Natural Treatments for Ulcers
By Dr. Mao Shing Ni
THAT GNAWING PAIN IN THE STOMACH that sometimes gets better with food and other times gets worse may be from your stomach’s actually digesting itself! This is an ulcer, a condition that affects five million people in the United States today. When the cells protecting the stomach wall from digestive acids fail to work properly, the acids begin to burn away the stomach wall. Ulcers can occur in the stomach or just below the stomach in the part of the small intestine called the duodenum. The symptoms of ulcers vary depending on location but generally include abdominal pain, bloating, fullness, excessive salivation, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss. You can tell where the ulcer is located based on the pattern of pain - if the ulcer is in the duodenum, the pain gets better after eating but worse an hour later; if it’s in the stomach, the pain gets worse when eating. In severe cases there may be vomiting of blood or passing of a tar-like black stool, which is a result of bleeding from the duodenum.
A major cause of ulcers is bacterial infection. The bacteria Helicobacter pylori erode the stomach lining, reducing the protective mucous membrane and stimulating the production of excessive stomach acid. Prolonged use of aspirin and other nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs has also been linked with ulcers, as have smoking, alcohol use, and stress. Antibiotics and acid blocker medications are commonly prescribed for ulcers. With strict dietary and nutritional therapies, acupuncture and herbal preparations ulcers can also be resolved.
Chinese medicine recognizes that pathogens, diet, and stress play key roles in the development of digestive disorders. Ulcers in particular are viewed as a disharmony between the stomach and liver networks. I see many more conditions of gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) - a precursor condition - than ulcers. The treatment for both conditions focuses on harmonizing the stomach and liver systems, healing the lining of the digestive tract, supporting the functions of digestion, and easing pain and discomfort.
I once had a patient with stomach pain and other symptoms of an ulcer, including a black, tar-like stool. Her gastroenterologist had confirmed the diagnosis with an endoscopy. After three separate courses of antibiotics she was still experiencing pain and an occasional dark bowel movement, and her GI specialist referred her to me. I put her on a treatment program of acupuncture and herbal therapies, and I changed her diet and taught her stress reduction techniques. Within six weeks, her symptoms disappeared and have not returned. Here are some of my favorite remedies for ulcers. If you are experiencing severe, doubling-over pain that spreads across the entire abdomen, vomiting with blood, or black, tar-like stools for more than three days, you should consult your physician immediately.
DIET FOR ULCERS
The single most important thing you can do to help treat ulcers is to improve your diet. Eating in smaller amounts and more frequently, as well as eating a good breakfast, are essential. According to Chinese medicine, the energy of the stomach network is at it peak between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m., so don't skip breakfast because it robs the stomach of its vital energy source.
HOME REMEDIES FOR ULCERS
DAILY VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS FOR ULCERS
HERBAL THERAPY FOR ULCERS
Herbs can be found in health food or vitamin stores, online, and at the offices of Chinese medicine practitioners. Herbs should be used according to individual needs; consult with a licensed practitioner for a customized formulation. To learn more about the herbs listed here, go to www.askdrmao.com.
EXERCISE FOR ULCERS
Walking is the best exercise for moving the food along the digestive tract and improving digestion and absorption. The energetic meridians of the digestive organs run along the large muscles of the legs, so walking stimulates energy flow within the channels and promotes digestion. Take an easy 10-minute walk after each meal and massage your abdomen as you walk, making circles around your navel with your palms. This helps move your food through your digestive tract without prolonged accumulation.
A simple walking exercise called Merry-Go-Around Circle Walk is quite helpful for people who can’t exercise vigorously because of a health condition or other prohibiting circumstances.
SELF-ACUPRESSURE FOR ULCERS
ULCERS: WHAT TO AVOID
©2015 Dr. Mao Shing Ni
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