Ulcers are erosions of the stomach wall lining which begin as small areas of inflammation (gastritis). If left untreated, they can lead to the risk of rupture which is a surgical/ medical emergency.
What are the risk factors?
In days gone by, Stress used to be considered the primary cause of ulcers, however, recent scientific evidence suggests that a bug known as Helicobacter pylori is associated with ulcers. It is also possible that both high and low Hydrochloric acid (HCl) secretion may contribute to ulcers depending on the area affected.
The important thing to know is what your individual triggers for developing an ulcer were/ are.
So I shouldn’t use HCl supplements?
Not without careful diagnosis and supervision, if at all.
What about particular foods?
In the case of gastritis and ulcers, any food that an individual is intolerant to may be the source of inflammation resulting in such ulceration. So it is crucial to perform a Food Elimination Regime in order to determine which food(s) may be acting as a trigger for your ulcer.
It is interesting to note that in medical school we were taught that craving milk may mean an underlying duodenal ulcer. Now the integrated practitioner is only too aware that we often crave what we are intolerant to.
In the case of Helicobacter pylori infection, Fresh herbs such as marjoram, coriander, curcumin, lemongrass and oregano along with olive, coconut and flaxseed oil may assist secondary to their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities.
What should you do?
Helicobacter pylori infection can be diagnosed by a breath test or, less accurately, by blood test. It is also diagnosed by biopsy at the time of gastroscopy. A barium meal can also be helpful to diagnose an ulcer but not infection with Helicobacter.
Helicobacter is generally treated with "Triple therapy" which includes a combination of antibiotics with acid reducing proton-pump inhibitors. If this is necessary, probiotics should always follow the use of antibiotics.
Heliobacter pylori may also be treated with the use of Lactoferrin under the guidance of a practitioner. A mix of herbs previously outlined such as Olive Leaf extracts may also assist.
Regardless of your approach, a full Gastrointestinal Programme ( see Gastrointestinal Dysfunction)should be followed.
Could stress still contribute?
Most definately. Stress slows our digestion, possibly down regulating the secretion of HCl that creates a good environment for Heliobacter pylori to grow. So don’t ignore your stress management techniques, particularly if if you know you are prone to being stressed.