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An ulcer is a kind of erosion or open sore on the surface of an organ or tissue. Ulcers generally occur in the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum and are known as peptic ulcers.
Types of Peptic Ulcers
- Gastric ulcer: A peptic ulcer in the stomach is called a gastric ulcer.
- Duodenal ulcer: A duodenal ulcer is a type of peptic ulcer that develops in the first part of the small intestine (duodenum).
- Esophageal ulcer: An esophageal ulcer develops in the lower part of the esophagus.
A peptic ulcer is among the most common forms of stomach disease. (1) About 4 million Americans suffer from this condition every year.
Causes of Stomach Ulcer
Symptoms of Stomach Ulcer
Perhaps the most common symptom of this condition is a burning sensation or pain in the area between the chest and the belly button. Depending on the severity of the ulcer, the pain may last for a few minutes to several hours.
Other symptoms of stomach ulcers include:
Treating Stomach Ulcers Naturally
Here are 10 home remedies for stomach ulcers.
1. Drink fresh cabbage juice
Cabbage is a great remedy for the treatment of ulcers in the stomach.
Being a lactic acid food, cabbage helps in producing an amino acid that stimulates blood flow to the stomach lining. This aids in the healing process. Plus, cabbage is a good source of vitamin C, which is beneficial for fighting an H. pylori infection.
A 1949 study published in the Western Journal of Medicine found that rapid healing of peptic ulcers was observed radiologically and gastroscopically in 13 patients treated with fresh cabbage juice. This indicates that its anti-peptic ulcer dietary factor may play an important role in the genesis of peptic ulcers. (6)
A 2014 study published in Medicinal Chemistry Research reports that aqueous cabbage plant extract increased the pH value of gastric juice and as such could be used for healing an acute gastric ulcer. (7)
How to use:
- Cut half of a head of cabbage into chunks.
- Put the pieces into a blender along with some water.
- Blend until you get a juice-like consistency.
- Drink this fresh juice before each meal.
- Repeat daily for a few weeks.
Note: Make sure you use fresh juice each time.
2. Soothe the stomach with bananas
Bananas can help heal a stomach ulcer by promoting cellular proliferation in the stomach. In addition to this, there are certain antibacterial compounds in bananas that inhibit the growth of ulcer-causing H. pylori. Bananas also help reduce inflammation and strengthen the stomach lining.
A 1986 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology suggests that banana powder treatment not only strengthens mucosal resistance against ulcerogens but also promotes healing by inducing cellular proliferation. (8)
A 2001 study published in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology suggests that the antioxidant activity of bananas may be involved in its ulcer-protective activity. (9)
In a 2013 study published in Pharmacognosy Research, researchers suggest that the anti-ulcer effect of banana may be due to its antisecretory and cytoprotective activity. The healing of the ulcer base might be connected to the basic fibroblast growth factors responsible for epithelial regeneration in the case of acid-induced ulcers. (10)
Both ripe and unripe bananas are very effective in treating a stomach ulcer.
- Simply eat at least 3 ripe bananas a day.
- Alternatively, peel 2 or 3 bananas and cut them into thin slices. Put the banana slices in the sun until they dry. Now, grind the dry pieces into a fine powder. Mix together 2 tablespoons of this powder and 1 tablespoon of honey. Take this mixture 3 times a day for 1 week.
3. Eat garlic cloves
Another effective remedy for ulcers is garlic.
Garlic is rich in sulfur compounds that are responsible for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial effects. All these properties help keep the level of the ulcer-causing bacteria (H. pylori) in check.
A 2002 study published in Biotechnology Progress highlights the optimization of garlic extraction for the inhibition of the in vitro growth of H. pylori to help fight or prevent peptic ulcers and other pathologies associated with H. pylori infections, such as gastric cancer. (11)
A 2016 study that can be found in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine reports that raw garlic offers antibacterial effects against H. pylori residing in the stomach and may be prescribed along with routine drugs for the treatment of a gastric H. pylori infection. (12)
- Eat 2 to 3 crushed garlic cloves followed by a glass of water daily on an empty stomach.
- You can opt to take garlic supplements after consulting your doctor.
4. Ulcer-Protective fenugreek
Fenugreek is another popular remedy for those suffering from an ulcer. Being rich in mucilaginous compounds, fenugreek protects the stomach’s lining by coating it as mucus does, thereby helping the healing process.
A 2002 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reports that the aqueous extract and a gel fraction isolated from fenugreek seeds showed significant ulcer-protective effects. The cytoprotective effect of the seeds seemed to be not only due to the antisecretory action but also because of the effects on mucosal glycoprotein. (13)
- Boil 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in about 2 cups of water. Strain it, add a little honey, and drink the mixture twice daily.
- Another option is to mix 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seed powder in milk and drink it twice daily.
