Ulcers, sometimes referred to as peptic ulcers, are ulcerations of the lining of the upper digestive tract. When they occur in the duodenum, which is the upper part of the small intestine that connects to the stomach, they are known as duodenal ulcers. When in the stomach wall itself, they are known as gastric ulcers. Ulcers are caused when the mucous lining of the stomach or duodenum is not sufficient to protect them against the corrosive action of stomach acid and the digestive enzyme called pepsin.
Ulcers are very common, and one in ten men and one in twenty women may expect to have one in their lifetime. Fortunately we've learned a great deal about them in the recent past and there's very good news about their cause and cure.
The common symptom of peptic ulcers is burning and discomfort in the upper gastric area at the base of the sternum before meals, sometimes after meals, or at night. The pain can radiate to the back or the chest. This pain can sometimes be relieved by more food or an antacid. But many people don't have any symptoms at all until they have a bleeding or perforated ulcer. The most common traditional treatments for ulcers are antacids and histamine-Z (H-Z) receptor blockers. These medications may help heal the ulcer but do not alter the conditions that caused it in the first place, so the medications have to be taken over long periods-sometimes for life. Since long-term use of H-2 receptor blockers has been associated with increased risk of stomach cancer, the "cure" may be worse than the disease.
At one time, ulcers were thought to be caused solely by stress and a related increase in stomach acid. New research suggests that the majority of both duodenal and gastric ulcers are also related to a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori, which can be wiped out by a two-week regimen of antibiotics. This is exciting news for people who have suffered from chronic ulcers without hope of a cure. Patients treated for this bacterial infection had a remarkable rate of recovery, and stayed free of ulcers without additional medication. In one study, 95 percent of the patients with gastric ulcers who were treated for H. pylori had no recurrence in the next two years while only 12 percent of the patients who had standard treatment had no recurrence. If you have had repeated bouts of peptic ulcers, ask your doctor to test your blood for antibodies to the Helicobacter bacterium to determine if you would benefit from the antibiotic treatment. If you do need treatment, you'll need to take acidophilus capsules for the course of your treatment.
- Acidic foods.
- Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are gastric irritants when taken regularly, as for arthritis.
- Smoking, which increases the production of bile salts, highly irritating to the stomach. The combination of smoking and aspirin has a particularly damaging effect on peptic ulcers.
- Alcohol, which stimulates acid secretion and aggravates existing ulcers.
- A diet high in sugar, which also stimulates acid secretion.
- Food allergies, which can irritate the stomach. If you have recurring ulcers with no other recognized cause you should investigate the possibility of a food allergy.
While too much sugar in the diet or a simple food allergy might not be the single cause of an ulcer, they are, conditions that encourage the development of ulcers. If you do have an ulcer that won't clear up, investigate food allergies. If you have recurring ulcers, be sure that your sugar intake is cut down; this measure has helped many ulcer patients.
At one time ulcer patients were told to drink milk and eat a bland diet. We know now this was bad advice. If you have an ulcer, don't depend on milk for relief. While a glass of milk may temporarily soothe your ulcer, it will ultimately make it worse by causing a rebound in stomach acid. (Antacids, made with calcium carbonate [Tums, Alka-2] will make you feel better temporarily, but they might have a rebound effect on the production of stomach acid.) Diets that are high in fiber have been found to be much more effective in healing ulcers and preventing their occurrence than soft diets. Gradually increase your fiber intake.
- Linoleic acid, found in unprocessed grains such as maize, also contributes to the healing and prevention of ulcers. It can be supplemented by taking evening primrose oil.
- Another natural compound used in ulcer therapy is a derivative of licorice known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), which stimulates the production of mucus that coats and protects the digestive tract. One study involving DGL focused on forty patients who had been referred for surgery because of acute and persistent pain, in spite of prolonged treatment with conventional drugs. Half the patients received 3 g. of DGL daily for eight weeks, the other half received 4.5 g. daily for sixteen weeks. Though the higher dosage was more effective, they all showed significant improvement, and none required surgery within the next year. I suggest you take DGL, which you can get in health food stores.
- Supplements of vitamins A, E, and C are also helpful in the therapy and prevention of ulcers.
- Raw cabbage juice has a remarkable track record in helping people with peptic ulcers. One quart daily of fresh cabbage juice, taken in divided doses, can be enormously effective. In one study, patients taking this amount had total healing of their ulcers in ten days.
Though stress is no longer considered the only cause of peptic ulcers, It's clear that stress, or the way we react to it, does play a role. Regular exercise is a good antidote for stress, as are breathing exercises and various relaxation techniques.
- If you have recurring ulcers, you should discuss the possibility of Helicobacter pylori infection, known as H. pylori, with your doctor. Treatment with antibiotics can make a dramatic difference in your cure.
- Eliminate the use of aspirins and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, and antacids made with calcium carbonate.
- Eat a high-fiber diet unless your symptoms are acute, in which case you should avoid roughage and raw vegetables.
