Follow your gut

As regular e-Alert readers are well aware, our in-house “nutrition physician,” HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., has frequently written about the benefits of vitamin C, with an emphasis on taking doses much higher than the recommended daily allowance.

Now, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, anyone who’s acted on Dr. Spreen’s vitamin C advice, may be preventing the onset of stomach ulcers, as well as a host of other serious health problems that ulcers can lead to.

Bacterium blocker

As we first told members in 1999, helicobacter pylori (h. pylori) is a bacterium that creates peptic ulcers by weakening the stomach’s protective coating, allowing acid to irritate the sensitive stomach lining. Research has shown that h. pylori infection may also play a role in the development of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and skin diseases. The most recent research even suggests a link between h. pylori and cancers of the stomach, pancreas, and the larynx.

A team of researchers from the San Francisco VA Medical Center recently designed a study to determine the relationship between blood serum levels of vitamin C and h. pylori infection.

Researchers examined blood samples and accompanying data collected from more than 6,700 adult subjects as part of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in the late 80s and early 90s. About one-third of the blood samples revealed the presence of h. pylori bacterium. The samples were also tested to measure levels of ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

After accounting for variable factors that included ethnicity, researchers concluded that among white subjects who showed the highest levels of vitamin C, h. pylori infection was reduced by 25 percent. However, non-white subjects with high vitamin C levels didn’t receive the same benefit; only a very modest correlation to reduced infection.

These are the correlations the researchers are certain of. Questions about cause and effect, however, produce less certain answers. For instance: Does vitamin C reduce the chance of h. pylori infection, or does h. pylori cause vitamin C levels to be diminished? Also, h. pylori infection often occurs when patients are very young, leading to ulcers later in life. Whether vitamin C could prevent this early infection is not known. Some animal studies, however, have indicated that h. pylori infection may be reduced with high levels of vitamin C intake.

Obviously, more research is called for. But in spite of the unknown factors, the lead researcher, Joel A. Simon, M.D., told Science Daily that he would encourage everyone – especially those who test positive for h. pylori – to increase consumption of vitamin C-rich foods.

Antibiotic alternatives

For many years the mainstream dismissed the idea that bacteria caused ulcers. In the past two decades all that has changed, and yet many doctors still don’t test for h. pylori. And when a patient does test positive for the bacterium, many doctors simply reach for a prescription antibiotic – a practice that has led to new drug-resistant strains of h. pylori. Even worse, antibiotics can upset the delicate balance of helpful bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract, paving the way for more problems.

At HSI, we’ve written about several natural therapies that can rid your body of h. pylori without the unwanted side effects of antibiotics. In the August 2001 issue of the Member’s Alert newsletter, we told you about a formula called Probiotics 12 Plus that contains a beneficial bacterial strain proven to destroy resistant pathogens. Laboratory testing has shown that that this formula’s helpful bacterium, called TH 10, inhibits all strains of h. pylori – even those that have become resistant to antibiotics. Probiotics 12 Plus is available from Uni Key Health Systems. For more information, you can visit the web site, at

In the November 1999 Members Alert, we told you how lactoferrin, a protein found in bovine colostrum, can kill h. pylori bacterium, and may also help protect you from becoming infected with h. pylori in the first place. Studies show that lactoferrin binds iron in your blood, keeping it away from cancerous cells, bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that require iron to grow. Research also suggests that the lactoferrin protein activates specific strands of DNA that turn on the genes that launch your immune response. Lactoferrin is available through many sources online and in most health food stores.

Hopefully you’ll never need to worry about h. pylori, which infects about one in ten people. But to be on the safe side, it appears that boosting your vitamin C intake just might help prevent the painful ulcers caused by h. pylori infection, as well as other far more serious health problems.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute

“Relation of Serum Ascorbic Acid to Helicobacter Pylori Serology in US Adults: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 22, No. 4, 283-289 (2003),

“Vitamin C May Protect Against Ulcer-causing Bacteria, Study Finds” Science Daily, 8/1/03,

“Vitamin C May Prevent Ulcers and Stomach Cancer” Dr. Joseph Mercola, 8/20/03,