Every year, about 4 million Americans are diagnosed with peptic ulcer disease (PUD) that develops typically in the stomach (gastric ulcer) or the duodenum (duodenal ulcer). It was only a few decades ago that Australian physicians, James Marshall and Robin Warren, proved that Helicobacter pylori played a key role in the development of ulcers. After isolating strains of the germ from an ailing patient, Marshall stirred it into a broth and drank it himself thereby manifesting the illness.
… I underwent endoscopy in early July 1984 to confirm that I was negative for H pylori. Three weeks later, I drank the ‘brew’ which was a suspension of two culture plates of the organism.
In 2005, the physicians won the Nobel Prize in physiology for the discovery:
In 1982, when this bacterium was discovered by Marshall and Warren, stress and lifestyle were considered the major causes of peptic ulcer disease. It is now firmly established that Helicobacter pylori causes more than 90% of duodenal ulcers and up to 80% of gastric ulcers.
Another common cause of ulcers is long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. Regardless of the cause, peptic ulcers are often associated with nausea, vomiting, heartburn, and burning pain that may or may not be temporarily relieved by eating.
H pylori is well adapted to an acid environment, and is a hardy organism. The modern treatment of ulcers consists of 2-3 antibiotic drugs and an antacid medication for about seven days. This regimen can be made more effective by the addition of probiotics.
The prevalence of H pylori infection worldwide is approximately 50%, with much higher prevalence in developing countries. Only about 20% of those infected will experience gastrointestinal problems, while many people never have any symptoms at all.
A naturally occurring compound called sulforaphane, which is found in cruciferous vegetables and in high concentration in broccoli sprouts, may also help prevent or treat H pylori infections. A small 2009 study of 50 people who consumed 2.5 ounces of broccoli sprouts daily for two months had a 40% reduction in HpSA levels, a specific measurement of H pylori antigen shed in the stool. HpSA levels returned to pre-treatment levels after 8 weeks.
Study authors suggest that: “Sulforaphane appears to trigger cells in the body, including in the gastrointestinal tract, to produce enzymes that protect against oxygen radicals, DNA-damaging chemicals, and inflammation.”