- Eat regular meals at regular times: Avoid large meals and remember that small, frequent meals are best.
- Eliminate the sugar in your diet.
- Do not drink milk to soothe your ulcer,
- Adopt in exercise program.
- Practice relaxation techniques.
First, It's important to understand that if you have a peptic ulcer, there's nothing that you can take to accelerate the healing of an actual ulceration in your GI tract lining. Only your innate, "always-on" self healing mechanisms can heal a peptic ulcer, just as your self healing mechanisms close up a cut on your skin.
The key to efficient healing of a peptic ulcer is to avoid aggravating the ulcer as your body tries to repair it. This involves reducing the overall digestive load that you put on your digestive tract lining, as well as choosing foods that may soothe rather than aggravate an ulcer.
Though your stomach plays a number of roles in digesting the foods that you eat, its chief function is to break protein apart into amino acids that can get absorbed into your bloodstream and fuel the ongoing activities of your cells. The more protein-dense foods you eat, the more burden you put on your stomach, which slows down the rate at which your self healing mechanisms are able to heal a gastric ulcer.
So the first and most important step that you can take to facilitate optimal healing of a gastric ulcer is to reduce your intake of protein-dense foods, especially those that you know from experience are difficult for you to digest. Flesh meats and dairy fall into this category for most people who suffer with recurrent ulcers.
The best foods to eat when looking to quickly heal a peptic ulcer are those that are relatively low in animal protein and easy to digest. Though fresh fruits and vegetables work well in most circumstances, in severe cases, eating too many raw fruits and vegetables can aggravate fresh ulcerations in the digestive tract. In such cases, rather than eat raw fruits and vegetables, It's often helpful to eat mainly cooked vegetables.
Steamed Yukon gold potatoes, sweet potatoes, and zucchini are typically well tolerated by people who have severe peptic ulcers, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's, or other inflammatory conditions in the GI tract that involve fresh wounds.
When I used to run a residential fasting program, for severe cases of chronic, recurrent peptic ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease, I typically used a combination of steamed zucchini and potato soup to nourish patients as their ulcerations healed. I made the soup by steaming slices of Yukon gold potatoes and blending them in homemade vegetable broth.
If you use this approach of eating mainly steamed zucchini and tubers in the initial phases of healing from a peptic ulcer, keep in mind that as your ulcer heals, rather than go straight to eating protein-rich animal foods, It's best to start including more raw fruits and vegetables in your diet, followed by small amounts of legumes, then relatively healthy animal foods like organic eggs and wild salmon. If all of these foods are well tolerated over a period of several days to a few weeks, then you can try adding small quantities of other protein-rich animal foods to your diet, but aim to eat such foods along with some steamed vegetables.
All of these suggestions are meant to promote optimal healing of existing peptic ulcers.
1. Avoid regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen - these drugs can cause direct injury to the lining in your stomach and small intestine, which can lead to ulcer formation. Statistics tell us that about 20 percent of people who regularly take these drugs end up developing an ulcer.
2. Avoid nicotine. Studies intake that heavy smokers have a higher than average risk of developing duodenal ulcers, and take longer to heal from an ulcer.
3. Avoid excessive alcohol intake. Alcohol can cause erosion of the protective mucous lining in your stomach and small intestine, which increases your risk of developing a peptic ulcer.
4. Work at being emotionally balanced. Being stressed can disrupt your autonomic nervous system's ability to regulate acid secretion in your stomach, which can increase your risk of suffering from an infection caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Contrary to popular belief, lowered stomach acid production over the long term isn't in your best interest, as stomach acid serves to help you digest protein AND kill off undesirable microorganisms. What you want is to be emotionally balanced, which results in optimal stomach acid secretion by your autonomic nervous system, which helps promote optimal digestion and decreases your risk of experiencing a bacterial infection that can lead to a gastric ulcer.
Stomach Ulcer Information: Natural News 11/11/2009 - Stop Stomach Ulcers With The Miracle Remedy Of Cabbage
Stomach Ulcer Information: Natural News 4/24/2010 - Heal And Soothe Stomach Ulcers Without Mainstream Drugs
Stomach Ulcer Information: Natural News 3/2/2011 - Treat Ulcers With Probiotics, Not Antibiotics
Stomach Ulcer Information: Natural News 6/8/2011 - Treat Skin Disorders And Stomach Ulcers With Calendula
Stomach Ulcer Information: Natural News 5/20/2012 - Try These Natural Foods And Herbs For Treating Upset Stomach, Ulcers
Stomach Ulcer Information: Dr. Mercola 5/1/1998 - Ulcer Bacteria Linked To Heart Disease
Stomach Ulcer Information: Dr. Mercola 8/20/2003 - Vitamin C May Prevent Ulcers
Stomach Ulcer Information: Dr. Mercola 5/22/2007 - Safer Less Costly Ways To Treat Ulcers