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Today, I want to talk about a problem that I have had on and off for years: ulcers.
An ulcer occurs when there is an ulceration of the mucous membrane, most commonly in the stomach or small intestine. There are gastric ulcers, which causes pain with the eating of food, and can continue up to 30/40 mins. There are also duodenal ulcers, which start 30/40 minutes after eating.
In 1982, the bacteria H. Pylori was linked to being responsible for ulcers. It should be noted that all of us have this bacteria within us. So what causes some of us to get ulcers over others?
No one knows exactly how to prevent it or exactly how it’s contracted. It was, before 1982, thought to be caused via stress.
Now, I can’t give you studies or evidence much further than this regarding ulcers. All I can give you is my purely anecdotal, personal experience.
For me, stress has always been a trigger of ulcers. I have come to equate ulcer pain symptoms with a sort of “warning” sign that I am living a stressful lifestyle and need to change something, fast. Otherwise eating, moving, pretty much any simple day to day activity becomes painful and if left unchecked, excruciating.
There is no denying that one has to take antibacterial medication in order to rid yourself of this problem causing bacteria. However, all this does is make you stop a symptom. The ulcer itself, at least for me, was that early warning sign. I am only satiating temporary discomfort and not solving the underlying issue.
So this is where Ayurveda steps in. It is much easier in today’s fast paced world for busy, overworked doctors to simply prescribe some medication. If your doctor sat down with you and told you that you needed to find better ways to manage and cope with stress, you probably wouldn’t be too excited.
But Ayurveda is a science of personal responsibility. We can give you herbs and treatments to deal with the bacteria. You have to be the one to ask yourself if you are going to spend your life chasing around a symptom or deal with the underlying cause: stress.
Stress can trigger many other things besides ulcers. Headaches, nausea, anger, worry…the list goes on and on. If we can deal with our stress, then we are really stopping the problem at it’s source.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, stress that leads to ulcers manifests mainly in vata and pitta ways.
For vata, it is triggered by:
– dry, cold, light foods and fasting
– excess pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes
– lack of routines
– travel, exercise
– anxiety, worry, fear
For pitta, it is is triggered by:
– food that is too hot and heavy
– excess sour, salty, and pungent foods
– intensity, anger, and competitiveness
– excess alcohol and coffee
Although Kapha’s typically don’t get beyond a sort of sluggish digestion phase, their stress is triggered via:
– food that is too heavy and oily
– excess sweet, sour, and salty foods
– sluggish behavious
– excessive sleep
We often think that our stress isn’t linked to our physical habits. But diet is a huge factor in stress. For example, a pitta eating hot and spicy food makes them that much more irritable, angry, critical, and intense.
Our body is a historical system. It remembers what we ate the day before and at what time, and prepares for it. Having good, predictable eating habits allows our body to produce the enzymes and mucous it needs to support digestion. But eating those things which stress and aggravate our doshas will only serve to deplete us and our body can only produce so much.
Ulcers are most commonly associated with pitta. Unfortunately for pitta types, the food we eat will disturb the pitta in our blood, which will then carry it everywhere else in the body, including the mind. So we cannot treat a pitta type’s stress or emotions without addressing their diet.
But there is a silver lining in this, as with the understanding of how food effects the rest of the body, we can then make better dietary choices to help with our stress. A reminder that it is always more important how you eat than what you eat.
Until next time, as always, I wish you good health.
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