Ulcer Myths and Facts

  • Does not eating really cause ulcer?
  • Does Milk cure ulcer?
  • What Is a Peptic Ulcer?
  • Do spicy food really cause or worsen ulcer?

It’s a myth that spicy foods and stress cause peptic ulcers.

A peptic ulcer is a type of sore that develops in the digestive system.

The word “ulcer” means open sore, and “peptic” means that acid is the cause of the sore.

However, this terminology is from a prior era when all ulcers in the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum were thought to be caused by acid damage.

Nowadays, we know that most ulcers are not caused by excessive acid, so the term “peptic ulcer” is somewhat misleading.
Types of Peptic Ulcers

The most common kinds of peptic ulcers are:

Gastric ulcers: A common type of ulcer, these occur on the inside of the stomach.

Duodenal ulcers: These are located at the beginning of the small intestine (called the small bowel or duodenum).

Esophageal ulcers: These occur inside the esophagus (the tube that carries food from your throat to your stomach).

You can have more than one kind of peptic ulcer at the same time.
Causes of Peptic Ulcers

For a long time, it was believed that spicy foods or stress could lead to peptic ulcers – but doctors now know that this isn’t the case. There is no clear evidence to suggest that the stress of modern life or a steady diet of fast food causes ulcers in the stomach and small intestine, but they are nonetheless common in our society

In fact, the most common causes of ulcers are:

Helicobacter pylori, a type of bacteria that can infect your stomach
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), and others. Indeed, research conducted since the mid-1980s has shown that the bacterium Helicobacter pylori(H. pylori) is present in more than 90% of duodenal ulcers and about 80% of stomach ulcers. However, more recent figures indicate those percentages are declining.

If you’re at risk for peptic ulcers, talk to your doctor about taking Tylenol (acetaminophen) for pain, since it’s not an NSAID and does not contain aspirin.

Gastric Ulcer

Not eating frequently enough can cause digestion problems.

The lining of your stomach is covered with mucous, and this protects the tissues from damage because of the gastric juices. When some of the mucous is destroyed, the gastric acids can reach the stomach tissues and cause problems. Food that is present waiting to be digsted will absorb some of the gastric acid, and help lower the level of this substance in your stomach. If you do not feed yourself there is no food to absorb the acid and yoiur stomach tissues may become the unintended target instead, leading to a gastric ulcer or worse.

One common digestion problem if you are not eating frequently enough may be pain when you do eat, because certain foods may further irritate the raw open sore that is a gastric ulcer. Even after healing completely, this area of the stomach may still cause pain or discomfort, and the ulcer can return. Even if you are trying to lose weight because you are obese you should still eat regularly. Choose what you eat more carefully, and eat smaller meals more frequently to prevent gastric juices from building up over long periods when your stomach is empty. Any digestion problem can benefit from this method, and this includes a gastric ulcer.

And it is true that if a patient with an ulcer does not eat regularly the acid in the stomach will corrode the stomach further when there is no food to digest in the stomach for a long time. Doctors usually recommend the patient to take 5 small meals; this will bind the acid in the stomach by absorbing it in the food until it is digested and leaves the stomach. In the duodenum the milieu is alkaline and the acid is neutralized.
Next the doctor will recommend some medicine that will suppress acid formation and this will also help the body to heal. Triple antibiotics are often also recommended when it is proven that H. pylori is involved.

Peptic Ulcer Symptoms

While many people with peptic ulcers don’t experience any symptoms, upper abdominal pain is the most common symptom.

This abdominal pain may:

Extend from your navel up to your breastbone
Feel worse when your stomach is empty
Feel better temporarily when you eat certain foods or take an antacid
Get worse at night
Come and go for days or weeks

Other symptoms of a peptic ulcer may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting of red or dark blood
  • Feeling bloated or full
  • Bloody, black, or tarry stools
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Changes in your appetite

Complications

Ulcers can cause bleeding that occurs slowly over time or quickly, possibly resulting in life-threatening hemorrhaging due to shock.

