How can I heal a peptic ulcer?
A peptic ulcer is an eroded area in the lining of the stomach or duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). Most people with ulcers have the bacterium Helicobacter pylori in their stomachs. Other triggers include stress (which increases stomach acid), smoking, alcohol, allergies or food intolerances, and aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which damage the stomach lining. Conventional treatment may include antibiotics to eradicate H. pylori, and drugs to reduce stomach acid. These strategies can help.
1. Nutritional therapy
Certain foods – sugar, alcohol, coffee, decaffeinated coffee and tea - increase stomach acidity, which can trigger, worsen or prolong an ulcer. Spicy and fried foods, alcohol and red meat may exacerbate symptoms; there is also evidence that salt consumption is a risk factor, and that eating salty food increases the risk of developing H. pylori infection. Keep a food diary to identify culprits.
Your naturopath will help you to identify and treat any food allergies or intolerances. Ensure that you eat in a relaxed manner and chew food thoroughly. Increase intake of sulphur-containing foods (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, garlic and onion), as sulphur is a precursor to the amino acid glutathione, which provides antioxidant protection to the gastric mucosa.
2. Herbal helpers
Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) soothes the lining of the stomach and duodenum, thanks to its high content of mucilage, which forms a coating over the inflamed tissue and allows healing to occur underneath. Buy slippery elm powder from your health-food or organics store; mix 1 teaspoonful in a little water to form a gruel and drink three times a day before meals.
As well as being a demulcent (soothing) herb, liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a powerful anti-inflammatory and also treats stress symptoms by calming over-stimulated adrenal glands. Research shows that liquorice extracts are as effective as conventional treatments for treating peptic ulceration, with fewer relapses occurring on discontinuation of the treatment. Swap your usual coffee for a cup of sweet-tasting liquorice tea. A naturopath or herbalist will be able to make up a prescription-strength tincture of liquorice, using a base of fruit juice rather than alcohol. Note: If you have high blood pressure, you should not take liquorice for extended periods of time. Hypertensive side effects may be avoided by taking special de-glycyrrhizinated extracts, now available.
3. Support your gut
Enhancing immune function will help eradicate H. pylori infection. Try:
* Homoeopathy The three most commonly used homoeopathic medicines for peptic ulcer are Kalium bichromium, Nitric acid and Phosphorus. A homoeopath can also prescribe drops containing a bacterial nosode that includes H. pylori.
* Antioxidants The bioflavonoid quercetin not only boosts immunity generally, but has an anti-inflammatory effect on the digestive system and inhibits the growth of H. pylori, according to one study (Arch Pharmakologie). Another study found that vitamin A helped healing in people with stomach ulcers.
* Glutamine This helps repair the mucosal lining of the digestive tract and stomach. Take it in powder form: 1 heaped teaspoon (2,000mg) mixed in water, three times daily before meals.
* Zinc In one study, when people with peptic ulcers took zinc (88mg, three times daily), their ulcers healed three times faster.
Nina Barnes is a qualified naturopath. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org powered by Disqus