Peptic ulcers are small open sores that develop in the lining of the stomach or small intestine. Known as gastric ulcers and duodenal ulcers respectively, this condition affects more than 6 million Americans each year.
The most common symptoms of an ulcer span burning pain in the stomach, heartburn, nausea, and a feeling of fullness or bloating. Less common signs include faintness, changes in appetite, black stools, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, and difficulty breathing. If left untreated peptic ulcers can be life threatening; they can cause complications like stomach bleeding, holes in the gastrointestinal tract, and even stomach cancer.
Ulcers develop when acids begin to eat away at the surface of the stomach or small intestine. Although our digestive tract is covered in a mucous layer that helps protect against stomach acid, if the amount of acid is increased – or the mucus is decreased – it causes inflammation that can lead to the development of an ulcer.
This delicate balance between acid and mucus can be thrown out of whack by the regular use of pain medications. Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin daily over an extended period of time can irritate the lining of the stomach. You can limit the use of NSAIDs by using natural therapies like essential oils, and herbal tinctures, or by eating certain foods that fight pain.
The other major cause of peptic ulcers is a Helicobacter pylori infection. Spread through food and water, as well as from person to person contact like kissing, H. pylori can disrupt the acid-mucus balance in the gastrointestinal tract and cause the lining to become inflamed. Although this bacteria is typically treated with antibiotics, H. pylori is increasingly becoming more resistant to conventional therapies.
Thankfully, Mother Nature provides us with plenty of natural remedies to help curb H. pylori infections, restore the acid-mucus balance in the gut, and speed up the healing process…
Probiotics are food and drink naturally enriched with live bacteria and yeast that confer many benefits to your digestive health. Examples of probiotics include yogurt, kombucha, kefir, fermented cod liver oil, apple cider vinegar, kimchi, and drinking shrubs.
The standard triple therapy for H. pylori infection involves taking a proton pump inhibitor to reduce stomach acids along with the antibiotics amoxicillin and clarithromycin for a period of 14 days. The patient may be advised to take as many as 12 pills each day. The effectiveness of this treatment in eradicating H. pylori is fairly low, ranging from 60% to 80% success rates. Between the complexity of triple therapy, its duration and lack of efficacy, as well as the side effects of these medications that include nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, patient compliance is a big problem in treating this infection.
But when probiotics are used in conjunction with triple therapy, the eradication rates of H. pylori are significantly higher while adverse side effects are reduced. One study, published in 2015, found that triple therapy alone had an eradication rate of 63.6% while 18.2% of patients experienced adverse reactions to the medication; those in the probiotic adjunct group had an 87.9% eradication rate and only 4.5% of patients felt any negative side effects.
Recommended Probiotic Supplement: Hyperbiotics PRO-15 Probiotics
A class of phytochemicals that possess antioxidant properties, some flavonoids are gastroprotective and can help prevent lesions from forming in the mucus of the digestive tract, naturally decrease acids in the stomach, increase the mucus layer, fight against H. pylori, and accelerate the healing of ulcers.
A review of the current scientific literature identified these flavonoids as the most effective in treating ulcers:
- Quercetin – Found in citrus fruits, apples, onions, parsley, sage, tea, and red wine.
- Rutin – Figs, buckwheat, asparagus, unpeeled apples, and tea.
- Sofalcone – Derived from the root of the Sophora tonkinensis (Buy it here.)
- Naringenin – Grapefruit, cherries, tomatoes, cocoa, water mint, and beans.
- Garcinol – A chalcone isolated from the rind of the Garcinia indica (Buy it here.)
Between boosting energy and brain function, easing coughs and colds, wound and burn healing, as well as skin care and acne treatment, raw organic honey is pretty amazing stuff.
We can now add ulcer treatment to the list too. The antimicrobial properties of honey can fight against H. pylori infections and speed up the healing of internal wounds, like ulcers. A 2006 in vitro study tested eight brands of honey against H. pylori samples and discovered that each one inhibited the growth of the bacteria. They found that Black Forest honey and Laganese honey were the most effective.
4. Licorice Root
The roots of the licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra) have a long history of use in folk medicine for treating many kinds of ailments, including peptic ulcers.
Its main constituent, glycyrrhizin, is what gives licorice root its sweetness. Once metabolized, this element turns into glycyrrhetinic acid (GA), which is absorbed into the blood. GA is very effective against H. pylori infections, especially strains that are resistant to traditional treatment with clarithromycin.
Although taking high doses of GA can be toxic to the human body, the researchers found that a dose of 50 mg/L was sufficient in curbing H. pylori, which is two to four times less than the dosage reported to be toxic to humans. You can purchase organic licorice root here, and add a ½ teaspoon to your tea as a sweetener.
Another option is to take deglycyrrhizinated licorice, which contains all the gut healing properties of regular licorice root but without the sweetness or the risk of toxicity. It is available as a dietary supplement, which can be purchased here. Always seek medical advice before taking any supplements.
A medicinal food, garlic (Allium sativum) contains no less than 33 sulfur compounds that are responsible for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial effects.
When pitted against H. pylori, garlic was able to inhibit the bacteria just as effectively as the antibiotics typically prescribed to treat this infection. Several recent studies have replicated these results with whole garlic cloves, garlic powder, and garlic oil. Not only does garlic exert antibacterial effects against H. pylori, it helps prevent inflammation in the digestive tract while protecting the mucus layer in the lining of the stomach.
6. Red Ginseng
The fleshy roots of the red ginseng plant (Panax ginseng) can also help stymie an H. pylori infection. Consuming Korean red ginseng, in particular, has been shown to have a gastroprotective effect on the body by reducing damage to the mucous layer, neutralizing free radicals that can complicate peptic ulcers, and increasing mucosal blood flood to speed up healing.
The core ingredient in chili peppers, capsaicin is what gives this family of fiery fruits its heat and spiciness. Although chili has been blamed for causing or aggravating peptic ulcers, in truth they are quite beneficial to the digestive system. Research has shown that capsaicin actually inhibits acids in the stomach, balances pH by stimulating alkali, fortifies the mucus layer, and increases blood flow in the stomach lining. The incidence of peptic ulcers is three times higher in populations that don’t traditionally consume chili peppers as compared to places like Malaysia and India where people eat foods rich in capsaicin.
8. Cranberry Juice
Cranberries are high in vitamin C, fructose, and antioxidants. Drinking plenty of cranberry juice has been a well-regarded natural treatment for urinary tract infections since it bars bacteria from adhering to the lining of the urinary tract.
This “bacteriostatic” effect in cranberry juice has also been shown to prevent H. pylori from attaching to the stomach’s mucus layer in some people. Of the 97 participants enrolled in the randomized double-blind placebo controlled study, 14 tested negative for H. pylori after 35 days of treatment. Although the success rate was only 14.43%, the results showed that drinking 500 ml of cranberry juice each day offers a simple (and delicious) option for curing this infection.