Natural therapies are less expensive, more
effective, and much safer
Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, said,
"Let your food be your medicine, and let your medicine be your
food." It's amazing how far we've drifted from this sound
I remember reading the Sunday paper a few years ago
and noticing one of those "Ask the doctor" columns. The
question was, "Does cabbage offer any benefit in the treatment of
ulcers?" The doctor's answer was an emphatic no. He said that
in his opinion the promotion of folklore is quackery.
Unfortunately, many other medical professionals
still feel threatened that nature may provide an answer.
Instead of vilifying folklore, we should be trying to vindicate it.
The fact is cabbage juice has been well documented
in medical literature as having remarkable success in treating
ulcers. Dr. Garnett Cheney from Stanford University's School
of Medicine and other researchers performed several studies using
fresh cabbage juice. The majority of patients experienced
complete healing in as little as seven days. Cabbage juice
increases the amount of protective substances that line the
intestine. A breakdown in the integrity of this lining is what
causes most ulcers.
Another disturbing part of the doctor's response was
his recommendation of the drugs Tagamet and Zantac, which work by
blocking the natural production of stomach acid. Each year,
these two drugs fight it out to see which is going to be the most
widely prescribed drug in the U.S.; in 1989 it was Zantac, and
in 1990 and 1991 it was Tagamet. The two drugs have combined
sales of over $4 billion worldwide.
The companies that produce Tagamet and Zantac
consider them "perfect drugs" because they are expensive (a full
therapeutic dose usually costs about $150 per month), and they have
the highest relapse rate (92 percent) of any anti-ulcer treatment.
The result? A person becomes dependent on a very expensive
drug, because without it, the ulcer may come back.
Are these really perfect drugs? For most
people the answer is definitely no. Tagamet and Zantac are
associated with a number of side effects, including digestive
disturbances, nutritional imbalances, liver dysfunction, disruption
of bone metabolism, and breast development in men.
The other medical treatment for ulcers is antacids;
however, many popular antacids also have serious side effects.
The calcium carbonate antacids (Tums, Alka-2, etc.) actually produce
a "rebound" effect on gastric acid secretion and may cause kidney
stones. The sodium bicarbonate antacids (Rolaids,
Alka-Seltzer, BromoSeltzer, etc.) tend to cause systemic alkalosis
and interfere with heart and kidney function. The type of
antacids used most often in the treatment of ulcers are
aluminum-magnesium compounds (Maalox, Mylanta, Di-Gel, etc.), which
may cause calcium and phosphorus depletion as well as possible
aluminum toxicity or the accumulation of aluminum in the brain.
A Natural Approach to Ulcers
Obviously, a more rational and effective approach is
necessary. The natural approach to healing ulcers is to first
identify and then eliminate or reduce all factors that can
contribute to their development: food allergies, a low-fiber
diet, cigarette smoking, stress, and drugs such as aspirin and other
nonsteroidal analgesics. Once these factors have been
controlled or eliminated, the focus is directed at healing the
ulcers and promoting tissue resistance. This includes drinking
cabbage juice, eating a healthful diet high in fiber and low in
allergenic foods, and incorporating an effective stress reduction
The natural approach may also involve herbs,
especially a unique licorice extract known as deglycyrrhizinated
licorice. Like cabbage, deglycyrrhizinated licorice helps
re-establish a healthy intestinal lining. All of these
important approaches are discussed in this article.
Eliminate food allergies. Strange as it may seem,
clinical and experimental evidence points to food allergy as a
primary cause of ulcers. The link between allergy and ulcers
has been investigated in several studies. In one study, 98
percent of patients with radiographic evidence of ulcers had
coexisting lower and upper respiratory tract allergic disease.
In another, 25 of 43 allergic children had X-ray-diagnosed ulcers.
A diet that eliminates food allergies has been used with great
success in treating and preventing recurrent ulcers.
Food allergy is also consistent with the high recurrence rate of
ulcers. If food allergy is the cause, the ulcers will
continue to recur until the offending food or foods are eliminated
from the diet. Ironically, many people with ulcers soothe
themselves by drinking a lot of milk, a highly allergenic food.
(See the Allergies
section of the NaturoDoc Library for information on how to control
or even eliminate allergies.)
