Hey Laura, what should I feed my ulcer?

Rumbly in my Tumbly writes:

Hey Laura, my doctor recently diagnosed me with GERD and a possible ulcer. My doctor put me on medication to begin the healing process in my stomach, but I see this as a short term plan.  I’d like to take care of it with lifestyle change as much as possible. What foods might be particularly good for my stomach, and body in general right now as it tries to heal?  Any other advice for dealing with this issue?

This article has a comprehensive overview of peptic ulcers, including both conventional and complementary treatments. Here’s a clear cut article on GERD management.

Dietary measures
Interestingly, the efficacy of “The Ulcer Diet” (ie: bland, non-fatty foods) for healing ulcers is not supported by the evidence. However, avoiding spicy foods, citrus,tomatoes, and other acid stimulants can help reduce the flareup of GERD-related reflux.

Since many ulcers are caused by an H. pylori infection, the most important thing is to eat foods that will support your immune system against infection.

Start with a healthy, fibrous diet of dark leafy greens, colorful fruits, whole grains, and plenty of fresh water. Avoid unrefined sugars and “white carbs” (potatoes, white rice, bleached white flour) as they convert to sugar very quickly, and sugar will feed the bad bacteria in your system. Eat lots of good-for-you garlic and onions, if your reflux will allow! Garlic may seem like it could irritate a sensitive stomach, but I’ve always found it to be quite soothing; I swear by it for fighting stomach flu (well, and just about any other ailment - I’m the garlic queen!).

Go easy on spicy foods until you’ve figured out which ones you can handle. There’s no particular need to eat blandly, though, as long as your reflux stays in check. Ginger and turmeric are both considered excellent immune boosters, and are also the foundation of many Indian dishes. If you can find a very mild yellow curry powder, that would be a good place to start.

Abstinence from coffee (caffeinated or not - it is an acid-producer) is universally recommended for both ulcers and reflux - sorry!

Instead, try a warm cup of this Ulcer Herbal Tea (marshmallow root and slippery elm help create a protective coating in the stomach, while fennel and licorice aid digestion), or this soothing Stomach Ease Tea.

I know, I always recommend eliminating dairy, but….consider eliminating dairy! It is one of the most common food sensitivities and even a low-lying intolerance (one that might not register with noticeable discomfort) can still inflame the stomach as well as impair immune function.

There is strong scientific evidence supporting Cabbage Juice as an excellent ulcer healing substance. In some studies it has reduced healing time by at least half. This Google Answer for the scientific research on cabbage juice (as well as licorice, which has more mixed results) for ulcer treatment is extremely thorough and a good read if you want to help your tummy in very natural (though….nasty?) ways.

If you can’t stomach (haha) the 1 quart a day of cabbage juice prescribed in this natural treatment, it couldn’t hurt to try this vitamin U supplement instead.

Cod Liver Oil has also been shown to speed the healing of gastric ulcers in rats.

Here is an article that overviews the research supporting certain vitamin supplements that are helpful in fighting peptic ulcers: Vitamins A, C, and E, Zinc, and L-Glutamine.

A digestive enzyme (this is my favorite) and a strong probiotic (like this one or this one) will help regulate your system. Since you’ll most likely be on antibiotic treatment for an H. pylori infection, the probiotics are necessary to counteract the damage to your gut (and subsequently, your immune system) the antibiotics will cause.

Second opinions, additional help
I applaud you for seeing medication as a short-term plan and for seeking to treat the roots and not just the symptoms of your GI troubles. I highly recommend asking trusted friends and associates for a referral to a licensed Naturopath to oversee your care. Since different states have different rules of regulation with alternative medicine practitioners, choose a Naturopath who has graduated from one of these accredited Naturopathic colleges.

The philosophy of an ND is going to be much more in line than the average MD might be with the kind of treatment plan you are seeking. Acupuncture has a good reputation for being helpful in treating peptic ulcers, and there are strong herbs for ulcer-healing as well. Keep it in mind as an option. Even if you are hesitant to try alternative modalities, when you are “sick of being sick,” you become willing to do almost anything to feel better! (And personally, acupuncture sounds way better to me than cabbage juice!)

This article in Psychiatric News magazine discusses the connection between anxiety and ulcers. While an H. pylori infection is present in almost all ulcer patients, not everyone who has H. pylori bacterium has an ulcer. The X factor in recent studies seems to be chronic anxiety.

Dealing with your mental health could be a vital key to ultimately healing your digestive health. The mind-body connection is far greater than most people give it credit for. While you need to address your symptoms and disease at a physical level, don’t neglect the spiritual and emotional sides of your overall health!

Good luck!

Hey Laura, I think... Hey Laura, what should I feed my ulcer?

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