Natural remedies: What to know if you don’t want to take nutritional supplements


There’s no question: we live in stressful times. And nowhere is that more clearly seen than the ever-increasing number of patients I see with ulcers.

While my approach does rely on nutritional supplements (after all, it’s just not possible to eat enough “healing” food sometimes), diet obviously plays an important role.

Before I jump into foods that can help heal and soothe stomach ulcers, a word about the kind of foods that seem to increase acid secretion in the stomach.

These are the ones to be avoided, as they can actually increase the risk of ulcers or indigestion. One such foodstuff is milk. Most people with ulcers are advised to drink milk – the logic being that its alkaline nature will help neutralise the acid in the stomach. It’s not quite as simple as that.

As long ago as the mid 1970s, scientists began to question this practice, especially when it was found that milk actually increased the amount of acid the stomach secreted. Further research in the 1980s concluded that milk actually delays the healing of duodenal ulcers and so is best avoided, along with coffee and alcohol.


Instead drink two to three cups of strong chamomile tea each day. Chamomile has a soothing effect on the inflamed mucous membranes of the stomach. Chamomile is also high in the flavonoid apigenin – a substance that has inhibited growth of Helicobacter

pylori in test tubes (Helicobacter pylori is a bacteria that lives in the stomach and has been associated with an increased risk of ulcers).

The tea can be made by steeping 2 to 3 teabags of chamomile flowers in water, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes.

While chamomile tea can help to soothe, cabbage juice has been reported to help heal ulcers. This is most likely due to its high glutamine content. Glutamine is an amino acid (the most basic form of protein) that it used by the digestive tract as the primary nutrient for intestinal cells.

Glutamine is also helps to produce the substances that are present in the mucous secretions that are designed to protect the stomach. Do exercise caution when trying this out – as I discovered a few months ago, drinking too much cabbage juice can make you rather windy!

While raw cabbage in salads isn’t quite as effective, it can give you a more palatable alternative. And it also gives you a chance to add another item from your larder: extra virgin olive oil. Like chamomile, it can aid in fighting and preventing H. pylori infections.

Spanish researchers discovered that the healthy phenolic compounds found in extra virgin olive oil had a strong antibacterial effect on eight strains of H. pylori, including those that were resistant to antibiotics. Just remember, however, extra virgin olive oil is great on salads but not for cooking (heating damages it).

One last foodstuff to add to your arsenal of natural weapons is the humble fenugreek seed (methi). Studies have involved comparing its effects to a popular drug called omeprazole, and researchers found that the gel that comes from the seeds is actually more effective than omeprazole in preventing lesions in the stomach wall (this is because it coats the ulcer with a protective layer).

For best results, brew one teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in a cup of water for five minutes, and drink four or five times a day.

The writer is a clinical nutritionist and certified by the Nutritional Therapy Council in the UK. Please direct any questions about family nutrition to her on

Next week: What if it’s not IBS?