Stomach Ulcers

Ulcers can be very dangerous, the worst case being that a hole can be opened up allowing food to get from the alimentary canal into the surrounding tissue. Famous nutritionist, Adelle Davis, reports the following fascinating and enlightening information about ulcers in her book “Let’s Get Well” where she quotes the work of Dr Hans Selye, the pioneer of stress research and how rats that had limbs immobilized (to cause stress) developed ulcers overnight.  Parallels for this were people who developed ulcers overnight during war-time air raids.

She draws also on the work of physicians in the 40’s and 50’s at Cornell Medical School. They studied people with fistulas (a hole from the stomach to the outside, caused by injury usually, sometimes deliberately crafted to be able to feed people who cannot swallow) some of whom also had ulcers.

They found that the stomach was NOT irritated by acidic foods but received their major irritation from alkaline foods!

They found too that the normal stomach acids could cause damage to the walls but only if they were exposed through having no mucous lining or when excessive stomach acids were developed in times of stress or negative emotions when the stomach was empty. Foods eaten after that were then often targeted incorrectly – the damage having been done before the food was ingested.

Amongst the basic observations were:
  • That food (even “acidic” food) + acid was fine, the acid digested the food and the stomach walls were not exposed to excessive acid.
  • Damage occurred from emotional stress when the stomach was empty (acid produced and no food to be digested)
  • Alkalines irritated the stomach visibly (as seen through the fistulas)
  • Alkaline caused further harm because they reduced stomach-emptying time without the underlying stress being addressed (more opportunity for the excessive acids produced by the stress to erode the stomach walls).
  • Based on these researches and her own wealth of nutritional knowledge, she came up with very workable ways of managing (and frequently clearing up) ulcers.

The ulcer sufferer’s chief  enemies are:
    • Stress
    • An empty stomach

  • Eat small regular meals: These keep the blood sugar even so they help prevent mood swings and the associated stress.  They also ensure you do not have an empty stomach for any length of time. It can be the same daily amount you are used to eating but just split into smaller portions so that you have them every 2 – 3 hours: breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, supper/dinner time, and a late evening snack (instead of the usual breakfast, lunch and supper – or worse, eat on the run in the morning, tea and coffee at work with a big supper!
  • Avoid meal-time upsets: Consciously “get yourself together” and eat slowly.
  • High protein: Protein should be high. It is a false idea that proteins cause acid, they actually neutralize stomach acid. If an ulcer is playing up, milk and even small amounts of cream do a great job of neutralizing the acid. Eggs are very good too. Proteins are made up of different amino acids, each one just a simple form of protein.  Eggs contain an amino acid called cystine, which  contains sulphur that is good for ulcers (shortage of cystine can actually cause ulcers).Calm Family Mealtime
  • Yoghurt:  Yogurt is also very good as it helps keep the digestive proteins alive and balanced.
  • Other proteins are good too: meat, fish, and beans. You can rotate them and try to have the milk and eggs a little more often than the others. Beans are good from the viewpoint that they also provide roughage, so it is a good idea to have them 2 – 3 times a week.
  • There is no need to avoid acidic foods, they are less harmful than emotional upsets!

In the research mentioned, it was found that so-called acidic foods (protein, fruit juices) did not have bad effects on the stomach walls. The worst thing found was emotional upsets. Electric shocks and pinching the stomach walls through the holes had very little effects compared to emotional upsets.

“Sippy diets” are not much good: The “sippy diets” that are sometimes recommended for ulcers have so little roughage (all smooth stuff) that food tends to accumulate in the digestive tract and attract the wrong kind of bacteria.

No antacids: These are usually alkaline (opposite of acid) and are designed to neutralize stomach acid.  They are harmful, even though they may give temporary relief. They also cause the stomach to empty fast and so leave the walls exposed. They tend to over-neutralize the stomach acids and then your digestion is less effective at a time when you most need good nutrition. Baking soda, especially, makes the stomach empty fast and so can be harmful, despite temporary relief.

If you are considering using cortisone, it is wise to interview a couple of people who have used it long term and compare their reports with the known side-effects it produces and decide if those are worth the risk, bearing in mind that relief can be naturally obtained. 

Quick Relief: The best thing found for quick relief — during research — was cream, and it did not produce the liabilities mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Other Relief: Longer term, it is very effective to “let off steam”. There are a few simple ways to do this.

  • If you can get to a gym use a punching bag!
  • At home, you can put a mattress up against the wall and punch it and kick it!
  • If you have a place where no-one can hear you, then you can go and scream out loud for a while.
Avoid stimulants (coffee, alcohol, fizzy drinks): They also tend to stimulate digestive juices without having anything there for the juices to work on. Of course they then work on the stomach walls. If they are taken after a meal they have less of this bad effect. They also tend to wash the B vitamins and vitamin C from the system, which are needed for healing, so it’s better if they can be avoided.

Ulcer Vitamins:
  • Vitamin C: 500 mg with each meal or at least 3 times a day (vital for healing – without it the smallest blood vessels do not stay whole and bleeding can take place). Even though it is acid, it does not have a bad effect on stomach acids. Take it straight after eating, not on an empty stomach.
  • Vitamin E: 400 iu. Helps with healing and clearing up scar tissue. It should be the oil based one if possible as the oil also helps protect the stomach walls.
  • Vitamin B5: 100 – 500 mg daily. Helps to regulate acid and keep it at the right levels.
  • Vitamin A: 5000 iu – keeps the mucous healthy in the stomach to prevent corrosion.
  • Supplements need to be taken in balance with a good underlying diet, but these are the important ones to emphasize in ulcer management.