An ulcer is damage to the inner lining (the mucosa) of the stomach or the upper part of the intestine (duodenum). A bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, is the bacteria responsible for the vast majority of cases of both duodenal and gastric ulcers. H.pylori disrupts the integrity of the protective mucous membrane which leads to the formation of ulcers and has also been identified as a trigger for gastritis.
The second most common cause is damage inflicted by aspirin (eg Disprin) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as diclofenac (eg Voltarol) or naproxen (eg Synflex)) used by many for arthritis, rheumatism, backache, headaches and period pain.
Ulcers can also occur in people weakened by severe disease (such as chronic respiratory disease or major trauma). This is thought to result from poor oxygenation to the lining of the stomach. Occasionally a stomach ulcer is caused by cancer and rarely, by excessive production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach or Crohn’s disease.
Peptic ulcers are occasionally painless. However, the most common symptom is a dull ache in the upper abdomen that usually occurs two to three hours after a meal, the ache is relieved by eating. Other common symptoms include weight loss, bloating, belching, and nausea. Untreated, peptic ulcers often bleed and may cause sharp burning pain in the area of the stomach or just below it. Some sufferers find that eating actually helps settle their discomfort for a while, others find it makes them worse. Citrus drinks, spicy and smoked foods can make the pain worse.
Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)
|Supplement/Herb||What it does||Dosage|
|Oregano Oil||Oregano acts as a powerful antimicrobial against H.pylori bacteria.||15 – 45mg per day|
|Deglycyrrhised liquorice||Enhances the protective agents in the digestive lining as well as promoting circulation to the area. This herb also contains various flavonoids that suppress the growth of Helicobacter pylori. For best results mix contents with saliva before swallowing||500 – 1500mg 30 minutes before main meals|
|L-Glutamine||Glutamine has been shown to speed the rate of healing of digestive ulcers.||2000 – 5000mg per day (away from food)|
|Psyllium Seed Husks||The combination of insoluble and soluble fibre in psyllium seed husks reduces the transit time of intestinal waste, as well as helping to bind various toxins and irritants which may otherwise accelerate damage to the digestive lining. In duodenal ulcer patients, a high fibre diet has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of recurrence.||as directed|
|Bioflavonoids||Bioflavonoids are effective in helping heal the intestinal mucosa, several types of flavonoids are also known to suppress the growth of Helicobacter pylori.||500 – 1500mg per day|
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
- Eat small meals at regular intervals. Never go for more than 3 hours without food.
- Don’t chew gum as it stimulates gastric juices.
- Avoid dairy, sugar and fried foods. Cut down on salt. Sugar has been reported to increase stomach acidity, which could aggravate ulcer symptoms. Salt is a stomach and intestinal irritant.
- Don’t drink alcohol or coffee ( particularly instant.)
- Avoid smoked food and pickles.
- Avoid aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs which can aggravate or interfere with the healing of peptic ulcers.
- Smoking is also known to slow ulcer healing.
- Fibre slows the movement of food and acidic fluid from the stomach to the intestines, which should help those with duodenal, though not stomach, ulcers.
The relationship between food allergies and peptic ulcers has been reported as far back as the 1930s. Eating foods a person is allergic to has been reported to cause bleeding in the stomach. If you think you may be allergic to certain foods, arrange for a food intolerance test to be carried out. Visit Food Detective for a simple home test kit.
Do eat foods rich in zinc which help to heal the stomach lining. Zinc rich foods include whole grains, pumpkin seeds, oysters and most other shellfish, broccoli, red and green peppers, kiwi fruit, apricots.
Eat oats, brown rice, root vegetables for their soluble fibre content.
Eat oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring which are rich in protective omega 3 oils.
Research in New Zealand has shown that taking a dessertspoonful of Manuka honey with each meal and one at bedtime is a more effective long term treatment for ulcers than convention medical treatment.
Control stress levels by learning relaxation techniques.
Make sure your digestive system is fully “switched on” by eating in a relaxed environment, eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Never watch TV or work whilst eating.
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