BeetsBy Bob Condor

The hits keep coming for dietary nitrate. Earlier this year, it was credited with being the active ingredient in a daily pint of beet juice that significantly reduced blood pressure. Go to “beet juice post”

Now comes news from Swedish researchers that dietary nitrate can protect your stomach from gastric ulcers.

Beets, spinach, cabbage and radishes are all consistently high in dietary nitrate. Dietary nitrate is also quite plentiful in most leafy green vegetables. And, depending on local growing conditions, it can be available in a number of fruits, beans and even potatoes.

Swedish researcher Joel Petersson is a biologist who specializes in human cellular activity (the real thing in the body, not on wireless phones). He says “nitrates in food have long been erroneously linked to an increased risk of cancer.” Instead, Petersson argues in his Ph.D. dissertation at Uppsala University, when dietary nitrates meet gastric acid in the gut, it becomes nitric oxide. He has studied the phenomenon by conducting numerous animal studies. The nitric oxide activates a mucus membrane system in the stomach lining that actually protects rather than harms the G-I tract.

The DailyHealthBlog insight here: Mucous might seem a bit gross, but it is yet another magnificent mechanism in the body to serve us. Rather than allowing ulcers to form, mucous will do its necessary cleanup work and keep a healthy balance of friendly bacteria in the gut (more about probiotics in an upcoming post).

UlcerYour role in all this? Eat nitrate-rich vegetables and fruit. The more you make them part of the diet, the healthier your mucous membrane lining the stomach. This is especially important for anyone who regularly takes anti-inflammatory medicine, which can break down the stomach lining.

Petersson made an important point about anti-bacterial mouthwashes, which kill all bacteria in the mouth, good and bad. Using one too often and/or drinking the mouthwash can disrupt the balance of friendly bacteria in the gut. For certain, don’t use mouthwashes directly after eating nitrate-rich foods or downing that healthy fresh veggie juice.

“If a mouthwash eliminates the bacterial flora in the mouth, this may be important to the normal functioning of the stomach,” notes Petersson. “The protective levels of nitric oxide will greatly decrease.”

Petersson’s dissertation was positively reviewed just last week. Expect to hear more from this astute researcher and natural health advocate in the years ahead.

“Bob Condor is the Daily Health Blogger for Barton Publishing. He is also the Living Well columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He covers natural health and quality of life issues and writes regularly for national magazines, including Life, Esquire, Parade, Self, and Outside. He is a former syndicated health columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of six books, including “The Good Mood Diet” and “Your Prostate Cancer Survivors’ Guide.” He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two 11-year-old kids.”