- Crusty food like bread or toast
- Crispy food like chips
- Salty food like pretzels
- Sweet food like candy
- Sticky food like cookies
- Sour food like vinegar
- Hot food like coffee
Summary - H2 blockers are drugs used to reduce stomach acid in people who have pain due to stomach ulcers. Vitamin U in the form of fresh vegetable juice or supplements can be used alongside H2 blockers to speed up the restoration of the protective mucous bilayer.
The human stomach is a very acidic environment. The pH of a correctly-functioning stomach is 1.5 - 3. The acidity of gastric juice is due to hydrochloric acid (HCl), which is produced by parietal cells in the upper parts of the stomach (fundus and cardia). Parietal cells produce acid using enzymes called proton pumps (H+/K+ ATPase), which use the energy derived from the hydrolysis of ATP to pump H+ into the stomach. It is the protons (H+) that cause acidity.
The parietal cells pump acid into the stomach in response to signal molecules binding receptors. There are numerous kinds of receptors that respond to different stimuli, either positively or negatively. The most important for acid production are the H2 histamine receptors. Protein in food is broken down in the stomach by acid and the enzyme pepsin to form peptides. These peptides stimulate the release of the hormone gastrin from G cells in the stomach and duodenum. Gastrin stimulates the release of histamine from ECL cells. Histamine binds receptors in the base of parietal cells where it stimulates the movement of proton pumps to the apical surface, where they pump acid into the stomach cavity (lumen). This acid accelerates this whole cycle, breaking down more proteins in food by hydrolysis as well as activating pepsin.
H2 blockers bind to the H2 receptors, which stops histamine from binding. If histamine can't bind, the levels of acid in the stomach remain fairly low and the corresponding pH relatively high. (H2 blockers are often referred to as H2 antagonists because they block the binding of histamine without itself stimulating the function of the receptor, an important distinction from agonists).
H2 blockers were invented in the 1960s and have to a large extent been superseded by proton pump inhibitors due to the latter's more potent acid-suppressing abilities. Commonly used H2 blockers include omeprazole (e.g. Prilosec), famotidine (e.g. Pepcid) and cimetidine (e.g. Tagamet). Ranitidine (e.g. Zantac) was the most prescribed drug in the US during the 1980s, but the FDA has recently banned its sale due to carcinogenic impurities.
Stomach ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) are conditions characterized by pain caused by stomach acid coming into direct contact with the lining of the stomach and esophagus, respectively. Contrary to popular opinion, these conditions are rarely caused by excessive production of stomach acid. In fact, the acidity in the stomach of those with stomach ulcers is typically low (i.e. relatively high pH). GERD is caused by normal stomach acid coming into contact with the esophagus, an organ that is not designed to withstand such exposure. Unlike the stomach, the esophagus is not coated with a protective alkaline mucous bilayer and is very sensitive to contact from even small amounts of gastric juice.
One unfortunate problem with taking H2 blockers for stomach ulcers is that they reduce the secretion of mucin (Ichikawa et al., Diebel et al). So while they reduce pain by reducing the amount of acid produced, they also increase the risk of pain by weakening the mucous bilayer.
Vitamin U is a nutrient abundant in vegetables and fruit that stimulates the secretion of mucin in the stomach. As fresh vegetables and fruit have been a major component of our diet for a very long time, it is reasonable to conclude that dietary Vitamin U plays an important role in the maintenance of optimal stomach function.
Can Vitamin U be combined with H2 blockers?
Considering Vitamin U stimulates mucin secretion and H2 blocker reduce it, one may wonder whether Vitamin U can be taken with H2 blockers to negate the negative effects. The evidence suggests yes. In 2009, Ichikawa et al. showed that co-administration of Vitamin U with famotidine reversed the mucin-blocking effects of famotidine without affecting the acid-suppression effects. These results suggest that Vitamin U can add another level of protection to the gut in those taking H2 blockers.
Acne, dandruff and eczema are skin conditions the origins of which are often idiosyncratic and mysterious. However, one characteristic shared by all three conditions is low glutathione levels. Glutathione is by far the most important antioxidant in the human body, yet we absorb little of it from our food- that's why our body makes it.
There are three main causes of low glutathione -
1. A medical condition that drains large amounts of glutathione
2. A genetic block that prevents the biosynthesis or regeneration of glutathione
3. Not enough glutathione precursors in our diet
Identifying the root cause of your skin condition is an important first step in the healing process. However, this is easier said than done. Often we just don't know why these conditions happen. Sometimes they can break out suddenly and worsen quickly, particularly under stress. At other times, symptoms can persist chronically for years.
