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Herbal Medicine


Ulcers Are No Laughing Matter
By Brigitte Synesael
Your Life-Your Choice

Literally speaking, an ulcer is an open sore, often infected. Frequently this sore is in the stomach or the duodenum, the part of the intestines which connects with the stomach. These are referred to as Peptic Ulcers, and there is nothing pleasant about this experience.

The most common symptom of ulcers is an intense burning sensation below the breastbone, which is typically felt between 1-3 hours after meals. The pain can be intense enough to cause its' victim to awaken during the night with an excruciating internal burning sensation. It could cause headaches, nausea and/or vomiting. Often severe heartburn in evident. It's possible that a Peptic Ulcer could develop symptoms such as dark tar-like stools or spitting up blood. These advanced symptoms may be indicative of gastro-intestinal bleeding and should be immediately addressed by your doctor. Bleeding ulcers are potentially life-threatening and are to be considered a medical emergency.

Although it has been determined that there could be several contributing factors resulting in Peptic or Stomach Ulcers, emotional stress and anxiety are generally considered the primary causes. Among other contributors are prolonged use of anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids (in particular those taken for arthritis), excessive smoking, food allergies and poor nutrition. Recent evidence has also identified a type of bacteria almost always found in persons who have Stomach Ulcers. This bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, is rarely found in those who have been spared from the experience. It is thought that H. pyloric may be a risk factor for stomach cancer. A blood test or a biopsy of the stomach lining can determine the presence of this bacteria.

Even though this can be a serious condition, it is one that is easily taken care of. From a nutritional perspective, avoiding dairy products is recommended as they can aggravate the situation. Also avoid caffeine, alcohol, fatty foods, and soda pop. Recommended foods are high fiber foods (if you're dealing with a bleeding ulcer, consume nonirritating fiber like guar gum and/or psyllium seed), low fat yogurt, avocados, bananas, squash, yams, steamed broccoli, carrots and carrot juice. Blue grapes, almonds and almond milk, potatoes, and cabbage juice can be beneficial in the healing process. Okra, papaya, persimmons, sprouts and sweet potatoes are also among the foods that are helpful.

There are also many vitamins that can be beneficial when dealing with this condition. Vitamin E helps to relieve pain and reduces stomach acid. Vitamin A helps to heal ulcerated tissue and protects the stomach lining from irritation. Vitamin C with bioflavonoids can help to heal ulcers. Vitamin K prevents bleeding. Vitamin B complex, Zinc, Calcium/magnesium, and Potassium are all helpful in the healing process.

There are a great many herbs and herbal combinations that can be of substantial benefit in healing Peptic Ulcers. This is not intended to be a complete list, but rather some suggestions of easily accessible herbs that could be helpful when dealing with this condition.

  •  Aloe Vera Juice after meals encourages the healing of damaged tissue.

  • Alfalfa is an excellent source of vitamin K and will help to control bleeding.

  • DGL form of Licorice (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) is a natural anti-inflammatory that produces a mucus, which protects the stomach wall. Use 750-1,500 milligrams 2-3 times daily between meals for 8-16 weeks.
    NOTE: DO NOT SUBSTITUTE ordinary Licorice Root. It can elevate blood pressure if used daily for more than 7 days and should be avoided completely by those with high blood pressure.

  • Slippery Elm soothes irritated mucous membranes.

  • Golden Seal is a natural antibiotic that fights infection and promotes healing for the digestive system.
    DO NOT take for more than 1 week or during pregnancy. It could disturb normal intestinal flora.

  • Pau d'arco is a powerful antibiotic which can fight the presence of bacterial infection in ulcers.

  • A chelate form of Calcium/Magnesium helps to soothe the nerves and to relieve stress.

Again this is just a sampling of herbs that can benefit a Peptic Ulcer condition. Although helpful, I recommend you use caution with herbs such as Chamomile and Golden Seal, and do not suggest they be used on a continuous basis.

One more point to consider is that while both prescription and over-the-counter drugs may well relieve the symptoms of ulcers, they do not repair the damaged tissue, which is the real problem. These are short term quick-fixes that may actually do more harm than good as they create an illusion that the ulcer is cured or under control.

Many experts believe that food allergies are also a major cause of ulcers. If you have a tendency to be prone to Stomach Ulcers, you may want to consider allergies as a possible source.

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