Lemons, Polyphenols and Peptic Ulcers
When it comes to gastritis and peptic ulcers, your first thought may not leap to lemons, oranges, and other citrus fruits as a natural remedy. But, science seems to back up the idea that eating citrus fruits, and any other foods high in polyphenols, has protective effects that may prove extremely valuable in treating and preventing those notoriously difficult to treat conditions.
Peptic ulcers involve complex mechanisms within the body, and can include both gastric and duodenal ulcers. It’s the most common ailment of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and affects about 5-10% of the population at some time during their lifetimes.
Managing the disease is a challenge, and increased risk of both disease and death make it an important subject to study.
First, what are polyphenols?
Polyphenols are compounds found in many plants, including many fruits and vegetables. When it comes to fruits, you may have heard of flavonoids, which are a class of polyphenol. Flavonoids, as their name suggests, help to create the rich color and flavors of those fruits.
They are found in all citrus fruits, along with other fruits, berries, nuts, vegetables (especially color-rich), beans, cocoa powder, soy, dark colored seasonings like cloves and cinnamon.
A 2006 study by Italian researchers published by the American Society for Microbiology in the review Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy looked at the effect of polyphenols in reducing gastritis caused by the Helicobacter pylori bacteria.
The bacteria makes its home in the lining of the stomach, which causes inflammation. That inflammation can lead to gastritis, peptic ulcers, and even gastric cancer.
What they found was a little curious:
• The levels of bacteria were not reduced;
• Gastritis – or gastric inflammation – however, was “significantly decreased”.
Either way, adding polyphenols to the diet seemed to decrease the damaging effects of H. pylori infection.
In 2011, researchers from Hamdard University in New Delhi, India, published a paper that examined the role of polyphenols in peptic ulcers. Analyzing several other studies, they found that polyphenols were associated with protective effects on the stomach lining.
A 2015 study involving researchers at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences examined what role polyphenols in the diet can play in managing peptic ulcers. Researchers examined the results of multiple studies and summarized that polyphenols in the diet – importantly, not given as supplements – were associated with protective and therapeutic effects through a number of channels.
• They protect at the cellular level;
• They promote healing;
• They help to bulk up the stomach mucus, which helps to inhibit bacterial growth;
• They helped to mitigate damage from disease.
In all cases, the researchers concluded that more study was needed, but that adding polyphenols to the diet, along with other therapies, was a promising direction.
There are so many other reasons why lemons, citrus and other fruits are important to the diet; reducing the risk of peptic ulcers, and other protective effects, can be added to the list.