All-Natural Peptic Ulcer Treatments
If you’re suffering from stomach ulcers (also called peptic ulcers), you might want to switch to an all-natural approach to healing backed by scientific evidence. That’s because some of the commonly-used drugs have been linked to cancer and memory loss.
Research in the medical journal Gut found that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) used for ulcers have been linked to a significantly increased risk of stomach cancer, while other research found a link to heart attacks and dementia.
What are Ulcers?
Ulcers are lesions in the digestive tract that are often linked to infections involving the bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). The most common ones are stomach and intestinal ulcers, known as peptic ulcers when they appear in the stomach or upper part of the intestines.
There are many proven natural medicines for treating the pain and inflammation of ulcers and helping them to heal.
Scientifically Proven, Natural Ulcer Remedies
Here are my top picks, based on scientific studies and anecdotal reviews from those on message boards who have used them successfully.
Mastic gum is a tree resin produced by an evergreen shrub from the pistachio tree family, Pistacia lentiscus. It hails from the Greek island of Chios and is also known as “Chios tears” because once the bark is slit, the resin trickles out slowly creating crystal like “tears.”
The word mastic is a synonym for gum in many languages and is derived from the Greek verb, “to gnash the teeth”, which is the source of the English word, masticate.
Greeks have been chewing on these resin granules for centuries. It is consumed to freshen the breath, cut down on bacteria in the mouth, and remove dental plaque. Ground it is used in a variety of baked goods for its rich aroma and licorice-like flavor.
Mastic has been used as a medicine since antiquity and for a variety of gastric ailments in the Mediterranean for at least 3,000 years. It is still used in traditional folk medicine of the Middle East.
A study has proven the effect of mastic gum against H. pylori bacteria. In the study, 52 patients who were suffering from an H. pylori infection were given mastic gum for a period of 10 to 14 days.
The eradication of H. pylori was reported in a majority of the patients.
Most of the studies that had positive results used 1 g of mastic gum per day for 2 weeks.
If you’re going to take mastic gum for H. pylori use the researched dosage of 1g per day for 14 days.
Aloe Vera Juice
Indigenous to the south of Africa, aloe vera is an ornamental succulent plant, growing to heights of two feet. It develops rosettes of thick, fleshy, prickly leaves and carries clusters of red, pink or yellow flowers.
When cut, the leaves ooze a sour liquid or gel from which aloe vera juice is extracted.
Ingested aloe vera can curb the production of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) and it has a calming effect on ulcers due to its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
A study published in the African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology found that aloe vera was as effective as a commonly used drug in the treatment of ulcers.
Ideally, take one ounce in the morning on an empty stomach.
Blackberries (also known as Rubus fruticosus) contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds known as elligatannins.
A study published in the online journal PLoS One found that the elligatannins significantly reduce inflammation of the stomach’s mucosal lining.
Those who ate blackberries on a regular basis had an 88 percent reduction in ulcers.
According to a study published in the medical journal Pharmacologia, research shows that the herb chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and its natural constituent, bisabolol demonstrates potent anti-ulcer capacity.
Make a cup of chamomile tea by steeping one teaspoon of chamomile flowers in a cup of boiled water for at least ten minutes. Drink two to three times daily for maximum effectiveness.
Don’t use chamomile if you have a ragweed allergy as they are in the same species of plant.
Probiotics are the living bacteria and yeast that provide healthy and important microorganisms to your digestive tract. They are present in many common foods, particularly fermented foods. These include:
You can also take probiotics in supplement form.
Studies have shown that probiotics are helpful in wiping out H. pylori and increasing the recovery rate for people with ulcers when added to the traditional regimen of antibiotics.
A study published in Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology, researchers found that:
Probiotic supplementation with a strain of bacteria called Lactobacillus johnsonii was effective at reducing H. pylori infections in the treatment of ulcers.
Cranberry has been shown in studies to help decrease urinary tract infections by preventing bacteria from settling on the walls of the bladder.
We now know that Cranberries and cranberry extract also help fight H. pylori.
A study in the journal Nutrition, found that “
“Regular intake of cranberry juice … may be useful in the management of [people with high levels of] H. pylori.”
You can drink cranberry juice, eat cranberries, or take cranberry supplements.
Many commercial cranberry juices are heavily sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, which can also add empty calories. Avoid those juices by buying juice sweetened only by other juices.
If you have an ulcer, I recommend using a cranberry juice extract supplement, to get the maximum antibacterial effect without drowning yourself in liquid. You can still drink cranberry juice and eat cranberries, as well, but you won’t feel like you have to “force feed” yourself.
Research in the journal Ethnopharmacology found that licorice root was beneficial against ulcer-causing Helicobacter pylori infections.
Use deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), which is effective but does not upset the body’s natural sodium-potassium balance, and follow package instructions for the product you select.
Use daily for up to three weeks then take a week off and repeat as necessary.
