Probiotic-rich yogurt found to suppress H. pylori

Medicine recognized years ago that in the vast majority of cases – somewhere between 80 and 90% – a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori for short) is responsible for gastritis and ulcers of the stomach and small intestine.

Something still seems odd about this because statistics show that as many as two-thirds of people around the globe are carriers of this bug, but very few ever develop ulcers. On the other hand this relationship is certain: treat the bug and the ulcer goes away. It seems to me that something else in the body might be at play, enabling the bacteria to suddenly start causing mischief. Maybe the immune system loses the ability to keep it under control.

H. pylori is also difficult to eradicate as it resists most commonly prescribed antibiotics. The current treatment protocol calls for a combination of drugs, but new strains have been appearing that are resistant even to this aggressive therapy. Not only that, but even when eradicated re-infection is always a possibility, particularly considering how widespread this bug is.

A new study (Am J Clin Nutr 2004; 80: 737-41) reveals another option for treatment: yogurt! Although yogurt doesn’t kill the bug, it seems to just keep it from causing trouble and promotes healing of ulcers. It should be noted that the study didnÔø?t just use any yogurt, but one that was rich in lactic acid bacteria. Patients were advised to consume it twice a day.

Considering that the bacteria in yogurt do not live in the stomach, it is likely that this benefit is indirect and possibly a result of yogurt’s ability to strengthen the immune system. In last month’s newsletter I discussed many possible benefits of “true” yogurt. This is another one worth adding to that list.