Increase fiber intake. A high-fiber diet is
associated with a reduced rate of duodenal ulcers. The
therapeutic use of a high-fiber diet in patients with recently
healed duodenal ulcers can reduce the recurrence rate by half.
This is probably a result of fiber's ability to promote a healthy
protective layer of mucin in the stomach and intestines.
Stop smoking. Another factor strongly linked to
ulcers is smoking. Increased frequency of ulcers, decreased
response to therapy, and an increased mortality due to ulcers are
all related to smoking.
Avoid aspirin. Aspirin is a gastric irritant that
damages the lining of the stomach and predisposes individuals to
ulcer development when taken regularly. The combination of
aspirin and smoking is particularly harmful to the ulcer patient.
Reduce stress and emotional factors. Many
people consider stress an important factor in ulcer development.
However, this belief is based on uncontrolled observations.
In medical literature, the role of stress is controversial.
Men and women with ulcers seem to have distinctly different
psychological profiles. In addition, several studies show
the number of stressful, life events is not significantly
different between ulcer patients and ulcer-free controls.
This data suggests the individual's response to stress, rather
than the amount of stress, is the significant factor.
Emphasize specific nutrients. Vitamins A and E
have been shown to inhibit the development of stress ulcers in
animals and are recognized as important factors in maintaining the
integrity of the digestive tract lining. According to
clinical studies in humans, zinc also has a protective effect
A Special Licorice Extract
Glycyrrhizinic acid, a constituent of licorice, was
the first compound proven to promote healing of gastric and duodenal
ulcers in a clinical setting. However, due to the known side
effects of glycyrrhizinic acid (it can raise blood pressure in
susceptible individuals), a procedure was developed to remove it
from the plant, thereby creating deglycyrrhizinated licorice.
The result is a beneficial compound with no known side effects.
Instead of blocking stomach acid, deglycyrrhizinated
licorice stimulates the body's natural defense mechanisms that
protect against ulcer formation. This includes increasing the
quantity and quality of mucosal cells in the protective lining of
the gut; increasing the life span of surface intestinal cells;
and enhancing the blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract lining.
Numerous studies indicate deglycyrrhizinated
licorice is effective only when chewed and mixed with saliva.
It is generally ineffective in capsule form.
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice may promote the release of salivary
compounds such as urogastrone or epithelial cell growth factors
which stimulate the growth and regeneration of stomach and
The recommended daily dosage for deglycyrrhizinated
licorice is two to four 380 mg. tablets -- chewed thoroughly --
between meals or 20 minutes before eating. This dosage should
continue 8 to 16 weeks for optimum benefit.
Other herbs that may help soothe intestinal distress
include American cranesbill (Geranium maculatum), marshmallow
(Althaea officinalis), slippery elm (Ulmus fulva), okra (Hibiscus
esculentus), echinacea or purple coneflower (Echinacea
angustifolia), and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). Many of
these plants have a high content of mucilage, which is very soothing
to the mucous membranes, including those lining the gastrointestinal
Note: Patients with symptoms of an ulcer
need competent medical care. Ulcers are usually associated
with upper abdominal pain 45 to 60 minutes after meals or during the
night. The pain is typically described as gnawing, burning,
aching or cramp-like, and is relieved by food, antacids, or
vomiting. Ulcer complications such as hemorrhage, perforation,
and obstruction are medical emergencies that require immediate
hospitalization and care. Patients with ulcers should be
monitored by a physician even when following the natural approaches
Therapy that's less expensive, more effective, and safer than
Current medical treatment of ulcers is far from
ideal. The natural approach is safer, less expensive, and just
as effective as traditional drugs. The first step is to
identify and reduce or eliminate all factors implicated in the
development of ulcers. The next step is to heal the ulcers and
promote tissue resistance by reducing stress and by eating a diet
high in fiber and low in allergenic foods. It's also wise to
drink fresh cabbage juice (up to one liter daily), use
deglycyrrhizinated licorice preparations, and supplement the diet
with nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin E, and zinc.
Michael T. Murray, ND, is a practicing physician
in Bellevue, Washington, a respected author, and a leading
researcher in the field of natural medicine.
Related products available
in the NaturoDoc Store: