Q&A with the Experts: Getting Lean and Dealing with Ulcers

In the first part of a series of question & answer posts we will help one reader find the right diet to get lean without aggravating her ulcers. Siddhi’s question will be answered by PT Elliott Speed.


Question: Hey Miranda, so my biggest problem is nutrition. I suffer from digestive issues (ulcers in the lining of my stomach) which means that I can’t eat too much protein without balancing with carbs. This is hindering my progress as almost all fitness instructors talk about no or low carbs and I can’t do that. What is a good diet for getting lean?

What I say:

Hi Siddhi, thank you for sending in your question. I too have struggled with ulcers and can totally relate to your situation. Ulcers, along with many other digestive issues, are caused by a bacteria called h.pylori. Did you know that 50% of the world population has this bacteria? Even though it is so widespread, not everyone has the same symptoms (some people don’t even have any symptoms) and suffers the same effects. H.pylori is responsible for a range of digestive problems, from nutrient deficiencies and IBS to ulcers, gastritis and even cancer! The bacteria feeds on sugar & gets irritated by salt, therefore you may find that salty foods aggravate your condition, so it’s best to avoid them. You can read more about h.pylori here.

As I’m sure you know, the diet for treating ulcers is high in alkaline foods and low in acidic foods. You can see from the detailed list here that whey protein powder is actually alkaline. From the list of vegetables you can see that peas are also alkaline and you can find some very good pea and raw vegan protein powders (they also contain a bit more carbs, so will be easier on your stomach). Make sure that if you are taking a powder, it is unflavoured, unsweetened or sweetened with stevia.

However it is best to get your protein from whole foods, instead of powders and other processed foods. Although slightly acidic, fish and chicken shouldn’t cause too much trouble for your tummy. And instead of eating starchy carbs, use non-acidic vegetables to cushion your protein intake. For example, have your chicken with asparagus, celery and watercress salad and use lemon and extra virgin olive oil as a dressing (all of these are extremely alkaline vegetables).

Avoid going hungry for long periods of time! Leaving your stomach empty with nothing but stomach acid in it will make your ulcers worse and may put you off food for a day or two (due to the pain). Drinking loads of water can also help.

If you are taking medications for your condition, you should definitely top up with probiotics and digestive enzymes to support your gut health. Another supplement to consider is glutamine, which I recently found out that it is shown to heal swollen gut tissue. Take in small to moderate doses to avoid these side effects.

That’s it from my personal experience. Don’t be afraid about adding a bit more protein (whey, vegan or fish and chicken). Don’t worry too much about the extra carbs you eat – unless you are an elite athlete and have to be extremely lean, carbs are actually good for you! And don’t be afraid to exercise – research shows that this can actually help heal your ulcer 🙂

What the expert says:

Stomach ulcers can be a very common issue and preventing the symptoms from getting worse whilst dieting is a difficult task. However it is very possible to lean down and lose body fat without causing the digestive issues to become worse. First of all it is key to acquire the correct measurements such as body fat percentage and body weight, this will allow for the calculation of your lean body mass which ultimately leads to the calculation of your required macro-nutrients to lose body fat.

Macro-nutrients refers to proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Once your required amount it is known a customized diet can be made consisting of clean and beneficial foods. You should focus your carbohydrate source around multi-grains such as rice and potatoes as these will not irritate your stomach ulcers. You should avoid any processed meats and focus only on lean cuts such as chicken breast, lean beef cut and fish. It is essential to include vegetables to your diet, however they must be non-acidic, and these include: broccoli, carrots, green beans, cabbage and peas. Acidic food has the worst effect on aggravating stomach ulcers so it is best to avoid them.

It is essential that the food being eaten is also digested correctly and you are getting the most out of you food. Ways in which you can significantly improve this is by splitting your meals up into 5-6 smaller meals, this will also help with the prevention of acid build up in the stomach and aggravation of stomach ulcers. Each meal must contain a protein source; however you mentioned that this means you must balance with a carbohydrate. In this case you can spread your carbohydrates throughout the day with each meal.

For example the basic dieting rules you could use would be as follows:

  • 1 gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight
  • 2-2.5grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight
  • Always eat as much non-acidic, non-starchy vegetables as possible every meal
  • Split your food between 4-5 separate meals spreading throughout the day. (preferably 2 hours apart).
  • Always eat 1-2 hours before you workout.
  • Eat your largest portion of carbohydrates after you workout to replenish the glycogen burned whilst working out.

Another good way in which you can aid digestion is to purchase a good digestive enzyme supplement. These factors will help significantly in losing body fat as the body will be getting all the right nutrients in order to work efficiently.

Having the right supplementation can also be very beneficial. A key supplement for you would be glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid found in the bloodstream. Often the body cannot produce what is needed. Glutamine deficiencies can occur because of stress, medical conditions and excessive exercise. If the body does not have what is needed then it can become vulnerable, resulting in muscle wastage and suppressed immune function. This has a knock on effect as the stomach also needs glutamine in order to strengthen the gut lining from the many chemicals it encounters every day.

All the factors above will have a hindrance on your ability to lose body fat. A simple supplement protocol you could follow to start you off would include multivitamin, digestive enzyme, branched chained amino acids, essential amino acids and glutamine.

Good luck on your fitness journey!

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