Nourish the Gut to Defend Against Ulcers
I will never forget two physicians chatting within ear range at a conference I attended: “Do you remember when we used to think that ulcers were caused by stress?” Back then, doctors were stunned to discover that the bacteria H. pylori, present in the stomach of 90% of humans, was responsible for the inflammation that characterizes an ulcer.
This concept went on to win a Nobel Prize for the good doctor who, in frustration that he was not deemed credible, ate high amounts of H. pylori and thus gave himself an ulcer.
As much as this bacteria is indeed associated with ulcers, there are some bothersome problems with this hypothesis:
- Why is it that only 4% of people get ulcers if 90% of us have H. pylori the intestines?
- Why do we pick on ONE organism when the gut is teeming with a microbiome comprised of thousands of species? Would it not make more sense to think of an overall imbalance therein which predisposes H. pylori to become a source of inflammation?
- By restoring the ability of the gut mucosa, the lining of the stomach, to “molt” as God intended, that is, every thirty six hours, we could decrease the chances of this bacteria invading the deeper layers of said lining, thus avoiding the ulcer. In other words, “It is not the bug but the terrain.”
But, the main problem with going after H. pylori with antibiotics instead of trying to optimize antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions of the wall of the stomach is an imbalance of the gut microbiome. In other words, the antibiotics used against the bacteria are disrupting the gut ecosystem, which, time and time again, is being shown to be critical to maintain health.
Antibiotic therapy for H. pylori has long been associated with esophageal cancer. Apparently the H. pylori has a protective effect in the esophagus. And now, another problem is being associated with the eradication of these ubiquitous bacteria: obesity.
Our gut flora, among many other functions, determines how we manage the food we eat. You and I could eat the same amount of calories, but, if I am colonized with bacteria that do not process food effectively, I may become obese despite ingesting the same amount of calories. So much for “calories in equals calories out.”
The Solution: Optimize Your Gut Flora with Nutrition
To heal the gut flora and protect against ulcers, I advise my patients to eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, avoid antibiotics and acid-blocking drugs when possible and take lots of probiotics. When you stop feeding bad bacteria with sugars and processed foods, good bacteria can take over and thrive. By restoring the gut flora, you also improve how the body handles sugar, which is especially important for diabetics.
So before you turn to antibiotics, heal the gut flora first.