An ulcer is an open sore or lesion. Peptic ulcers are found in the stomach or duodenum. Peptic ulcers in the stomach are referred to as gastric ulcers, those in the duodenum as duodenal ulcers.
The usual symptoms of peptic ulcer include abdominal discomfort and pain 45 to 60 minutes after a meal or during the night. The pain may be experienced as burning, gnawing, cramping or aching. Eating or taking antacids usually brings temporary relief.
Repressed emotions, worry, stress, smoking, alcohol, ASA/aspirin compounds, and non-steroidal inflammatory drugs are all linked to the development of peptic ulcers. Other causative factors include a low fibre diet and hidden food allergies. If food allergy is the cause, then the ulcer will persist until the offending foods are eliminated, regardless of whatever other therapeutic measures may be taken.
A bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, has been found to be present in peptic ulcers. This invading organism is associated with inflammation of the stomach and duodenum, which subsides when the bacterium is destroyed by antibiotics. This is not proof that the bacterium caused the ulcer, however. Hydrochloric acid kills bacteria. The levels of gastric acid of a well functioning stomach prevent it from being attacked by invading bacteria. The most likely explanation is that Helicobacter pylori is an opportunist that takes over once normal acid levels have been depleted (e.g., from prolonged use of antacid medications).
Gastric ulcers are commonly attributed to too much stomach acid. Many gastric ulcers, however, are caused (indirectly) by too little hydrochloric acid. Low stomach acid produces symptoms of indigestion. If in response the person takes an antacid, this medication will alkalinize the contents of the stomach and cause them to be released prematurely into the duodenum – where they meet and mix with alkaline bile and alkaline pancreatic juice. This over-alkaline mass may sometimes cause a reflux of bile back into the stomach. Bile is corrosive and destructive of stomach tissue – and causes the stomach to secrete excess stomach acid to neutralize it. But this rebound surge of hydrochloric acid occurs when there is no food in the stomach.
A high fibre diet both speeds the healing of peptic ulcers and prevents their recurrence. This is probably because of fibre’s ability to promote the secretion of mucus and to delay gastric emptying time. A high fibre diet is one that includes generous amounts of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and fruits – and excludes refined sugars and refined grains.
Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc help to prevent ulcers by maintaining the integrity of the lining of the digestive tract. Raw cabbage juice helps ulcers to heal. One litre/quart of fresh juice, taken in divided amounts throughout the day, may result in complete ulcer healing in approximately 10 days.
If an ulcer is present, then any digestive enzyme supplements taken should not contain hydrochloric acid. Once the ulcer has healed, however, then proper acidification of the stomach usually helps to prevent their recurrence.
See also the chapter, “It Begins with Digestion”, in NUTRITIONAL SOLUTIONS FOR 88 CONDITIONS (available at Amazon.com)