It used to be thought that ulcers were the plight of middle-aged, overworked, stressed-out men who lived on a diet of greasy pizza and beer. Although there’s always some truth in stereotypes, women are unfortunately just as susceptible to ulcers as men, and stress and diet aren’t the only factors that can lead to an ulcer.
Ulcers are caused when the mucus membrane lining the esophagus, stomach or upper intestine becomes compromised. In order to break down food, the stomach is filled with highly acidic gastric juices. The mucus membrane normally protects the organs, but if the amount of acid in the stomach increases or the mucus membrane weakens, ulcers, commonly known as peptic ulcers, can occur.
Peptic ulcers can be caused by a number of factors. Stress increases the stomach’s output of acid, which can erode the stomach’s lining. Long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), a type of pain killer, can also increase acid production, and it’s well known that a diet of spicy and citric foods can result in ulcers. Some factors are outside of lifestyle changes, however. Many peptic ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection known as Helicobacter pylori.
Although the abdominal pain resulting from an ulcer will likely deter your appetite, one of the best roads to recovery is with a healthy diet in small portions. These five foods will set you on the right track!
1. Leafy greens (and cabbage!) contain high amounts of vitamin K, which can help heal damage done by ulcers. Vitamin K speeds up the healing process and aids in blood clotting. Eat several servings of vitamin K-rich foods daily.
2. Chamomile tea works two-fold to fight ulcers. First, chamomile is a soothing herb, helping to induce calm and relieve stress. Second, chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties that can help speed up the healing process and fight the H. pylori bacteria. Drink up to four cups of chamomile tea a day.
3. Probiotics help restore the balance of bacteria in the body, making them useful for fighting off the H. pylori bacteria that commonly causes ulcers. Probiotics also aid digestion, which can be helpful in bringing the stomach’s juices under control. Take a supplement with at least 4 billion active cultures twice daily, or eat probitoic-rich foods such as yogurt.
4. Aloe vera, known for its soothing properties, can help heal damaged mucus linings. Aloe’s antibacterial properties also make it useful for fighting off the H. pylori bacteria. Drink ¼ cup of aloe vera juice three time daily.
5. Oats and whole grains contain soluble fiber and zinc, which promotes tissue repair and can help heal ulcers.
Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on Google+.