by Julie Christensen
Imagine your stomach as a huge, churning vat filled with seriously strong acid. The vat is protected from the acid by a protective lining, but if the lining wears down, the vat becomes perforated with small holes. This is essentially what happens when you develop a peptic ulcer.
Most people assume ulcers are caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices, including out-of-control stress and overeating greasy, spicy foods. The middle aged man that spends his evenings eating chili dogs and watching the game on television comes to mind. Of course, there is some truth to this stereotype. Lifestyle and diet do play a role. But sometimes other factors are to blame.
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria is also thought to be a major cause of ulcers in otherwise healthy people. This bacteria can be passed from person to person through contaminated food. In addition, aspirin and other anti-inflammatory medications irritate the stomach, potentially causing ulcers.
For most people, the first symptom of an ulcer is a gnawing, aching pain in the upper abdomen. The pain typically lasts up to three hours. You might mistake ulcer pain for hunger or indigestion, but the pain can occur at any time — whether you’ve eaten recently or not. Other symptoms of ulcers include:
- Blood in the stools or black stools
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- Weight gain because you eat to quell the pain
Hippocrates said, “Let food be your medicine.” Eating a whole foods diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains is one of the best ways to ensure a life free of many of the chronic diseases that plague our culture. The right foods can also cure diseases you suffer from now, including ulcers. Read on to learn which foods are best for gently healing ulcers.
Bananas. You’ve probably heard that cranberry juice contains a compound that flushes out bacteria, preventing and healing urinary tract infections. Bananas contain a substance that inhibits the growth of H. pylori so ulcers caused by this bacteria can heal. Bananas also strengthen the lining of the stomach.
Cabbage. Raw cabbage, and other leafy greens, are packed with antioxidants and nutrients known to heal ulcers. Add raw cabbage to salads or juice it and add it to smoothies. Drink cabbage juice before every meal to quickly heal ulcers.
Cayenne pepper. You’d think spicy cayenne pepper would aggravate ulcers, but interestingly, it actually soothes them. Add ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper to a glass of water and drink after meals or take cayenne pepper tablets.
Chamomile tea. Chamomile has long been revered for its stress-relieving properties, but it also contains compounds that kill ulcer-causing bacteria. Make a nutritive tea which contains chamomile, nettle, dandelion and lemon balm or sip a commercially prepared chamomile tea.
Garlic. Touted for its antibacterial, antifungal properties, garlic is often recommended for treating colds and other bacterial illnesses. It’s also a great food for treating ulcers because it destroys the bacteria that contributes to them. Take a garlic capsule twice per day or add garlic to cooked foods.
Honey. Like garlic, honey is known for its antibacterial compounds. Honey’s also an anti-inflammatory, soothing painful ulcers. Raw honey contains the most healthful enzymes. Take 1 teaspoonful twice daily or add honey to smoothies.
Oats. Oats soothe irritated membranes, which is one reason they’re sometimes used to treat rashes and itchy skin. In the body, they have the same effect. Eat oatmeal every morning to soothe and heal ulcers. Steel cut oats are a terrific choice.
Probiotics. Probiotics work in two ways to relieve ulcers. They restore bacterial balance in the body, so good bacteria can fight off harmful bacteria. Probiotics also improve digestion and bring stomach acid levels back to the right levels. Take a probiotic twice each day which contains at least 4 billion active cultures, or regularly eat yogurt with active cultures. Jarrow makes a great probiotic.
Slippery elm bark. Slippery elm bark contains a substance that soothes the mucous membranes in the mouth, esophagus and stomach, which is why it’s often recommended for treating coughs and sore throats. It also works wonders on ulcers. Suck on slippery elm bark lozenges, available at health food stores, or add 1 teaspoon slippery elm bark powder to 8 ounces warm water. Drink before each meal.
Have you found any peer reviewed research that supports other ulcer remedies? If so, leave a comment and let us know, so we can add to the list.
For Further Reading:
Julie Christensen learned about gardening on her grandfather’s farm and mother’s vegetable garden in southern Idaho. Today, she lives and gardens on the high plains of Colorado. When she’s not digging in the dirt, Julie writes about food, education, parenting and gardening.