5. Drink apple cider vinegar with water
Being a probiotic liquid, apple cider vinegar is naturally rich in live bacteria and yeast that offer several benefits for digestive health. It helps restore the pH of the stomach, which in turn help treat the ulcer and relieve the pain.
A 2016 study published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine highlights the possible use of probiotics in H. pylori eradication, one of the main causes of ulcers. (14)
How to use:
- Mix 2 teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar into a glass of warm water.
- Add some honey and mix it well.
- Drink the mixture immediately.
- Do this twice daily.
6. Fight the infection with a little cayenne pepper
Capsaicin in cayenne pepper can help alleviate uneasiness and treat a stomach ulcer naturally. Capsaicin soothes the mucosal lining of the stomach and increases the release of alkali, which helps ease the discomfort and aid in the treatment of ulcers.
A 1997 study published in FEMS Microbiology Letters, found that capsaicin supplementation or consumption inhibited the growth of H. pylori. (15)
According to a review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in 2006, the compound capsaicin present in cayenne pepper inhibits the secretion of stomach acids, boosts the production of alkali, and stimulates mucus secretions and gastric mucosal blood flow, thereby preventing and healing ulcers. (16)
- Mix a ⅛ teaspoon of cayenne pepper into 1 glass of warm water. Drink the solution twice a day for 3 days. Gradually increase the amount of cayenne pepper up to ¼ teaspoon for the rest of the week.
- Alternatively, take cayenne capsules that are available at health food stores. Consult your doctor for the right dosage.
7. Try licorice root
The roots of the licorice plant are used to treat several ailments, including peptic ulcers.
Glycyrrhizin, the main constituent of licorice roots, turns into glycyrrhetinic acid when metabolized by the body. This acid is absorbed into the blood and is very effective against H. pylori infections, especially strains that cause peptic ulcers.
This herb also enhances the secretion of stomach mucus and prevents the formation of ulcers.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reports that deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) may help ulcers heal by inhibiting the growth of H. pylori. (17)
- Add 1 teaspoon of licorice powder to 1 cup of water. Bring it to a boil, and then let it simmer for 5 minutes. Strain it, allow the tea to cool a bit, and then add a little honey. Drink this tea 2 or 3 times daily.
- Alternatively, you can chew and then swallow deglycyrrhizinated licorice tablets. Consult your doctor for the correct dosage.
Note: Licorice herb may not be suitable for people with high blood pressure because of its glycyrrhizin content.
8. Soothing honey
Raw honey has potent healing properties that can be of great help in the treatment of stomach ulcers. An enzyme called glucose oxidase found in honey produces hydrogen peroxide, which in turn kills harmful ulcer-causing bacteria.
Honey also soothes and reduces the inflammation of the stomach lining.
In 2006, an in vitro study published in the Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal found that honey is effective against H. pylori and inhibits the growth of the bacteria. (18)
Again, a 2013 study published in the Iran Journal of Basic Medical Sciences reports that the oral administration of honey can treat and protect against gastrointestinal infections, such as gastritis, duodenitis, and gastric ulceration caused by bacteria. (19)
Another study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity in 2016 highlights the gastroprotective effects of manuka honey against ethanol-induced gastric ulcers in rats. (20)
- Consume 2 tablespoons of raw honey daily, early in the morning, on an empty stomach.
- You may also add 1 tablespoon of honey and a pinch of cinnamon to a glass of warm water and drink it twice daily.
9. Take coconut water/milk/oil
Coconut works well for people suffering from stomach ulcers because of its antibacterial qualities. It kills the bacteria that cause ulcers. Also, coconut water and coconut milk offer anti-ulcer properties.
According to a study published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal & Digestive System in 2017, the ethanolic extract present in coconut offers a reliable and affordable adjunctive therapy for routine usage in people who take aspirin as well as for gastric ulcers induced by aspirin.
A study that can be found in the Archives of Medical Science (2018) states that virgin coconut oil has a potential connection to antioxidant properties in controlling the regulation of prostaglandin synthesis and protecting against reactive oxygen species damage. It considerably inhibited the ulceration caused by various inducers. (21)
- Drink a few cups of fresh tender coconut water or coconut milk every day. Also, eat the kernel of the tender coconut. Follow this treatment for at least a week for desired results.
- Alternatively, take a tablespoon of coconut oil in the morning and another at night for about one week. Coconut oil can be easily digested since it is mainly composed of medium-chain fatty acids.
10. Manage stress
To deal with ulcers, it is important to manage your stress level. Stress is one of the risk factors for ulcers and can aggravate the symptoms and delay the healing process. Stress weakens the immune system and worsens digestion, making you more susceptible to the bacteria or microbes that cause ulcers.