Use daily for up to three weeks then take a week off and repeat as necessary (don’t use licorice root if you have high blood pressure).
Manuka honey is a special type of honey only produced in New Zealand. It’s created by bees who pollinate the manuka bush and then extract the nectar from the flowers to create the honey.
This honey is more costly than your regular brand from the supermarket, but is used in much the same way to sweeten foods or drinks. It can also be taken from a spoon as a supplement.
Manuka honey has a bitter flavor that is not as sweet as regular store honey. but there are some types of manuka honey that are sweeter than others.
According to a study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, scientists found that Manuka honey demonstrated antibacterial action against 60 species of bacteria, including H. pylori, which is frequently involved in stomach ulcers.
In a study published in Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology researchers found that probiotic supplementation with a strain of bacteria called Lactobacillus johnsonii was effective at reducing H. pylori infections in the treatment of ulcers.
A Note About Manuka Honey Quality
Surprisingly, hydrogen peroxide is one of the components of manuka honey, and it’s what gives honey that antibiotic quality. The hydrogen peroxide antibiotic effects are particularly evident in manuka honey because a compound called dihydroxyacetone is found in the nectar from the flowers of the manuka plant.
Besides hydrogen peroxide, manuka honey will have MG — methylglyoxal. Other honeys will have only traces of MG.
Because of the special compounds in manuka honey, there is the UMF — Unique Manuka Factor, which is used as a measure of the quality of manuka honey.
The UMF is used to measure the potency of manuka honey. It’s in relation to the amount or concentration of MG and other compounds contained within the honey.
For manuka honey to be potent enough to use as a medicine, it should have a UMF rating of at least 5, which is adequate, with 10 being good. It can also be higher, but 10 or more is sold as UMF Manaka Honey or Active Manuka Honey.
Some honeys also have an MGO rating. This is the methyglyoxal, another compound that the honey contains. This is measured from 83 in a UMF 5+ and up to 829 for UMF 20+.
It appears that garlic can keep levels of the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacterium in check.
Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle discovered that garlic exhibits specific antimicrobial activity against H. pylori without entirely eliminating the strain. The elimination of H. pylori can cause other digestive woes.
Garlic extract has been shown to inhibit H. pylori growth in lab, animal, and human trials.
If you don’t like the taste (and lingering aftertaste) of garlic, you can take garlic extract in supplement form.
Garlic acts as a blood thinner, so ask your doctor before taking it if you use warfarin (Coumadin), other prescription blood thinners, or aspirin.
Research suggests that flavonoids (formally called vitamin P), and also known as bioflavonoids, may be an effective additional treatment for stomach ulcers.
Flavonoids are compounds that occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Foods and drinks rich in flavonoids include:
- red grapes
- teas, especially green tea
These foods may also help the body fight against the H. pylori bacteria.
Flavonoids are referred to as “gastroprotective,” which means they defend the lining of the stomach and could allow ulcers to heal.
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, there are no side effects of consuming flavonoids in the amount found in a typical diet, but higher amounts of flavonoids may interfere with blood clotting.
You can get flavonoids in your diet or take them as supplements.
Fruits, Vegetables, and Whole Grains
A diet centered on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is not only good for your overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic, a vitamin-rich diet can help your body heal your ulcer.
Foods containing the antioxidant polyphenols may protect you from ulcers and help ulcers heal. Polyphenol-rich foods and seasonings include:
- dried rosemary
- Mexican oregano
- dark chocolate
- blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, elderberries, and blackberries
- black olives
Cabbage is a popular natural ulcer remedy. Doctors reportedly used it decades before antibiotics were available to help heal stomach ulcers.
Cabbage juice is rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant shown to help prevent and treat H. pylori infections. These infections are the most common cause of stomach ulcers.
In humans, early studies observed that daily consumption of fresh cabbage juice appeared to help heal stomach ulcers more effectively than the conventional treatment used at the time.
In one study, 13 participants suffering from stomach and upper digestive tract ulcers were given around one quart (946 ml) of fresh cabbage juice throughout the day.
On average, these participants’ ulcers healed after 7–10 days of treatment. This is 3.5 to 6 times faster than the average healing time reported in previous studies in those who followed a conventional treatment.
In another study, the same quantity of fresh cabbage juice was given to 100 participants with stomach ulcers, most of whom had previously received conventional treatment with no success. 81% were symptom-free within a week.
You can blend cabbage into a smoothie, but to get a concentrated amount, I recommend using cabbage extract powder.
Turmeric is a South Asian spice used in many Indian dishes. It’s easily recognizable by its rich yellow color.
Curcumin has immense therapeutic potential in preventing damage caused by H. pylori infections, and may also help increase mucus secretion, effectively protecting the stomach’s lining against irritants.
Limited studies have been done in humans. One study gave 25 participants 600 mg of turmeric five times per day.
