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How to Treat and Prevent Ulcers Naturally
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Jul 09, 2009
Q. I am experiencing what seems to be symptoms of a peptic ulcer; namely a burning, grinding stomach ache with reduced appetite, indigestion, and nausea.
I know I could simply see a family physician regarding the matter, and they would probably just prescribe a couple of hospital tests and probably an antibiotic and/or acid reducer.
However, I'm trying to get to the root of the problem, and I haven't had much success along those lines with purely conventional Western medicine. Just wondering what you might recommend. Thanks very much.
- Bradley L.
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.
Some thoughts if your peptic ulcer is a gastric (stomach) 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.
What follows are some suggestions on how to prevent ulcers from developing:
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.
If you need some help managing emotional stress and/or recovering after a significant period of being stressed, two resources that I wholeheartedly recommend are:
I hope these suggestions are helpful. If you have any questions or comments on this topic, please feel free to use the "add new comment" link in the article tools box below.
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