New hope for ulcers

By • Published: September 30th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

As anyone who’s ever suffered an ulcer will tell you, the stabbing stomach pain it causes is enough to make you want to crawl to the closest doctor, white flag in hand.

It’s a pain about ten percent of people in the U-S will face sooner or later. Luckily, doctors know a lot more about the pesky peptic ulcer than they did in decades past. Experts used to chalk ulcers up to stress and poor eating habits, but it’s long been known that the bacteria H. pylori [H pie-LORE-ee] is actually responsible for most ulcers.

Antibiotics are used to fend off these stomach-munching bacteria. Unfortunately, the bacteria are becoming resistant to the drugs that fight them. This is particularly bad news considering that H. pylori infections can also lead to stomach cancer.

But researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center may have found a new way to keep painful ulcers at bay. A study in mice showed that feeding them diets with beefed-up doses of the amino acid glutamine helped protect their stomachs from ulcer-causing bacteria.

The mice that received glutamine had higher levels of three molecules that help defend the stomach. These mice also suffered less inflammation than mice that didn’t receive the extra doses of glutamine.

Glutamine is found naturally in foods like red meat, fish and beans. But will eating more of it protect you from ulcers? The jury is out as of yet. But researchers now plan to study glutamine in humans.