Six 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 (cancer producing).
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 micro-organisms 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 of ulcers.
What are the symptoms of peptic Ulcers?
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 and duodenum.
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 for Ulcers?
Conventional treatments are usually antibiotics and/or antacids.
Mastic Gum: A Breakthrough alternative Ulcer treatment
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 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 H. Pylori
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 pylori.
In other studies, mastic gum provided symptomatic relief of ulcers, reduced 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 cells.
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.
Clinical experience of Mastic Gum
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 two weeks.
Please note this article does not replace the advice and treatment of your medical practitioner.
Mastic Gum is Cell Protective
Curcuminoids exhibit various cell-protective actions including prevention of free radical damage and initiating the destruction and inhibiting the replication of damaged cells. In fact, studies have highlighted the ability of curcuminoids to inhibit chemically-induced cell damage by an average of 75%.
Turmeric has also been used since ancient times for digestive problems such as gastritis and hyperacidity, a practice that is backed up by reports that it helps to increase mucous production and protects the stomach lining. Curcuminoids also increase bile flow into the intestines, thus improving the breakdown of dietary fat.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified Healthcare Professional.