People you suffer from stomach ulcers say it is “a nightmare”. Despite the daily use of antacid drugs or inhibitors of proton pump (Losec, Pantoloc, Prevacid, Nexium, etc.), a burning sensation, pain in pit of stomach, belching, bloating or episodes of nausea often resurface. The causes behind these can be multiple but the solutions exist!
The Stomach is “Programmed” to be Acidic
The pH is a measure that evaluates whether a solution is acidic or alkaline. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 with 7 representing neutrality. Between 0 and 7, a solution is acidic. Between 7 and 14, a solution is alkaline. The pH of the stomach is very acidic. It is around 1.5 to 2.
This high acidity is of paramount importance to ensure optimal digestion of foods, especially the proteins, and destroy most bacteria that may enter the digestive tract along with food. Moreover, an acidic pH is essential for the absorption of vitamin B12 and many minerals, including iron and calcium.
Heartburn and Pain
The lining of the stomach is naturally protected against the acidity. What happens to it when heartburn or pain occurs?
Some factors can influence or even change, the gastric secretions and thus irritate the stomach. Among these, overeating (especially fatty foods), smoking, coffee, colas, hot spices, milk, certain medications (especially anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, Advil, Motrin), excess alcohol, chronic infections (e.g. chronic sinusitis) and the presence of a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori are the most common.
The Helicobacter Pylori Bacterium
Helicobacter pylori is responsible for 60% to 80% of stomach ulcers and 80% to 90% of duodenal ulcers. 20% of those under age 40 and over 50% of people over age 60 are infected by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori.10% to 20% of these people may develop an ulcer.
Few living species can thrive in an environment with a pH below 4 or above 10. Yet the bacterium Helicobacter pylori can infect the stomach and duodenum.
Although this discovery was made in 1982 by two Australian researchers, J. Robin Warren and Barry J. Marshall, it was not until 1994 that the medical community began to change its mind. Never before had we thought that bacteria could survive in an acidic pH.
Helicobacter pylorus attaches itself to the epithelial cells of the stomach, and weakens it by secreting an enzyme called urease, which neutralizes stomach acid. It is because of this that the environment becomes less acidic and the bacteria can breed more easily. Its proliferation eventually damages the gastric mucosal surface.
The transmission of this bacterium remains more or less clear. Some suspect that it can be transmitted by oral contact, ingestion of contaminated food or water and some people believe that humans may be genetically vulnerable to its development.
Medical Treatment of Infection Due to the Bacterium Helicobacter Pylori
Medical treatment of infection because of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori generally includes one or two antibiotics, antacids and drugs inhibiting the proton pump. Success rates vary. Helicobacter pylori can also manage to develop resistance to antibiotics.
Depending on circumstances, naturopathic treatment can be complementary to the treatment or maybe an alternative.
It will identify and eliminate foods that may irritate the stomach and exacerbate acid secretion. In all cases, it helps if you eat slowly, taking care to chew, keep a gap of three to four hours between each meal and take small meals, avoid drinking while eating, quit smoking, because cigarette smoke is considered a major irritant to the stomach wall.
Where does stress fit in all this? Should we let it sit in the dock? Its impact is far from negligible, but only in the presence of other risk factors that will impact on exacerbating the unpleasant symptoms.
Complementary and Alternative Solutions
Since 1994, the chelated complex of “zinc-carnosine” has been used in twenty studies in the treatment of gastrointestinal problems. Zinc is known for its healing properties and for the support it gives to the immune system. L-carnosine, is an amino acid naturally present in muscle and brain, contributing to the healing effect of zinc. Taken as a nutritional supplement, this complex helps to reduce heartburn and stomach pain by reducing inflammation. It inhibits the activity of the Helicobacter pylori bacterium and protects the integrity of the gastric mucosa by stimulating secretion of protective mucus.
The extract of deglycyrrhizinated licorice root (DGL) is recognized to treat ulcers of the stomach and duodenum. By encouraging the renewal of the protective layer lining the stomach, this extract can prevent the recurrence of peptic ulcers.
In some studies is seen that Vitamin C could inhibit the proliferation of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. The proliferation of this bacterium was more pronounced among people whose bodies had low levels of vitamin C.
Turmeric, increasingly used for its anticancer properties, also has protective effects on the gastric mucosa.
When it comes to bacteria, probiotics should always have a special place in therapy. After all, this is a war to the finish between bacteria.
Freshly extracted cabbage juice extractor, cranberry juice, aloe gel, slippery elm, herbal tea chamomile and calendula, are beverages that are recommended.
To renew the pleasures of eating, ask for the right things to eat for your health and, if necessary, consult a qualified naturopath to guide you through this process of return to health.
- Brenda Watson, ND and Leonard Smith, MD, Gut Solutions, Renew Life Press, 2003
- L. Pizzorno, J. Pizzorno Jr. and MT Murray, Natural Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, 2002
- Applied Nutritional Science Reports, 2003 – 789 8 / 03