A 2015 study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology reports that psychological stress increased the incidence of peptic ulcers, in part by influencing health risk behaviors. Stress had a similar impact on ulcers associated with H. pylori infection and those unrelated to either H. pylori or use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. (22)
A 2016 study published in BMC Gastroenterology reports that the highest level of perceived everyday life stress, raised the risk of either receiving triple treatment or being diagnosed with a peptic ulcer during the following 33 months, more than twice that of the lowest level of perceived stress. (23)
To help better manage stress, try exercising, meditating or deep breathing, getting good sleep, and using relaxing essential oils for anxiety.
Preventing Stomach Ulcer
Here are a few tips that can help you prevent stomach ulcers:
- Try to avoid food items that may irritate your stomach.
- Avoid smoking.
- Practice moderation when it comes to alcohol consumption.
- Control your stress level.
- Take NSAIDs with food.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Maintain hygiene to avoid infections.
When to See a Doctor
People of any age or gender can get stomach ulcers. It must be treated immediately. If left untreated, stomach ulcers may result in bleeding or even a hole in the stomach or bowel.
Conventional ulcer treatment typically relies on medications that can cause side effects, such as headaches and diarrhea. However, in some cases, you just cannot avoid conventional medications. Make sure to discuss with your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Consult your doctor if the symptoms persist or become severe. If you experience symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, weakness, severe back pain, blood in vomit, and bloody or black stools, seek immediate medical attention.
Fortunately, there are several easy-to-follow natural remedies for the treatment of mild cases of stomach ulcers. These remedies usually focus on strengthening and protecting the stomach lining against acids. You may also consult your doctor before using these home remedies to ensure long-term relief.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. Paul Feuerstadt, MD (Gastroenterologist)
Usually, peptic ulcers do not heal on their own since there usually is an underlying cause for the ulcer to form in the first place. The two most common causes of peptic ulcers include a bacterium called H. pylori and NSAIDs. If the underlying cause is not identified and treated, it is unlikely that the ulcer will go away.
The standard tool used for detecting peptic ulcers is an upper endoscopy. This is a procedure where a flexible camera is passed through the esophagus into the stomach and first portion of the small bowel for a visual assessment.
If an ulcer is found, a biopsy can be performed to assess the inflammatory cells and help your healthcare provider determine the cause of the ulceration. If there is active bleeding, during an endoscopy, the provider can perform certain maneuvers to stop the bleeding.
Ulcers usually heal within 6–8 weeks of initiation of the treatment. It is standard practice to perform another endoscopy thereafter to confirm that the ulcer has healed completely.
If it does not respond to the appropriate therapy, the clinician needs to consider the underlying cause of the ulcer and treat that. Moreover, the possibility of the ulcer being malignant must also be taken into account.
There are two main life-threatening complications associated with an untreated case of gastric ulcer, namely bleeding and perforation.
An ulcer can bleed briskly, in which case an endoscopy needs to be performed in an attempt to control the bleeding. In the case of perforation, or if a hole forms in the bowel wall due to the depth of an ulcer, the patient will require an emergency surgery to correct this.
There are no specific dietary considerations for someone suffering from stomach ulcers per se. In cases of severe and large ulcers, it is recommended to be on a mechanical soft or liquid diet for a day or two prior to slowly advancing the diet as tolerated.
Ulcers can sometimes be cancerous themselves. The bacterium that is associated with ulcer formation, H. pylori, is also associated with malignancy or cancer. The type of cancer associated with H. pylori is a lymphoma, which does not commonly present with ulceration.
However, treatment and eradication of H. pylori will inadvertently decrease the likelihood of a cancerous ulcer forming in the long term.
A completely healed ulcer can certainly make a comeback if the underlying cause of ulceration is not addressed.
Specifically, if a patient forms an ulcer as a result of NSAIDs, the use of NSAIDs should be discontinued at once. Instead, the patient should be placed on an acid suppressive medication (e.g., histamine blocker or proton-pump inhibitor).
If the patient has an H. pylori-associated ulcer, this will require antimicrobial treatment. To determine whether the treatment has successfully eradicated the bacteria, a breath test is usually conducted.
Ulcers are commonly seen in clinical practice, and it is most important that an ulcer is diagnosed endoscopically and appropriately treated with confirmation of healing through a follow up endoscopy. Most importantly, the underlying cause of the ulcer must be addressed to minimize the risk of recurrence.
Treatment with acid suppressive medications are the mainstay of ulcer treatment and help prevent complications as well. When diagnosed and managed appropriately, a gastric ulcer can be effectively treated with medical therapy.
- Do not skip meals.
- Instead of two or three large meals, have five small meals a day.
- Do not eat spicy food, it can make the symptoms worse.
- If your ulcer causes nausea and vomiting, prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water.
- Maintain a healthy weight and watch out for nutritional deficiencies.
- Quit excessive alcohol use and stop smoking, as these habits may irritate the gut lining.