Cabbage Juice Heals Peptic Ulcers

In the 1940s and 1950s, Dr Garnett Cheney from Stanford discovered that having his peptic ulcer patients drink one liter of fresh cabbage juice every day healed their stomach and duodenal ulcers 3-6 times faster than a bland diet alone. Chronic ulcers disappeared in 1-2 weeks depending on their severity. Dr Cheney was of the opinion that peptic ulcers resulted from a deficiency of a nutritional factor he termed Vitamin U, later identified as the amino acid S-methylmethionine. While cabbages are a particularly rich source of Vitamin U, Cheney found that all raw vegetables, and to a lesser extent, fruit, contain Vitamin U. In addition to healing existing ulcers, Dr Cheney found that Vitamin U also prevented the formation of new ulcers.

Why do we get ulcers? Ulcers result from an imbalance in the digestive system between protective and destructive factors. An alkaline bilayer of mucus containing mucin protects the wall of the digestive tract from harsh elements such as stomach acid, infection by bacteria living in the digestive system, NSAIDs, and dietary factors like high salt and alcohol. In modern times, NSAIDs increasingly contribute to ulcer formation by
 inhibiting the mucus-stimulating function of our body's prostaglandins. When the mucus layer is depleted, these harsh elements irritate the epithelial cells lining the digestive tract causing inflammation and enabling deep infection. 

Ulcers are usually treated with proton pump inhibitors or 
H2 blockers to reduce acid production, antibiotics to treat bacterial infections (particularly Helicobacter pylori in the stomach), antacids to neutralize acid, and mucosal protectants such as prostaglandin mimics. Unfortunately, these only provide a temporary solution to the problem. Ulcers return soon after cessation of treatment. Excessive stomach acid is usually not the root problem, nor is H. pylori infection. Most people with ulcers produce a normal amount of stomach acid, and half the world's population has H. pylori yet remain ulcer-free. These facts indicate that while acid and infection contribute to the formation of ulcers, other factors are at play.

Given the findings of Dr Cheney, it's easy to see that eating a balanced diet rich in sources of Vitamin U is beneficial. But how does Vitamin U work? In later studies, it was shown that Vitamin U has three properties that help maintain a healthy gut.

  1. Stimulating the release of mucin into the mucus layer, thereby protecting the walls from acid and bacterial infection (most important).
  2. Reducing inflammation by acting as a precursor to glutathione, the master antioxidant of the human body via its conversion to cysteine.
  3. Coordinating with other nutrients such as methionine, folate, B12, betaine, choline, SAMe and B6 to supply vital methyl groups required for optimal health.

Increasing the Vitamin U content of one's diet in combination with reducing the intake of foods that deplete the protective mucus layer has been shown to improve ulcerative conditions in the digestive system. A diet rich in fresh vegetables, vegetable juice and fruit, and low in salt, alcohol and sugars is a good approach for restoring the mucus bilayer in most patients.