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Monday, 15 October, 2001, 23:16 GMT 00:16 UK
Pine extract 'fights gut problems'
gastric ulcer
Several factors may influence the formation of gastric ulcers
Laboratory tests on an extract of pine trees has found it may have a use against digestive problems such as ulcers and heartburn.

The substance, called ecabet sodium, is derived from pine resin.

Dr Jeff Pearson led a team from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne which found that the white powder appears to reduce the activity of pepsin, a gut chemical blamed for some ulcers.

Ecabet sodium may be very useful for long-term treatment of reflux oesophagitis in patients whose condition has been stabilised by conventional drugs

Dr Jeff Pearson
It also, when added to gastric juices in the laboratory, caused a thickening of the mucus which normally lines the stomach and protects it from acid attack.

It even reduced the survival time of Helicobacter pylori bacteria - also blamed for contributing to ulcers - by exerting an antibiotic effect.

Some patients with stomach ulcers are prone to reflux oesophagitis, in which gastric juices pass the supposedly one-way valve at the top of the stomach and irritate the lining of the gullet.

Long-term reflux has been associated with oesophageal cancer.

Reflux remedy

Ecabet sodium is already prescribed by some therapists as an alternative to acid-suppressing drugs for treatment of reflux.

Dr Pearson said: "Ecabet sodium may be very useful for long-term treatment of reflux oesophagitis in patients whose condition has been stabilised by conventional drugs.

"Doctors often prescribe drugs which stop acid production by the stomach, but some medical experts are worried there may be side-effects on patients who take the drug daily for many years."

Fatty food

Other research published on Tuesday suggests that eating fatty food may be worsening the perceived symptoms of heartburn.

Experts from the University of California Los Angeles looked at 11 patients who had increasing "doses" of fat injected directly into their gullets.

The time to onset - and the severity - of heartburn symptoms was directly related to the amount of fat injected.

The greater the concentration of fat, the more powerful the discomfort.

The reasons behind this are not immediately apparent, although it is recognised that the amount of fat coming into contact with the tissues of the intestines triggers feelings of fullness, and intensifies some types of motion sickness.

Nerves in the intestines discharge signals when certain fatty acids are present - this may influence the perception of heartburn.

See also:

17 Mar 00 | C-D
Oesophageal cancer
19 Aug 01 | Health
Herbal 'heartburn' treatment
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