Four weeks later, ulcers had healed in 48% of participants. After twelve weeks, 76% of participants were ulcer-free.
In another, individuals who tested positive for H. pylori were supplemented with 500 mg of turmeric four times per day.
After four weeks of treatment, 63% of participants were ulcer-free. After eight weeks, this amount increased to 87%.
Chili Peppers (Yes, it’s True!)
There’s a popular notion among people suffering from ulcers that eating chili peppers too often or in large quantities may cause stomach ulcers. In fact, people suffering from ulcers are often advised to limit their consumption of chili peppers or to avoid them completely.
However, recent research shows that chili peppers are unlikely to cause ulcers and are likely to help get rid of them.
That’s because chili peppers contain capsaicin, an active ingredient that appears to reduce stomach acid production and enhance blood flow to the stomach lining. Both of these factors are thought to help prevent or heal ulcers.
The capsaicin found in chili peppers may also help increase mucus production, which can coat the stomach lining and protect it from injury.
Also, note that the animal studies above used capsaicin supplements rather than whole chili peppers.
While common ulcer drugs present some serious side-effects, that doesn’t mean you have to needlessly suffer. There are some excellent foods and natural medicines that offer support with healing ulcers as well as dealing with the pain and inflammation linked to them.
Of course, be sure to check with your physician before using any natural remedies to your diet or supplement regime. Discontinue use if you find any of the foods or remedies aggravate your symptoms.
Tips For Preventing Ulcers
If you have had an ulcer, or are prone to develop them, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk. Follow these tips to keep from developing an ulcer.
Minimize Your Ibuprofen and Aspirin Intake
If you’ve had a lingering tension headache from the buildup of stress, then you need to keep an eye on how much aspirin or ibuprofen you take.
Helpful at first, these medications can damage the lining of your stomach and lead to a stomach ulcer.
If you already have an ulcer, use of NSAIDs, such as aspirin or ibuprofen could be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. A non-NSAID pain reliever, like acetaminophen, may be a safer choice. Your doctor can recommend appropriate alternatives.
Reduce and Manage Your Stress
Instead of tossing back medication each time you get a headache from all the stress, control your stress with relaxing self-care.
- Skills You Need has an excellent article on managing stress.
If You Smoke, Quit Now
It’s always a good time to quit smoking. Smoking hurts all systems of the body from your lungs to your heart to the lining of your stomach.
A 2014 medical review published in Spandidos Publications, found that “Cigarette smoking is an important risk factor for gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, including peptic ulcers, inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and cancer”.
According to their clinical observations, cigarette smokers are:
- More likely to develop ulcers which are more difficult to heal
- Have an increased risk of developing peptic ulcers vs. non-smokers
- Have an increased risk of becoming infected with H. pylori
They posit that this increased risk of H. pylori infection may be due to the adverse effects of smoking on the reduction of antioxidants or the defensive immune system locally present in the gastroduodenal mucosa (stomach lining), resulting in interference with the natural defensive mechanisms against H. pylori infection in the stomach and duodenum.
Cut Down on Alcohol
Alcohol irritates the mucous lining of your stomach while at the same time increasing how much acid your stomach produces. That’s a harsh combination, especially if you’re stressed out, smoking and overeating at the same time.
Alcohol has not been proven to cause ulcers, but it’s easy to see how it can be an aggravating factor, so if you are prone to developing ulcers, don’t overdo the alcohol.
Avoid Foods That Irritate the Stomach
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, an organization of doctors who specialize in the digestive tract, there is no specific diet a person with ulcers needs to follow.
Food choices don’t cause ulcers. That said, some foods are known to irritate the lining of your stomach.
If you already have an ulcer, you could notice the onset of abdominal discomfort after eating these types of foods. If so, it’s obviously best to reduce or eliminate these things from your diet until you can get your ulcer under control.
Many people who develop an ulcer also have acid reflux. In some people, certain foods can relax the lower part of the esophagus, known as the lower esophageal sphincter or LES. A relaxed LES makes it easier for acid to back up into the esophagus and cause heartburn, indigestion, and pain.
If you have an ulcer, or acid reflux, consider limiting:
- coffee and other caffeinated beverages
- carbonated beverages
- processed foods
- foods with a high amount of salt
- deep-fried foods
- acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes
Overeating and eating within two to three hours of going to bed may also worsen the symptoms of acid reflux.
Not every food acts the same for every person, so keeping track of which foods seem to make you ulcer discomfort or acid reflux symptoms worse can be helpful.
Stomach ulcers are a relatively common and irritating medical condition.
The natural remedies listed above may help prevent the development of stomach ulcers and facilitate their healing. In some cases, they may even improve the effectiveness of conventional treatment and reduce the severity of its side effects.
Of course, you should always seek advice from their healthcare professional before self-medicating.
Did I miss something? Let me know what you think!
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