Thursday, June 19, 2008

Peptic Ulcers

"Peptic ulcer" is just a general term to describe a "hole", or mucosal erosion in the mucous membranes that line parts of your digestive tract. A common symptom is pain below the ribcage. They appear when the balance between the stomach's mucous lining and the production of acid or pepsin is upset. This may result from excess stress, poor diet, smoking, alcohol, or drugs (including aspirin, NSAIDs & cortico-steroids).

A gastric, or stomach ulcer often causes excessive saliva production and a tender upper abdomen. Eating may induce pain. It may also cause nausea and feelings of general crappiness.

A duodenal, or duodenum ulcer can cause extreme pain which usually appears mid-morning. The pain is usually relieved by eating but reappears an hour or more after a meal.

There are other types of ulcers but those are the two I'm familiar with.

If you've ever heard of H. pylori and were dying to know what that "H" stands for, it's "Heliobacter" (yawn). It's present in up to 80% of gastric ulcers and up to 100%of duodenal ulcers. I'm loathe to say it but sometimes antibiotics will straighten things out. Antibiotics can be great things, of course (as in the case of the treatment of my chicken-egg-sized lymph node which was caused by a nasty infection), but I only turn to them as a last resort.

Now. What to do if you suspect or know you have an ulcer? Well, since I'm not a doctor I can't make you a prescription, but I can pass on some useful information I've picked up over the years in my studies.

Try to rest. No one knows how difficult this can be more than me. I am mother to a beautiful and socially active teenage daughter and an almost-three-year-old, intelligent female Tasmanian Devil. This equals little to no sleep right now.

Try to eat lighter, healthier (whole foods) meals. This should go without saying.

Another doozy: Try to reduce some of the stress in your life. Even if you have currently unresolvable situations, take up some Restorative Yoga (it's very easy and relaxing) or learn to meditate, even if its just for a few minutes every day.

You may have heard that milk is good for ulcers, but research shows that cow's milk actually increases stomach acidity, so if it hasn't worked for you, now you know why.

Now, the fun part! Herbs indicated for ulcers include alfalfa, burdock, calendula, chamomile, chickweed, fenugreek, flax seeds, garlic, ginger, licorice, marshmallow, nettle, plantain, slippery elm (endangered!), and yellow dock. I've had luck with clients using simple daily stinging nettle infusion.

Note: Excessive use of ginger can interact with anticoagulants, cardiac meds, or antidiabetic prescriptions.

Good luck!

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