Stomach Ulcers – how to check for Helicopter pylori and treat it

Stomach AcheMost, but not all, stomach ulcers are caused, in part, by infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. First get your doctor to check if you have the bacterium. Conventionally ulcers are treated with a combination of two antibiotics, plus a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) drug, which stops you making stomach acid. But there are natural remedies that work.

PPI drugs should be for short-term use only, as the suppression of stomach acid is extremely bad for nutrient absorption and leads to all sorts of complications as a result, including increased risk of osteoporosis, brain shrinkage and infections.

There is plenty you can do nutritionally to prevent stomach ulcers and help them to heal, rather than simply relieving the symptoms.

Natural remedies that help treat this infection

Probiotics (beneficial bacteria) Acidophilus and Bifidus bacteria slow the growth of H. pylori in six weeks [1] and can even kill it. Probiotics can also significantly reduce side effects and improve the effectiveness of conventional treatment. I recommend taking a high-strength probiotic providing 10 billion CFUs daily a week before, and for three months after, antibiotic therapy. (Probiotics are graded by the number of colony forming units (CFUs) contained in them – it’s a fancy way of saying ‘live and healthy microbes’).

Oregano is one of the best natural agents against H. pylori, and it is thought to work by inhibiting the way H. pylori produces chemicals that neutralise acid in their vicinity, allowing them to survive, so it is effectively a natural antibiotic. You can buy capsules or tinctures. Take 15–45mg a day.

Deglycyrrhised liquorice root (DGL) also suppresses H. pylori growth and helps to repair and strengthen the stomach lining. Take 500mg–1,500mg a day. Make sure you take the DGL form, since liquorice can raise blood pressure if taken in the long term.

Mastic gum is another remedy that’s making the headlines, although evidence is not conclusive. It has been used in traditional Greek medicine for thousands of years for various gastrointestinal disorders, including peptic ulcers. Researchers in Greece in 2012 found that although it did not completely eradicate H. pylori, it reduced numbers. [2] It’s worth trying, although it’s not proven to have no side effects. Take 1,000mg twice a day for three months.

I would recommend taking probiotics before having the usual triple therapy (two antibiotics, plus a PPI drug, as mentioned above), then having the triple therapy followed by natural remedies for three months under the guidance of a nutritional therapist.


How to reduce acid-stimulating foods and gastric irritants

The stomach produces acid to digest protein. Following a high-protein diet (high in meat, fish and eggs) is likely to aggravate inflamed stomach membranes further.

Coffee and alcohol, as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers (NSAIDs) also aggravate the gut wall. The combination of painkillers and alcohol, if you have ulceration, is extremely dangerous, as it can cause internal bleeding.

Nevertheless, oily fish have the advantage of containing anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, which help to calm down inflamed membranes, so eating oily fish in moderation is likely to do more good than harm.

Although spicy foods are thought to be acid forming, in fact they are alkaline and provided you don’t feel worse, evidence shows that they don’t make ulcers worse.

Heal the gut with vitamin A and glutamine

Vitamin A and the amino acid glutamine help to regenerate healthy epithelial cells, which line the digestive tract. Glutamine is best taken as a powder: take 1 heaped teaspoon (5g) in a glass of cold water last thing at night on an empty stomach. A generous supply of glutamine can help repair and maintain a healthy small intestinal lining. Taking this for a month can help to heal ulcers.

Vitamin A, in the animal form called retinol, is also vital for healthy cells in the stomach. Although high doses are not recommended during pregnancy, if you are unlikely to become pregnant or if you are male, taking high doses for a month can help to speed up the healing of ulcers.

Vitamin C also helps healing, but too much, especially in the slightly acidic ascorbic-acid form, can aggravate ulcers. Either limit your intake to 200mg or take an alkaline form of vitamin C such as a mineral ascorbate.

Although there are no human trials to date, animals with gastric ulcers have been helped by taking sea buckthorn, a rich source of omega-7 fats. [3] You might gain further benefits from supplementing sea buckthorn, as it also contains other ulcer-repairing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances including carotenoids, vitamin E and omegas-3, -6 and -9.

Check for, and avoid, allergies and intolerances Eating any food you are allergic or intolerant to will increase inflammation and aggravate an ulcer. An unidentified food allergy may even precipitate this condition, especially if you have undiagnosed coeliac disease.

What to eat to reduce your risk of stomach ulcers The best foods to eat to reduce your risk are low allergenic and high in nutrients, e.g. vegetables, non-citrus fruits, oats, red onions, garlic, quinoa and oily fish. The worst foods are alcohol, meat, dairy and coffee.

Supplementary Benefit
2 × high-potency multivitamins and minerals with at least 5mcg of B12 and 10mg of zinc, plus 200mg of vitamin C
1–2 × essential omegas with fish-oil-derived omega-3, plus omega-6 from borage or evening primrose oil
3 × vitamin A 5,000iu capsules (5,000mcg in total)
1 × digestive enzyme supplement with each main meal
1 × probiotic supplement giving 5–10 billion viable organisms
1 teaspoon (5g) glutamine powder in water last thing at night on an empty stomach
3 × combined digestive enzyme, probiotic and glutamine formula
2 × omega-7 (sea buckthorn oil) 250mg

If you have Helicobacter pylori infection, follow the guidelines above in relation to supplements.

Cautions Proton pump inhibitor drugs (PPIs), whose names end in ‘azole’, inhibit the production of stomach acid and may provide relief. The long-term use of these drugs is dangerous, however, because stomach acid is needed for the absorption of vitamin B12 and minerals.

Vitamin C, although good for general health, can further aggravate a stomach ulcer. It is better to limit your intake to 200mg until your ulcers are healed.

If you’d like to dig deeper read How to Improve Your Digestion which includes a chapter dedicated to stomach ulcers as well as looking at improving your overall digestive health.

Visit home of GL friendly foods, supplements, books and tests.


1. K.Y. Wang, et al., ‘Effects of ingesting Lactobacillus- and Bifidobacterium containing yogurt in subjects with colonised Helicobacter pylori’, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Sept. 2004; 80(3):737–41

2. S. Parascho, et al., ‘In vitro and in vivo activities of chios mastic gum extracts and constituents against helicobacter pylori, antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy’, Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 2007;51(2):551–9

3. J. Xing, et al., ‘Effects of sea buckthorn (Hippopha. rhamnoides L.) seed and pulp oils on experimental models of gastric ulcer in rats’, Fitoterapia, Dec. 2002;73(7–8):644–50