Natural Treatment of Peptic Ulcers

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Hunger pangs, severe backache, headaches, a choking sensation, itching, weight gain, an empty feeling when not eating, a feeling of constant fullness or a sensation of hot water bubbling in the back of the throat are not always symptoms of depression or psychosomatic illness. You may have peptic ulcer disease. Other more obvious symptoms include heartburn, indigestion, burning in the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, and constipation.

Peptic ulcers are well circumscribed sores in the lining (mucous membrane) of the stomach, lower esophagus, pylorus, duodenum or jejunum. Most peptic ulcers, with the exception of gastric (stomach) ulcers, are related to the oversecretion of acid and contact with stomach juices containing primarily acid and pepsin. Gastric ulcers develop because the body's defence of the lining of the stomach is damaged due to stress. The stomach cannot secrete enough mucus to protect it against the strong acid needed for digestion.

About 80% of all peptic ulcers occur in the duodenum and are most common in men between the ages of 20 and 50. Duodenal ulcers usually follow a chronic course of flare-ups and remissions and are seldom life-threatening. Infrequent complications include the signs and symptoms of internal bleeding: blood in the stool, dehydration, fatigue, weakness, anemia, obstruction, pancreatitis and perforation. Those who suffer from duodenal ulcers get temporary pain relief after a large meal but may awaken at 2 a.m. with severe pain in the stomach area.

It is estimated that about one-fourth of all men and one sixth of all women in North America suffer from peptic ulcers. Ulcers are the direct result of stress, poor diet, and lifestyle habits. Medical treatment centers around the prescription of drugs that suppress acidity (cimetidine, ranitidine, antacids, anticholinergics). Though these drags are effective they also produce long-term side effects. Surgical treatment is rare and does not get rid of the cause.

There are many predisposing factors to peptic ulcers. These include having Type O blood, heredity, malnutrition, infection, smoking, alcoholism, overuse of aspirin, excessive consumption of caffeinated beverages, the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cortisone, other steroid drags, and stress in general.

Natural, common sense measures to both prevent and treat ulcers include dietary elimination of fried foods, salt, strong spices, animal fats, alcohol, black tea, coffee, chocolate, cola, other carbonated soft drinks, and peppers of all kinds. Quitting cigarettes and avoiding aspirin, steroids and other drugs is desirable. Drink feshly made cabbage juice (immediately after juicing--do not store). Cabbage juice not only dilutes stomach acid and flushes it through the duodenum, but also protects the mucous membrane. It reduces pain and leads to faster healing. [Likewise, raw potato juice gives excellent healing support as it is alkaline and does not stimulate acid production in the stomach.]

Do not drink milk. Although milk neutralizes stomach acid, the calcium and protein in milk stimulates the production of more acid. Cow's milk has a rebound effect and makes ulcers worse in the long run. Almond milk, or soy milk are good substitutes. Over the past two decades, researchers have also found that a significant number of ulcer sufferers have an allergy or hypersensitivity to cow's milk. These people may be perpetuating their ulcers simply because they drink milk on a regular basis. Most people who have food allergies crave the foods to which they are allergic. If you crave milk, you are probably allergic to it.

The right thing to do is eat small and frequent meals. Foods that are well tolerated by most ulcer sufferers include well-cooked millet, cooked white rice, raw goat's milk, soured dairy products such as yogurt, cottage cheese and kefir, avocados, bananas, potatoes, squash, yams, broccoli, and carrots. Those with bleeding ulcers may have to resort to baby foods and non-irritating fiber such as psyllium seed, pectin and guar gum to help promote healing. [A good healer is flax seed as in the form of Linoseed from Flora. This flax is not ground, neither is it just whole seeds, but it's broken open. Soak 2 to 3 Tbsp in 2 cups of buttermilk or plain, natural yogurt for 10 to 15 minutes and eat with breakfast.]

L-glutamine is an amino acid which is important in the healing of peptic ulcers. Vitamin E, chelated zinc, vitamins A, B[6], K, unsaturated fatty acids (evening primrose oil, flaxseed oil, omega-3 EPA oil) and sodium ascorbate have all been shown to promote faster healing of ulcers. Iron supplementation may be required to prevent anemia and other complications resulting from blood loss. The health food store product, Floradix, is probably the best tolerated natural iron supplement on the market.

Herbal remedies that have traditionally enjoyed success in healing peptic ulcers include aloe vera, camomile, goldenseal, and deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). The latter is licorice minus the portion that can affect the adrenal hormones and raise blood pressure.

In 1989, medical journals reported that a large percentage of peptic ulcers may be associated with infection by a bacterium called campylobacter pylori. Tests are now available to diagnose this infection in ulcer or gastritis sufferers. This bug is killed off by antibiotics as well as by the mineral bismuth.

The majority of ulcer victims can be helped by a combination of proper alkaline diet, supplements, and stress reduction techniques (meditation, psychotherapy, etc.). Drugs and surgery can usually be avoided if one is willing to commit to the natural approach.

Dr. Rona is a graduate of McGill University Medical School and went on to complete a Masters Degree program in Biochemistry and Clinical Nutrition.

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By Zoltan Rona

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