Irrespective of the root cause, restoring your glutathione levels is a vital part of this rebalancing act. Glutathione is a tripeptide comprised of cysteine, glutamate and glycine. Of these amino acids, cysteine is most commonly in short supply. If glutathione levels are low due to dietary factors, it is usually due to a shortage of cysteine. Cysteine is found in protein, especially that derived from animals. Cysteine is also made from methionine, again abundant in animal proteins. These sulfur amino acids are also plentiful in grain proteins. However, some people find that meat/dairy/grain are inflammatory for other reasons like hormones or allergens.
Vitamin U is S-methylmethionine, a soluble nutrient abundant in vegetables and fruit that is converted into methionine by the enzyme BHMT2. There have not been any direct studies into whether Vitamin U has any effect on these three conditions, whether taken internally in the diet or as a supplement, or when applied topically as an active component of a lotion. However, taking Vitamin U can help restore glutathione levels which are low in the tissues affected by acne, dandruff and eczema, so it is quite likely that increasing your intake of Vitamin U will help with these conditions, especially in combination with the identification and removal of triggers of these conditions in you.
A glass of freshly-made vegetable juice every day is an excellent way to boost your Vitamin U intake along with a slew of vitamins and minerals essential for good skin health.
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.
Nutritionists have responded that while celery juice can be part of a well-rounded diet, it should not be considered the cure-all being touted. Some are concerned by the removal of fiber. Some consider the positive effects result primarily from the water content rather than any nutrient in the juice. Others generally state that celery juice is nothing special and won't cure anything. There are also skeptics who question William's conflation of the scientifically-backed benefits of eating vegetables with the nonscientific rationale for how this improves health.
Drinking celery juice is most likely good for us. From a scientific standpoint, celery juice contains lots of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that will improve our health if we are not getting enough from our regular diet. Celery juice is also low in calories, unlike most fruit juices. Celery juice might help people psychologically in helping people make healthy lifestyle choices like avoiding bad foods and getting regular exercise.
Most people have chronically low levels of glutathione, which results in chronically high levels of inflammation. People differ in their susceptibility to inflammation according to their genetic makeup, their diet and lifestyle. Vitamin U in celery juice probably improves the function of every body part by helping to restore glutathione levels, thereby reducing inflammation.
NAC is also sold as a dietary supplement as a means of optimizing glutathione levels on an everyday basis. Glutathione is the master antioxidant in the human body, responsible for detoxifying compounds in the liver as well as reacting with reactive oxygen species that are harmful in large amounts. Glutathione differs significantly to other antioxidants (such as Vitamin C) in that it is made by humans. Our body makes glutathione from three amino acids - glutamate, cysteine and glycine. Levels can get low when our diet is short of these amino acids. The rate-limiting amino acid is usually cysteine, which the body can obtain from the diet following the digestion of protein, and also enzymatically from methionine. When cysteine levels in the diet are inadequate, glutathione levels in the body become inadequate, resulting in general inflammation. Most chronic illnesses are characterized as having low glutathione levels and restoring glutathione levels may help reduce inflammation, if not actually reverse the underlying problem.
In general, vegetables belonging to the Brassicacea family are the best source of Vitamin U. This family includes cabbages, kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, collards and turnips. Other vegetables such as spinach, asparagus and celery also produce abundant amounts of Vitamin U. Fruit are also good sources, but not as good as vegetables. In general, there is more Vitamin U in the leaves and stalks than in the fruit, roots and seeds. Grains seem to have little when fresh, but Vitamin U is made during sprouting. Animal products have little to no Vitamin U as it is not synthesized nor stored in significant amounts in animals.
Several studies have measured the concentration of Vitamin U in various foods. Tables listing some of these results are included below. Many factors affect the amount of Vitamin U in a given vegetable. These factors include storage conditions, storage duration, harvest time, regional variations and species variations. For example, cabbages have more Vitamin U during spring and summer when freshly harvested, with the nutrient slowly degrading with storage. After six months in the fridge, the concentration drops by one third, with faster losses at room temperature. In contrast, when barley is germinated for making beer, the amount of Vitamin U rises over time, affecting the flavor of the end product. In some cases, there are varieties of fruit that produce less Vitamin U. Oranges that have been selected to produce less Vitamin U are used to make juice because Vitamin U breaks down with extended storage and pasteurisation to form dimethyl sulfide, a compound that negatively affects the taste of the product (Sakamoto et al https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8987599/.)
Song, Ji-Hoon, Hae-Rim Lee, and Soon-Mi Shim. 2016. “Determination of S-Methyl-L-Methionine (SMM) from Brassicaceae Family Vegetables and Characterization of the Intestinal Transport of SMM by Caco-2 Cells.” Journal of Food Science 82 (1): 36–43.
