It has to be said that although H pylori has received a lot of attention there is still much to be learned. Currently it is thought that the bacteria are transferred from person to person by body fluid contact, usually saliva, or through eating contaminated foods.
As hygiene routines have improved particularly in developed nations then this may account for the decreasing numbers of people found with the bacteria in these environments. However in countries where sanitation still leaves a lot to be desired the numbers of people infected with H pylori is still very high and increasing.
Hygiene and good sanitation then appear to play an important part in prevention. Washing hands particularly after using public lavatories, and participating in good food preparation, are clearly high on the list when it comes to not contracting the bug. However it may also be that history has something to show us when it comes to how we live and feel and preventing our contracting the germ.
Historically it was thought that smoking, spicy foods and stress were the cause of ulcers but this theory was ultimately shown the door when H pylori was isolated. However more recently we have learned that the enteric nervous system, or the ‘second brain’ as it is more commonly known, has more or less autonomic control over our digestive tract. We also know that it responds negatively to stress and poor diet and lifestyle. It may well be more than a coincidence that these 3 things were originally thought to be causative factors in ulcers and it may also prove to be the factors which tip the balance between those with H pylori who get stomach ulcers and those who do not. After all there is a huge gap in the research between stating that H pylori is a cause of ulcers when so many people with it never actually develop an ulcer.
It is for this reason that I would highly recommend a diet and lifestyle which promotes digestive health and I go into this in a separate article on H Pylori and Diet, because we may be able to fool ourselves into thinking that one more beer or takeaway won’t hurt us, but we cannot fool our ‘second brain.’ Once this autonomic nervous system changes gear then it leaves us open to shifts in our gut motility, the pH of acid secretions and an imbalance in the microflora which normally serve to protect us.
So when it comes to preventing H pylori then there are some commonsense rules. Make sure you wash your hands after attending public toilets. Wash fruit and vegetables particularly those which are imported. Practice good food hygiene in the kitchen both in preparing meals and storing foods. Eat a good, organic balanced diet with foods grown locally wherever possible. Remember what used to be considered as causations of stomach ulcers, coffee, smoking, alcohol and stress and realize that although they may now have been discounted as direct causations, we have since come to realize that such things can have negative effects on our enteric nervous system and in turn this can alter the environment of the digestive system which makes it conducive to H pylori.