The urea breath test is used to detect Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a type of bacteria that may infect the stomach and is a main cause of ulcers in both the stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). I’ve had acid problems most of my life and in 2007 put on aciphex for a while until it all healed. Things have been great for years until just after spinal surgery March 6th. As soon as I woke up I complained of my old arch nemesis heartburn. They gave me Tums (I wonder how much those cost at their pricess!). I don’t eat too many carbs (but I’m not tracking), never did like spicy foods, haven’t had a glass of orange juice in 10 years or so, rarely eat chocolate now, don’t usually consume alcohol, and refuse to give up my couple cups of java in the morning. Strangely enough coffee alleviates the lump pain at my voicebox area, but does create mild Tums manageable acid that I can feel further down.
There are currently four ways to diagnose H. pylori infection. During endoscopy (a visual exam of the stomach through a thin, lighted, flexible tube), the physician can remove small bits of tissue through the tube. The tissue is then tested for the bacteria. A breath test is also available. In this test a substance called urea is given by mouth. A strong enzyme in the bacteria breaks down the urea into carbon dioxide, which reference is then exhaled and can be measured. There is a blood test that measures the protein antibodies against these bacteria that are present in the blood. The blood is generally not useful in detecting acute disease and mostly represents a past exposure to the bug. This antibody can mean the infection is present, or that it was present in the past. Finally, there is fecal antigen test that is very accurate and inexpensive.
We all know that antibiotics are drugs used for treating bacterial infections in the body. The gastrointestinal tract (GI) has a combination of symbiotic and beneficial bacteria called probiotics as well as potentially infective bacteria. Good bacteria keep the growth of bad bacteria in check. Unfortunately, antibiotics are not able to differentiate between the good and bad bacteria present in the gut. They kill the probiotic bacterial population as well. This leads to an imbalance in the intestinal ecosystem and an overgrowth of bad bacteria that produce a lot of gas. The pressure within the stomach increases because of the gases. This pressure forces the LES to relax to release the gases out of the body. And as seen above, a relaxed LES causes food and acid to ride back up the pipe.
Fried food, alcohol, caffeine, and soda can all trigger reflux. Spicy, tomato-based or citrus foods may also cause problems for some people. Smoking also increases the risk of reflux. Being overweight and having your belly fat push up on your stomach can prevent it from emptying, triggering reflux. Having a hiatal hernia (where your stomach pushes up through your diaphragm) can also cause trouble and can be diagnosed by x-ray. Eating large meals and eating before bed are two other main reasons for reflux. These are the most obvious causes, and the ones you have probably heard about. However, there are a few more that bear mentioning.