Summary - Vitamin U is a nutrient abundant in vegetables and fruit whose main function is to stimulate the secretion of mucin and enable the formation of the mucous bilayer that protects the stomach from acid and Helicobacter pylori.
In the human body, Vitamin U heals and protects against peptic ulcers. It does so by stimulating the secretion of mucins onto the walls of the digestive tract, acting as a precursor to the biosynthesis of the master antioxidant glutathione, and supplies methyl groups for gene regulation, polyamine biosynthesis and a range of other molecules. Of these three functions, stimulating mucin secretion is the most direct way in which Vitamin U works.
In the stomach, there is an alkaline mucous bilayer gel that protects the stomach from gastric acid, pepsin digestion and bacterial infection. Mucus consists of two layers - a deep gel-like layer attached to cells and a superficial loosely-attached layer on top. The proteins that make up mucus are called mucins (MUC1, MUC5AC, MUC6), which are heavily-glycosylated proteins that attract water, thereby forming a gel. Mucins are made in foveolar cells lining the stomach and are stored in vesicles awaiting summons to the lumen. At the surface, some mucins stay attached to the cells and act as an anchor for the loosely-bound mucins to attach by disulfide bonds. When this mucous bilayer is disrupted, gastric juice can reach the lining of the stomach causing irritation and inflammation. Left long enough, a peptic ulcer may form.
Your body has a number of different ways to stimulate the secretion of mucin. The molecules that trigger secretion are called mucin secretagogues. The prime mucin secretagogue is prostaglandin E2, a hormone-like molecule that has many functions in the human body. It has a protective role in stomach function, suppressing production of gastric acid and pepsin, while at the same time promoting secretion of mucin and the alkaline molecule bicarbonate (Park et al). NSAIDs reduce prostaglandin E2 synthesis by inhibiting COX-1, leading to less mucin, less protection and a greater risk of ulcers.