A peptic ulcer is an open sore that occurs on the mucous lining of the stomach or the duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). It is linked with an overproduction of stomach acid, an underproduction of mucus, or irritants (such as alcohol, caffeine, aspirin, and bacteria). Stress also plays a role in causing ulcers.
Nutritional Therapy for Ulcers
Nutritional therapists hold that the wrong diet can be a major cause of peptic ulcers. For example, a diet rich in highly processed grains (such as white flour) deprives the body of fiber and protein, which can shield the digestive lining from stomach acid. People with ulcers should eat as many unrefined and high-fiber plant foods as possible.
Some cases of ulcer are thought to be a symptom of a food allergy. An elimination diet can help to determine if any specific food triggers an increase in symptoms. An elimination diet involves avoiding frequently eaten foods and common food allergens for two to three weeks, then reintroducing them one by one, and taking note of which ones trigger symptoms.
Like conventional medicine, nutritional therapy also recommends avoiding ulcer irritants such as coffee and alcohol. Several foods can aid the healing process of ulcers. Most notably, cabbage juice is prescribed for its ability to soothe the digestive lining and heal ulcers. Studies done in the 1950s showed the juice to be an effective ulcer treatment. Several supplements can promote healing, including:
- vitamin A
- vitamin E
A naturopathic physician might prescribe drinking fresh cabbage juice each day, or carrot or celery juice can might be added to the juice for variety.
Herbal Medicine for Ulcers
Herbal medicine targets its efforts at relieving the symptoms of peptic ulcers and healing the walls of the digestive tract. Herbs should be combined with measures such as stress reduction and dietary changes that eliminate the causes of ulcers.
The bark of slippery elm is used for its ability to soothe the mucous membranes that line the stomach and duodenum. It's often taken in powdered form. Licorice (in particular, licorice with its glycyrrhizinic acid removed), which comes in chewable tablet form, can also soothe the membranes, and it can strengthen them (thereby preventing future ulcers). Several studies have confirmed deglycyrrhizinized licorice's ability to treat ulcers. In fact, some conventional ulcer drugs are made from derivatives of licorice.
Another treatment for an irritated digestive tract is Robert's Formula, a well-known naturopathic herbal remedy. It usually contains slippery elm, marshmallow root, comfrey, echinacea (purple coneflower), goldenseal, other herbs, and cabbage powder. Herbal therapy may also incorporate minerals. For example, bismuth salts, such as bismuth subcitrate, have antibacterial properties and can be effective in treating ulcers that are attributed to the Helicobacter pylori. Again, some common conventional drugs for ulcer are made with bismuth.
Other Therapies for Ulcers
- Ayurvedic Medicine for Ulcers -- Ulcers are often linked to an imbalance in pitta. Treatment includes dietary and lifestyle changes.
- Guided Imagery and Creative Visualization for Ulcers -- Because stress has been linked to ulcers, various "mind exercises" that bring relaxation can be helpful. Hypnotherapy, meditation, and yoga are also good stress-busters.
- Homeopathy for Ulcers -- Common remedies include anacardium, argentum nitricum, and nux vomica.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine for Ulcers -- Massage therapy that focuses on balancing qi in the stomach, spleen, and/or liver meridians can be effective. Other treatments include acupuncture and herbal therapy.