Stomach ulcers, also known as gastric ulcers, are open sores within the lining of the stomach. They are a type of peptic ulcer, meaning having to do with acid. Because of the amount of acid present in the stomach and the damage that can occur, they are often extremely painful. The most common cause of stomach ulcers is the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori.
Stomach ulcers are treated with antibiotics and medications to reduce and block stomach acid. In addition to this well-proven treatment plan, research has shown that there are also some natural home remedies that may be useful in managing a stomach ulcer and helping it heal. Talk with your doctor about adding these foods to your diet.
Research suggests that flavonoids, also known as bioflavonoids, may be an effective additional treatment for stomach ulcers. Flavonoids are compounds that occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Foods and drinks rich in flavonoids include:
- red grapes
- teas, especially green tea
These foods may also help the body fight against the H. pylori bacteria. Flavonoids are referred to as “gastroprotective,” which means they defend the lining of the stomach and could allow ulcers to heal. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, there are no side effects of consuming flavonoids in the amount found in a typical diet, but higher amounts of flavonoids may interfere with blood clotting. You can get flavonoids in your diet or take them as supplements.
Don’t let that long first word give you a stomach ache. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice is just plain old licorice with the sweet flavor extracted. One study showed that deglycyrrhizinated licorice might help ulcers heal by inhibiting the growth of H. pylori.
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice is available as a supplement. You can’t get this effect from eating licorice candy, though. Too much licorice candy can be bad for some people. Consuming more than 2 ounces daily for more than two weeks can make existing heart problems or high blood pressure worse.
Probiotics are the living bacteria and yeast that provide healthy and important microorganisms to your digestive tract. They are present in many common foods, particularly fermented foods. These include:
You can also take probiotics in supplement form. Studies have shown that probiotics may be helpful in wiping out H. pylori and increasing recovery rate for people with ulcers when added to the traditional regimen of antibiotics.
Honey is far from simply sweet. Depending on the plant it’s derived from, honey can contain up to 200 elements, including polyphenols and other antioxidants. Honey is a powerful antibacterial and has been shown to inhibit H. pylori growth. As long as you have normal blood sugar levels, you can enjoy honey as you would any sweetener, with the bonus of perhaps soothing your ulcers.
Garlic extract has been shown to inhibit H. pylori growth in lab, animal, and human trials. If you don’t like the taste (and lingering aftertaste) of garlic, you can take garlic extract in supplemental form. Garlic acts as a blood thinner, so ask your doctor before taking it if you use warfarin (Coumadin), other prescription blood thinners, or aspirin.
Cranberry has been shown in some studies to help decrease urinary tract infections by preventing bacteria from settling on the walls of the bladder. Cranberry and cranberry extract also may help fight H. pylori. You can drink cranberry juice, eat cranberries, or take cranberry supplements.
No specific amount of consumption is associated with relief. Too much cranberry in any form may cause stomach and intestinal discomfort due to its high sugar content, so start with small amounts and increase gradually. Many commercial cranberry juices are heavily sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, which can also add empty calories. Avoid those juices by buying juice sweetened only by other juices.
Mastic is the sap of a tree grown in the Mediterranean. Studies of the effectiveness of mastic on H. pylori infection are mixed, but at least one small study shows that chewing mastic gum may help fight H. pylori, getting rid of the bacteria in about 3 out of 10 people who used it. However, when compared to the traditional combination of antibiotics and acid-blocking medications, the medications were significantly more effective than the gum. The traditional treatment got rid of the bacteria in more than 75 percent of the people studied. In this study, the mastic gum was not associated with any side effects. You can chew the gum or swallow mastic in supplement form.
Fruits, veggies, and grains
A diet centered on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is not just good for your overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic, a vitamin-rich diet can help your body heal your ulcer. Foods containing the antioxidant polyphenols may protect you from ulcers and help ulcers heal. Polyphenol-rich foods and seasonings include:
- dried rosemary
- Mexican oregano
- dark chocolate
- blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, elderberries, and blackberries
- black olives
Foods to avoid
Some people with ulcers also have acid reflux disease. Certain foods, in certain people, can affect the lower part of the esophagus, called the LES (lower esophageal sphincter), allowing acid and stomach contents to back up into the esophagus. This can cause injury to the esophagus, as well as heartburn, indigestion and other discomfort.
To reduce acid reflux pain, you may want to limit:
- coffee, and other caffeinated beverages
- carbonated beverages
- chilies and hot peppers
- processed foods
- high-salt diet
- deep-fried foods
- acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes
Overeating and eating within two to three hours of going to bed may also worsen the symptoms of acid reflux. But not every food acts the same is every person, so keeping track of which foods seem to make acid reflux symptoms worse can be helpful.
Having more than one drink a day for women and more than two for men is considered excessive drinking. If a couple of drinks after work is how you unwind, you might want to consider a healthier alternative. Regular alcohol use cause significant stomach inflammation. Also, alcohol is another substance that can relax the lower part of the esophagus, increasing your risk for acid reflux.
Find a doctor
Looking for doctors with the most experience treating ulcers? Use the doctor search tool below, powered by our partner Amino. You can find the most experienced doctors, filtered by your insurance, location, and other preferences. Amino can also help book your appointment for free.
It can take some time, teamwork, and determination to find the right treatment for your ulcers, but please keep in mind that ulcers can be cured. In addition to a treatment plan agreed upon by you and your doctor, you can incorporate natural approaches with healthful foods that may give you some relief and accelerate healing. Adding plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet and reducing alcohol intake will almost certainly get you on the road to health.