Sometimes you may not notice a bleeding ulcer until you become anemic, a condition in which your body lacks red blood cells due to inadequate iron.

This occurs when ulcers result in chronic, low-grade blood loss.

If you have anemia, you may feel tired, experience shortness of breath, and have pale skin.

If bleeding occurs quickly, you may notice:

  • Dark, sticky, or bloody stools
  • Bloody vomit
  • Lightheadedness

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Peptic Ulcer Treatment

Your course of treatment will be based on what’s causing the ulcer.

Possible treatments include antibiotic drugs to kill Helicobacter pylori bacteria in your digestive tract.

Your doctor may also recommend antacids to neutralize stomach acid and reduce pain.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are drugs that block acid production and promote healing.

PPI drugs include:

Omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid)
Lansoprazole (Prevacid)
Rabeprazole (Aciphex)
Pantoprazole (Protonix)
Esomeprazole (Nexium)

Acid reducers, also called H2 blockers, reduce acid production and relieve ulcer pain.

Cimetidine (Tagamet)
Ranitidine (Zantac)
Famotidine (Pepcid)
Nizatidine (Axid)

Additionally, there are cytoprotective agents – drugs that protect the lining of your stomach and small intestine – that can relieve symptoms of an ulcer.
Ulcer Emergencies

There are three types of ulcer emergencies:

You have bleeding in your stomach, esophagus, or duodenum due to the ulcer opening a blood vessel.
You develop a perforated ulcer, which means it has eaten through your stomach or intestinal wall.
You have swelling or scarring related to your ulcer that is preventing your food from being digested properly.

The signs that you are having an ulcer emergency are:

  • Blood (black or red) in stool
  • Blood in vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • Increasing pain
  • Weakness
  • Mental confusion
  • Severe abdominal distension

If you think you or someone you know is having an ulcer emergency, seek immediate medical attention.
Peptic Ulcer Diet and Other Home Remedies

Here are the most important lifestyle changes you can make to recover from an ulcer:

Watch Your Diet:

In the past, people with ulcers were told to eat small, bland meals and drink lots of milk to help heal ulcers, but today doctors know otherwise.

But if you know that there are specific foods that make your ulcer feel worse, avoid them until your treatment is over.

Back when spicy food was believed to cause an ulcer, milk was thought to heal it. Now the prevailing wisdom is that milk may improve the symptoms of an ulcer, but cannot heal it.

Interestingly, spicy food could have a preventive effect.

According to one study, researchers in Singapore found that people who ate mostly Chinese food, which does not have a high amount of capsaicin, had three times the frequency of ulcers as those who mostly ate the much spicier Malay or Indian food.

Stop Smoking: If you smoke, you are already at increased risk for getting an ulcer.

The data also show that ulcers take longer to heal in smokers and that the ulcer medication you are taking may be less effective.

Scientists don’t know exactly why smoking has these negative effects.

Beware of NSAIDs: NSAIDs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen,felvin, and many others, are taken for pain and fever, but can cause an ulcer if used too often.

NSAIDs also can prevent an ulcer from healing as quickly as you would like, so talk to your doctor about what you can take for your other aches and pains while you are waiting for your ulcer to heal.

Also, be sure to read all drug labels; some products such as cough and cold liquids have NSAID ingredients in them and you should avoid them, too.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) does not cause ulcers, so it may be an effective substitute.

Cut back on alcohol: Stop drinking alcohol if you want to completely reduce your risk of additional ulcers and help your body heal.

Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables: A comprehensive review of published studies related to ulcer prevention shows that eating a lot of fiber from fruits and veggies may help reduce your risk of ulcer.

Vitamin A, found in many vegetables, may also be helpful.

Manage your stress: Most ulcers are caused by H. pylori or NSAIDs, but for a small group of people, stress does appear to have a connection to ulcers.

Many doctors recommend some form of stress release for these people, including yoga, exercise, or massage.

Sources:

Everyday Health

Mayo Clinic.
American College of Gastroenterology.

Web MD

Ray Chilling, Quora.com

Nutra Legacy

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