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Understanding Peptic Ulcers

Digestion | April 14, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

reflux, Digestion

Understanding Peptic Ulcers

About one in every 10 Australians will suffer from the burning, gnawing pain of a peptic ulcer at some point in their life. These ulcers are erosions in the protective lining of the stomach or in the duodenum (the upper part of the small intestine). Until the mid-1980’s, ulcers were believed to be a direct result of stress, excessive stomach acid secretion, overindulging in fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.

Although stomach acid and dietary and lifestyle factors play a role in the development of ulcers, more recent research has revealed bacterial infection to be the primary cause of peptic ulcers. Helicobacter pylori infection has been proven to cause most duodenal ulcers and about two-thirds of stomach ulcers. 

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are another major contributor as they damage the stomach and intestinal lining. H. pylori and NSAIDs act synergistically to increase the risk of ulcers and bleeding.

What causes peptic ulcers?

Major risk and causative factors that can contribute to the incidence of peptic or duodenal ulcers include:

  • Helicobacter pylori infection
  • NSAID use (including aspirin, ibuprofen and diclofenac)
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Caffeine
  • Food allergy
  • Antacid abuse
  • Stress, anxiety and other psychological factors
  • Increasing age
  • Family history

Signs you have a peptic ulcer

Common signs and symptoms of peptic ulcers include the following:

  • Burning or gnawing pain.
  • Symptom relief by drinking milk and antacids.
  • Duodenal ulcers are relieved by food, while stomach ulcers are exacerbated by it.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Dyspepsia, belching and bloating.
  • Epigastric pain.
  • Increased pain, vomiting of blood, tarry or red stools, and significant weight loss could indicate perforation, gastric outlet obstruction or haemorrhaging.

Heal your ulcer


Eating a high-fibre diet is often helpful for ulcers and can aid in their repair. Eating wholegrains (rye, wheat, oats, rice, barley and millet) with 7-8 serves of fresh vegetables and 1-2 pieces of fruit can help achieve the recommended 30g of fibre a day. 

  • Slippery elm powder can be taken to help boost fibre intake while also helping in symptomatic relief and healing. It is high in mucilage which provides protection to the surface of the ulcer, while reducing inflammation and pain.

Eat foods rich in isothiocyanates

Foods high in sulphur such as garlic, onions, broccoli (and its sprouts), kale, cabbage and brussels sprouts can help heal ulcers and fight off H.pylori infection.

In traditional medicine, cabbage juice has been considered an efficacious remedy for peptic ulcer disease. Make your own fresh juice with cabbage leaves, apple and carrot.

Garlic gloves can be cut into small pieces and eaten raw after a meal as nature’s own natural antibiotic.

Berry goodness

Berries such as blueberry, raspberry, cranberry, blackberry, strawberry and bilberry have demonstrated antibacterial activity against H.pylori. It is believed the phenolic content gives these berries their antimicrobial activity.

In a prospective randomised double-blind trial involving 189 adults with H.pylori infection, those you drank 250mls of blueberry juice for 3 months had a negative result against this bacteria on the 35th day. A similar result can be achieved by drinking good quality cranberry juice without added sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Healing honey

Some types of honey, particularly manuka honey, exhibit potent activity against H.pylori and also inhibit urease activity.H.pylori produce large amounts of urease in an attempt to neutralise the acid in its environment and does this by converting urea to carbon dioxide and ammonia.

In one study, honey intake at least once a week was associated with a significantly lower prevalence of H.pylori infection.

Another bee product called propolis (a flavonoid rich by-product of bees) has also demonstrated anti-bacterial activity against this infecting organism.


Anyone for a cuppa?

Although caffeine isn’t usually advised in peptic ulcers the caffeine content in green and black tea may be suitable as their consumption has been associated with a lower risk of peptic ulcers. Herbal teas such as chamomile, ginger and liquorice can also help to facilitate healing of ulcers as they have anti-inflammatory properties. Drink up to 3 cups a day for maximum results.

Healthy bowel flora

Repopulating your gut with good bacteria can help to inhibit H.pylori. Consider eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir or a good quality Greek or natural full-fat yoghurt. Probiotics containing Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium may be supplemented to help achieve the desired result. Colostrum (found in cow and human milk after giving birth), rich in lactoferrin, can also help to displace gut pathogens and support immunity.

Spice it up

Extracts of cinnamon, rosemary, turmeric, nutmeg and ginger have been shown to inhibit H.pylori growth and can be easily added to the diet.

Other extracts with similar activity include the mastic gum (from the Mediterranean shrub Pistacia lentiscus), vitamin C, a variety of flavonoids and berberine (from barberry bush and goldenseal).

Healthy oils

Supplementing with a good quality fish oil, rich in omega 3 not only can help to naturally reduce infection with H.pylori but consumption has been associated with a lower prevalence of duodenal ulcers. If fish oil gives you reflux, then try an enteric coated capsule to avoid this occurring.

What to avoid

Avoid large meals, coffee, energy drinks, chili, processed foods, sugar, alcohol and cigarettes. Eating several small meals per day may help to take the burden off the digestive system and help ease symptoms.

Could it be food allergies?

Food allergies can cause ulcers or make them worse. Allergies can be tested for by using an IgG food allergy panel or by conducting an elimination diet. Common food allergens include soy, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish and shellfish.

Lifestyle suggestions

If you are feeling the effects of stress, then consider implementing relaxation techniques into your daily routine. This could include yoga, meditation, tai chi, reading, listening to instrumental music or any healthy activity you find that helps to relieve the pressure.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Mitchell H, Katelaris P. Epidemiology, clinical impacts and current clinical management of Helicobacter pylori infection. Med J Aust 2016;204(10):376-380

Boyanoya L, et al. Honey and green/black tea consumption may reduce the risk of Helicobacter pylori infection. Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis. 2015 May;82(1):85-6

Fahey JW, et al. Dietary amelioration of Helicobacter infection. Nutr Res. 2015 Jun;35(6):461-473

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