Mastic gum is a resinous extract taken from the leaves and stem of Pistacia Lentiscus. Many peer-reviewed research articles have been published that support the hypothesis that chewing low doses of mastic gum heals ulcers. Several laboratory tests and experimental studies have confirmed this hypothesis. Here is how mastic gum heals ulcers:
Kills the Peptic Ulcer Causing Bacteria
The organism responsible for causing peptic ulcers is H. Pylori. Although it has been eradicated through earlier screening and treatment with antibiotics, it is still prevalent in many developing countries. H. Pylori has specialized adaptations that allow it to penetrate the protective barriers within the gut and colonize easily.
H. Pylori causes ulcers by three main adaptations. Firstly, it neutralizes the gut pH by releasing urease that converts urea into ammonia and carbon dioxide. This ammonia serves as a buffer to prevent the harsh, bactericidal action of the stomach acid. Secondly, H. Pylori has flagella, a small whip-like microfilament, that helps it move through the thick layer of mucus without being trapped into it like other bacteria. Thirdly, it has an affinity for the epithelial cells of the gut, and that is why it wreaks havoc through inflammation and ulceration of the mucosal lining.
This well-adapted organism can be tough to contain – especially in areas where it is endemic. Thus, if the gut’s protective mechanisms fail, chewing mastic gum can prevent the bacteria’s growth and subsequent complications. Since small colonies of the bacteria remain asymptomatic. Treatment of antibiotics is only started after severe symptoms like hematemesis, abdominal pain, bloating, belching, anorexia, weight loss, and heartburn are seen. Thus, chewing mastic gum does not have any side effects like antibiotic resistance, and it can be effectively used prophylactically.
Mastic Gum Inhibits the Production of Pro-inflammatory Mediators
Ulcers are caused when there is a disruption in the integrity of the gut lining. Any superficial insult to the wall of the mucosa causes a rush of inflammatory mediators and migration of macrophages. This is followed by a cytokine storm and the classic signs of inflammation are seen, that is vasodilation, edema, pain, and heat. As long as there is ongoing inflammation, ulceration will be prolonged. The presence of bacteria in the gut worsens the scenario since more white blood cells migrate and accumulate in the inflamed zone.
Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs only worsens the case since it leads to gastritis by limiting protective mechanisms as well as blunting the inflammatory response. Unlike these drugs, mastic gum lowers the cytokine storm through a different pathway. Thus, working simultaneously to kill bacteria as well as reducing inflammation through its antioxidant properties.
Mastic Gum Provides Symptomatic Relief
Functional dyspepsia is characterized by bloating, belching, abdominal pain that is relieved only after meals, heartburn, feeling of fullness, and regurgitation. Mastic gum heals ulcers by dissipating these symptoms by keeping the inflammation under control through its numerous pharmaceutical properties that are not yet explored. But the results are promising – since only one gram of mastic gum per day can significantly reduce bacterial growth and relieve symptoms. Better digestion and help with peristalsis are also some functional properties of mastic gum that heals ulcers.
The Biochemical Structure of Mastic Gum Induces Apoptosis
Apoptosis is a method used by cells to disintegrate without the help of inflammatory mediators once its faulty mechanisms have been detected. It is an autonomous process and is often referred to as cell suicide. This is accounted to the presence of triterpenoid analogs in its chemical formula. This allows mastic gum to detect and eradicate faulty cells without causing an inflammatory reaction that damages neighboring cells as well. This property promotes rapid healing since damaged cells are eradicated and quickly replace damage with new ones.
Additionally, it also keeps inflammation in check, as discussed above, it tends to hinder effective healing. Finally, infusing apoptosis also prevents the growth of cancer cells which are usually abnormal, faulty dysplastic cells and can suppress the body’s natural apoptotic mechanisms.
In conclusion, several studies have found the beneficial therapeutic properties of mastic gum and consider it a better alternative to the conventional proton pump inhibitors and antibiotics for the treatment of ulcers. Especially since it has additional therapeutic uses in maintaining cardiovascular and overall gut health. But extensive research is still needed to support the existing ones.