Food (Vitamin U concentration (mg/kg dry weight))
Kimchi cabbage (89-116)
Food (Vitamin U concentration (mg/kg wet weight))
White asparagus - Peru spears (161)
White asparagus - Peru stalks (86)
White asparagus - Germany spears (252)
White asparagus - Germany stalks (68)
White asparagus - Greece spears (113)
White asparagus - Greece stalks (101)
Green asparagus - Peru spears (234)
Green asparagus - Peru stalks (109)
Green asparagus - Germany spears (94)
Green asparagus - Germany stalks (53)
Green asparagus - Mexico spears (134)
Green asparagus - Mexico stalks (64)
Commercial orange juice (0.9)
Commercial strawberry juice (1.8)
Barley - unprocessed (0.9)
Barley - after 4 days of germination (24)
Kim, G.-H. Determination of Vitamin U in Food Plants. Food Sci. Technol. Res. 9, 316–319 (2003).
Food (Vitamin U concentration (mg/100g dry weight))
Leaf mustard (19.6)
Bud of aralia (19.3)
Sanmanul - a wild garlic (14.4)
Crown daisy (11.1)
Chamchi - a wild korean plant (4.0)
Shepherd’s purse (3.4)
Green onion (2.6)
Green tea (0.1)
Ginger (not detected)
Seaweed (not detected)
Red chilli (not detected)
Miscellaneous wild korean vegetables (not detected)
Kovatscheva, E. G. & Popova, J. G. [S-Methylmethionine content in plant and animal tissues and stability during storage]. Nahrung 21, 465–472 (1977).
Food (Vitamin U concentration (mg/kg wet weight))
Garlic leaves (44-64)
In 2003, Kim reported 26-46 mg/100 g of dry weight, which given that a cabbage is ~92% water, works out as 21-37 mg/kg of fresh cabbage. In 2009, Scherb and others found that cabbages have 81 mg of Vitamin U per kg of fresh cabbage. In 2017, Song et al determined that cabbages contain 50 mg/kg of Vitamin U. So we can estimate that there is roughly 21-81 mg Vitamin U per kg of cabbage.
1 liter of juice is typically extracted from about 2 kg of cabbage. Cheney arrived at 1 liter from prior studies in which various volumes of cabbage juice were given to guinea pigs subjected to chemically-induced ulceration. 100% of the guinea pigs responded to the guinea-pig equivalent of 720 ml of juice. The volume used in the clinical study was rounded up to 1 liter to take into consideration variations in body weight and unexpected factors.
Many people find cabbage juice to be distasteful. The chemicals responsible for this bitterness are called isothiocyanates. These compounds are produced in the cabbage when the leaves are physically damaged during chewing or juicing. Glucosinolates are enzymatically converted by myrosinases to form the bitter isothiocyanates. Some people are lucky in that can't taste isothiocyanates all that well so they can readily drink cabbage juice. One way to prevent the formation of isothiocyanates is by boiling unbroken cabbage leaves before juicing to kill the enzymes. That's why boiled cabbage has a mild taste compared to raw cabbage. However, the problem with this approach is that Vitamin U is also unstable to boiling, negating any beneficial effects.
A second issue is gas. Cabbage has a significant amount of raffinose, a sugar that is notorious for producing gas when eaten. The human small intestine lacks the enzyme required for the digestion of raffinose. Unfortunately, some types of bacteria in our large intestine do have such an enzyme and will ferment raffinose quite readily to form gases. These gases produced in the colon have only one way out and will cause bloating and discomfort until discharged. Ingesting one liter of cabbage juice will cause problems for most people. In principle, a possible solution is to treat the cabbage juice with Beano before drinking it. Beano is basically alpha-galactosidase, an enzyme that will break down raffinose into sucrose and galactose, both of which we can easily break down and absorb. I'm not sure whether anyone has tested this idea, though taking Beano along with the juice as recommended should help. Drinking several cups spread throughout the day should also reduce bloating.
A third issue is smell. Fresh cabbage juice smells fine - old juice does not. Vitamin U is degraded to homoserine and dimethylsulfide by enzymes found in cabbage. Dimethylsulfide has a disagreeable sulfur odor a little like that found in rotten eggs, though without the toxicity. These enzymes don't work as quickly as myrosinases, but leaving cabbage juice sitting around for a few hours will allow plenty of time for dimethylsulfide to form. Putting the juice in the fridge will slow the reaction somewhat, but after 24 h the juice still tastes terrible. Even if a person could stomach the old juice, there would not be much point as by this stage most of the Vitamin U would have been degraded. Cabbages also have other compounds that contain sulfur that when broken down produce disagreeable odors. The solution is to drink cabbage juice fresh before it has had a chance to go off.
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.
- Stimulating the release of mucin into the mucus layer, thereby protecting the walls from acid and bacterial infection (most important).
- Reducing inflammation by acting as a precursor to glutathione, the master antioxidant of the human body via its conversion to cysteine.
- 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.