Beware of common peptic ulcer “cure”

Peptic ulcers have frustrated mainstream doctors for decades. Their favorite 20th century approaches to medical problems–drugs and surgery–could not treat them. Much less cure them. In fact, you may have heard the old joke:

Q: Who decides how to treat a peptic ulcer?

A: The doorman at the medical office building. If he points you to the internist’s office, you get a drug. And if he points you to the surgeon’s office, you get surgery.

Truthfully, neither surgery nor drugs are good options for curing peptic ulcers. Both disrupt digestion, nutrition, and metabolism. And the drugs especially disrupt the absorption of critical B vitamins.

But about 20 years ago, many physicians thought we’d finally discovered the cause of peptic ulcers–a simple bacterium called Heliobacter pylori (H. pylori). They claimed we could “cure” the ulcer by killing the bacteria with antibiotics.

Proponents hailed this discovery as some great miracle. In fact, I knew a few of the simple-minded believers at the College of Physicians in Philadelphia, which I directed during the late 1990s.

A particularly delusional pair of doctors at the College had no patience for anyone who suggested that perhaps H. pylori was a normal part of the stomach’s “microbiome.” And they would never acknowledge that something else, such as stress, caused ulcers.

Instead, they could not wait to indoctrinate every physician with the new gospel. And they were disappointed when our program committee did not devote the entire year’s continuing medical education program to this great discovery.

Well, somehow over the past two decades, they got someone to buy into this nonsense. In fact, they got a lot of people to buy into it. Today, many doctors give patients antibiotics in an attempt to eradicate H. pylori infections “causing” the ulcers. To add insult to injury, they give these patients proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to reduce stomach acid while the stomach ulcer “heals.”

But the healing never happens. Plus, you’ve wiped out normal H. pylori in the gut. And you’ve artificially lowered stomach acid with a drug. So now, when the patient goes off the PPI, the stomach acid comes back with a vengeance.

Plus, in a new study, Australian researchers found a strong connection between the eradication of H. pylori infections and rising obesity rates in the western world.

In their new analysis, the researchers looked at 49 studies with data from 10 European nations, Japan, the United States, and Australia. They found the higher the obesity rate in a population, the lower the rate of H. pylori infections. For example, research shows less than 50 percent of U.S. adults have the H. pylori bacteria in their gut. And we have one of the highest obesity rates in the world. Plus, in previous controlled trials, patients experienced significant weight gain after they eradicated their H. pylori infections with antibiotics.

These insights really aren’t new.

We warned about it 20 years ago in Philadelphia. And Martin J. Blaser, M.D., Director of the Human Microbiome Program at New York University knew about it too.

In an interview, Dr. Blaser said, “In 1998, I predicted that doctors of the future will be giving H. pylori back to children. We should not be so fast in eradicating H. pylori.”

It’s just not nice to fool around with Mother Nature’s plans, especially with antibiotics. These “magic bullets” are really “friendly fire.” They cause more and more medical disorders and diseases.

Thankfully, more and more scientists like Dr. Blaser are now starting to realize the gut contains H. pylori for a reason. In fact, most people have H. pylori in their stomach. And most of them never get peptic ulcers!

In fact, we now know there’s much more to the peptic ulcer story…

Peptic ulcers actually have a very strong mind-body connection. In fact, certain personality types (or emotional types) are more likely to develop them. And stress plays a major role. You can learn more about these mind-body connections in my book Your Emotional Type.

Of course, my colleagues in Philadelphia never had any patience for the role of emotions in medicine. Except when it came to inflicting their own toxic brew of negative emotions on their colleagues and people like me whom they thought worked exclusively for them.

If you have a peptic ulcer, you should investigate ways to decrease your stress. Many mind-body approaches can help. You just need to figure out which approach works best for your personality type. For example, some people respond quite well to meditation. Others, not at all.

You can take this simple quiz to learn which personality type you have. Then you can pick a mind-body approach that will work best for you.

Plus, you can learn more about H. pylori and your microbiome in the upcoming July issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now’s the perfect time to get started.


1. “Does H pylori Eradication Explain Rising Obesity?” Medscape (www.medscape.come) 6/9/2014

2. “Review article: associations between Helicobacter pylori and obesity – an ecological study,” Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2014; 40: 24-31.