Back in the mid 1980’s, a doctor by the name of Barry Marshall drank a concoction of the bacteria H. pylori to prove that ulcers were caused by bacterial infection. He ended up with a Nobel Prize and forever changed medicine’s view of ulcers. Thus began the “blinders on” approach to eradication of H. pylori everytime it was found. Destroying this bacteria is a good thing, right?
Of course, we can all agree that wanton use of antibiotics (and they use 2 types of antibiotics in the treatment) is never a good thing. I have long stood by the belief that H. pylori is merely an opportunistic infection, growing in strength when the patient is not taking care of themselves.
Evidence supporting an important role for H. pylori is strong:
- H. pylori may protect against asthma and allergies
- Few patients who have H. pylori actually develop severe inflammation and ulcers
- Children without H. pylori run a greater risk of being morbidly obese later in life
- DNA damage to the stomach increases is higher after H. pylori eradication
Even if we viewed H. pylori as an infection that needs to be wiped out, evidence strongly supports the use of probiotics to keep the H. pylori at bay, which runs in direct opposition to the use of antibiotics to wipe out the bacteria.
This particular article relates problems lower down in the GI tract with H. pylori. Or rather, H. pylori is found to lower the inflammatory response lower in the GI tract, potentially lowering the risk of inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
Antibiotic use, especially early in life, is believed to be a strong concern for the development of inflammatory bowel disease. It is believed that the destruction of bacteria that is supposed to be there causes the immune system to lose balance, attacking the tissues of the body itself.