|Ulcers: Is Mastic Gum the Breakthrough
in Ulcer Treatment?
million people a year in Britain are affected by ulcers. Although they
become more common with age, they are, according to the Digestive Disorders
Foundation, becoming increasingly prevalent among younger people.
Until recently, it was generally
thought that ulcers were caused by stress, spicy food and/or excess
stomach acid. While this may be somewhat true, it is now thought that
up to 90 per cent of peptic ulcers result from a stomach infection caused
by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
Thus, the new conventional treatment strategy for gastric ulcers
is now antibiotic therapy rather than anti-acids, or both together.
It has been found that at least 90% of those with duodenal ulcers,
70% with gastric ulcers, and 50% of people over the age of 50 test positive
for the presence of H.pylori. Indeed, about 30% of all people in the
UK are probably infected with the bacteria. However, many of those who
test positive do not develop ulcers and remain symptom-free. An evaluation
of the presence of the bacteria can be performed using blood, saliva,
stool or a breath test.
This bacterium lives in the stomach of almost half of the world's
population. It gets into the stomach and stays there until eradicated.
The World Health Organisation now considers this bacterium a carcinogen
Why H. pylori does not cause ulcers in every infected person is not
known. Most likely, infection depends on characteristics of the infected
person, the type of H. pylori, and other factors yet to be discovered.
Researchers are not certain how people contract H. pylori, but they
think it may be through food or water. It has also been found in some
infected people’s saliva, so mouth-to-mouth contact, such as kissing,
may spread the bacteria. Faecal to oral route and houseflies landing
on food are also possible causes of infection.
The formation of ulcers occur when the lining of the stomach and
small intestine are thinned or damaged. The intestinal lining has a
protective coating of mucosa, which protects the stomach and duodenum
from becoming damaged by gastric acid. Unlike the H.pylori bacteria,
most pathogenic microorganisms cannot survive the acidic environment
of the stomach. However, the bacterium H. pylori first neutralises the
gastric pH in the immediate area, then "drills" into the unprotected
mucosal lining, causing gastritis, which in turn can lead to the formation
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of a peptic ulcer include chronic burning or gnawing
stomach pain that usually begins forty-five to sixty minutes after eating
or at night, and that is relieved by eating, taking antacids, vomiting,
or drinking a large glass of water. The pain may range from mild to
severe. It may cause the sufferer to awaken in the middle of the night.
Other symptoms include excess belching, loss of appetite, nausea, lower
back pain and headaches.
Complications such as bleeding from the ulcer itself can be very
dangerous. If symptoms include vomiting blood, blood in the faeces or
black faeces, seek emergency medical assistance.
Sometimes the ulcer can perforate the stomach, causing an actual
hole in the stomach wall that allows bacteria from the bowel to enter
it. This can cause peritonitis – which unless effectively treated is
rapidly fatal. Symptoms of a perforated ulcer include sudden severe
abdominal pain followed by pain spreading to the back. Always consult
your medical practitioner if in doubt.
It is often necessary to perform tests to distinguish between gastric
ulcers, duodenal ulcers and stomach cancer.
In a barium test, a salt that is insoluble in water and appears opaque
on the X-rays, is swallowed. The X-ray shows up the salt as it travels
through the digestive system, revealing a clear outline of the stomach
If this suggests an ulcer, an endoscopy (where a fibre-optic cable
is passed through the mouth and into the stomach) and biopsy are usually
performed to make certain of the diagnosis.
What are the treatments?
Conventional treatments are usually antibiotics and/or antacids.
Mastic Gum: A Breakthrough
Mastic gum, a resin produced by the Pistacia lentiscus tree (an evergreen
shrub from the pistachio tree family), has been used for a variety of
gastric ailments in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries for at
least 3,000 years. In ancient times, mastic gum was highly revered for
its medicinal properties in the relief of symptoms of dyspepsia and
other intestinal disorders. The benefits of this naturally-occurring
resin is now being rediscovered for its antimicrobial effects.
Studies show Mastic Gum kills
Several studies have already been published on mastic gum with regard
to its positive effects on the gastrointestinal environment, thus gaining
respect among the scientific and medical community. Perhaps the most
exciting breakthrough to date is that of a recent study showing mastic
gum’s effectiveness against at least seven different strains of Helicobacter
Other studies show that mastic gum may provide symptomatic relief
of ulcers, reduce the intensity of gastric mucosal damage caused by
anti-ulcer drugs and aspirin, and possessed antacid and cytoprotective
qualities. In several studies using mastic gum on patients with ulcers,
the original site of the ulcer was completely replaced by healthy epithelial
Other benefits of Mastic Gum
In Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries
mastic gum has been used as a food and confectionary additive for a
long time. It has been used to prevent dental carries, heal mouth ulcers
and other gum problems, control diabetes, reduce cholesterol levels
and treat skin ulcers. In some parts of Africa, Mastic has been used
as an aphrodisiac to boost sexual performance.
After centuries of extensive use in Mediterranean
and Middle Eastern countries, both as a dietary supplement and herbal
remedy, no undesirable effects have ever been attributed to mastic.
The medical trials also showed mastic to have no side effects.
Leo Galland MD of New York City is well
known for his expertise with chronic gastric disorders, intestinal permeability
("leaky gut syndrome"), ulcers, and dyspepsia. This work has led him
to use mastic gum with his patients, especially when H. pylori is present.
Says Dr Galland on mastic gum, "I am treating patients with dyspepsia
and gastritis who also have Helicobacter in the stool. I do not use
synthetic antibiotics, just mastic gum. In my experience, a dosage of
500mg to 1 gram twice a day for two weeks has produced a clearing of
symptoms associated with the elimination of the Helicobacter antigen
from the stool. Ninety percent experience a clearing of symptoms, and
80% experience an elimination of Helicobacter in the stool after only
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Another helpful nutritional supplement which can be used in conjunction
with Mastic gum is
Enteroplex. Click on the
link for full details.
Dietary suggestions can be found in
Please note this article does not replace the
advice and treatment of your medical practitioner.