bacteria

The helicobacter pylori bacterium is a spiral-shaped bacterium that can live in the mucous membrane of the stomach and then in the acidic part of the mucous membrane. Infection with this bacterium often occurred in childhood. It is thought that around 90% of people in developing countries are infected with this bacteria. In the Western world, approximately 40% of all people over the age of 60 are infected. Young people are infected less often. It is estimated that in the Western world only 15% of people under the age of 40 are infected. It is thought that in earlier years the hygienic conditions left much to be desired, which could have caused contamination. For example, frequent washing of hands after visiting the toilet used to be less observed. Many houses had no sink in the toilet. Infection can occur through the stomach contents, from mouth to mouth or through the feces. In the eighties, two Australian researchers, Barry J. Marshall and Robin Warren, discovered that this bacterium can play a role in the development of a stomach ulcer. It has also been established that if someone is infected with the bacteria, it remains active in the stomach for life.

The stomach

The stomach plays an important role in our digestion. The stomach is located at the top of the abdominal cavity against our ribs. The stomach is shaped like an inverted pear and is normally about 20 cm. long, but filled with drink and food, the stomach is much larger. The stomach has a thick gastric mucosa. Here the gastric juices are produced, including digestive enzymes and especially hydrochloric acid. The hydrochloric acid kills the bacteria. The outside of the stomach consists of a thick muscle layer and it is these muscles that grind the food and mix it with gastric juices. It takes about three hours for a meal to be digested.

Complaints due to infection with the helicobacter pylori bacteria

In many cases there are no complaints at all. But there are also people who experience complaints such as vague pain in the stomach area, nausea, belching, bloating and sometimes even vomiting. In many cases, a reduced appetite also occurs. The stomach lining can become inflamed. Sometimes atrophic gastric mucosal inflammation can develop. This is an inflammation in which the gastric mucosa on the inside of the stomach has become much thinner than normal. The helicobacter pylori bacteria can also be the cause of a stomach ulcer. Ménétrer’s disease (giant fold stomach) is also associated with this bacterium. As a result of gastric mucosal inflammation, the stomach lining can change and this can even result in stomach cancer.

Stomach ulcer

A stomach ulcer is an inflammation of the stomach lining that can be the size of a pinhead but can even be as big as a euro. A stomach ulcer causes sharp pain in the abdomen. More than 60% of all cases in which a stomach ulcer is diagnosed involve the helicobacter pylori bacteria.

The research

There are three options to investigate whether one is infected with this bacterium. The simplest method is:

  • the breath test. This involves drinking a liquid containing urea . It can be determined in the exhaled air whether the bacteria are present.
  • A second test is the blood test to check whether there are antibodies in the blood. If so, then there is contamination. A stool examination can also provide a definitive answer.
  • A third method is gastroscopy. Here, a small piece of tissue is removed during keyhole surgery (biopsy). This tissue will be examined for the presence of the bacteria.


Treatment can be very well done with different types of antibiotics. This is a rigorous treatment and people may experience side effects such as nausea or diarrhea. These medicines also kill good bacteria. After six months, a control examination will follow. In addition to antibiotics, antacids are also prescribed.


There are indications that probiotics give good results by activating intestinal bacteria. These are good bacteria that stimulate digestion. A large number of dairy products, especially dairy products, already contain probiotics, such as buttermilk, chocolate, yoghurt and sauerkraut. Capsules can also be obtained from pharmacies. However, people infected with the helicobacter pylori bacteria cannot eliminate it by using probiotics. More research will be needed.