Expert Advice

How can I treat a peptic ulcer?

A peptic ulcer—an open sore in the esophagus, stomach, or small intestine—can be caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria.

How can I treat a peptic ulcer?
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an HERBALIST says:
A peptic ulcer—an open sore in the esophagus, stomach, or small intestine—can be caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria, but in Traditional Chinese Medicine we teach that most are due to too much damp heat in the stomach.
TREATMENT: I do a constitutional diagnosis to find the root of the problem before treating the symptoms. I prescribe both heat-clearing and cooling herbs: Coptis trifolia (gold thread) for the heat and emollient herbs like slippery elm and marshmallow root to cool, heal, and coat the digestive system. You’ll usually feel a difference after your initial hour session—it may take only six sessions to completely heal.
SELF-HELP: Re-evalute your job and personal life and try to remove the things that cause stress. Make your diet work for you: Instead of coffee, try a cold infusion of marshmallow root in the morning or eat oatmeal, which has good emollient properties.
—Laurel Redmon, L.Ac., C.H., owner of Red Sage Health in Madison, Wis.

a GASTROENTEROLOGIST says:
Peptic ulcers are often a result of either an infection of the bacteria H. pylori; overindulging in alcohol; side effects from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen; stress; or smoking.
TREATMENT: In your first hour-long consultation, I’ll get a thorough history, conduct a physician’s exam, assess your risk factors, perform an endoscopy to confirm the ulcer, and advise you on diet and lifestyle modifications. At your next, much shorter (15 to 20 minutes) visit, we’ll go over the results and I’ll prescribe an antibiotic or acid suppressor to kill any H. pylori that may be present, and recommend quarterly checkups for 6 to 12 months.
SELF-HELP: Avoid smoking and NSAIDs, drink alcohol only in moderation, and reduce stress with meditation, yoga, deep-breathing exercises, or any other relaxing activity.
—Gerard Mullin, M.D., director of integrative G.I. nutrition services at Johns Hopkins Hospital

a HOMEOPATH says:
Instead of treating ulcers, homeopaths treat people who have ulcers, which are caused by a combination of H. pylori, stress, and diet.
TREATMENT: I start with an extensive 90-minute interview to understand how the problem evolved. I ask patients how they think, feel, and function so I can prescribe a remedy that matches the person as well as the symptoms. I prescribe anything from Argentum nitricum to Nux vomica to “tune” and upgrade your ability to function as a whole, jumpstarting your body’s healing capacity. I conduct at least one half-hour follow-up within 3 to 6 weeks—or sooner depending on the severity of the ulcer.
SELF-HELP: Adopt a regular exercise program and a high-fiber, whole-foods diet. Go easy on the sugar, carbonated drinks, alcohol, and smoking. Pay attention to what seems to trigger your ulcers, and develop a relaxation response through meditation, biofeedback, or creative visualization.
—Jody K. Shevins, N.D., a homeopath in private practice in Boulder, Colo.