Peptic ulcers come with a few key signs — and they’re very unpleasant. Upper abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, vomiting, heartburn, and back pain can all be signs of peptic ulcer disease (PUD). By far, upper abdominal pain is the most common symptom, with nearly 80% of people with PUD experiencing it.
Peptic ulcers are open sores on the lining of the digestive tract that can cause burning stomach pain. Worldwide, 5% to 10% of people suffer from ulcers in the digestive tract.
Currently, most cases of PUD are related to Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection and/or use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen (ie, Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (ie, Aleve).
H.pylori, gut-destroying bacteria, lurking in the gastric mucosal lining of more than 85% of people with PUD, continuously release bioactive factors that cause inflammation and damage the lining of the digestive tract.
What is a stomach ulcer?
Second H. pylori and NSAIDs can cause disruption of the mucosal barrier in the stomach or duodenum (the beginning of the small intestine) and lead to ulcer formation, says Leila Kia, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
According to A. Samad Soudagar, MD, a gastroenterologist at Northwest Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, less common causes of peptic ulcers include:
- underlying cancer.
- Blood thinners.
- Drug use, including cocaine.
- Source of infection, such as herpes.
- Autoimmune diseases, including Crohn’s disease.
- A rare tumor that can predispose the patient to a hyperacidic state.
There are several types of peptic ulcers, their names differ depending on their location in the digestive tract. Sores in the lining of the stomach are peptic ulcers; a wound in the first part of the small intestine is a duodenal ulcer; and in the lower esophagus, the pain is called an esophageal ulcer.
Some people have no symptoms. About two-thirds of people with PUD are asymptomatic. Others wake up in the middle of the night with upper abdominal pain. Whatever the case, peptic ulcer disease is a serious health problem that can reduce the quality of life.
The good news is that over the past half century, peptic ulcer disease has declined due to acid-reducing drugs, such as proton pump inhibitors, as well as the growing understanding of how to treat them. H. pylori.
Doctors diagnose ulcers using an upper endoscope, which allows them to see into the upper part of the digestive tract. Once they confirm the presence of an ulcer, they will look for the underlying cause to treat it.
If H. pylori is the culprit, the treatment involves antibiotics and acid blockers. If NSAIDs are to blame, then doctors usually encourage people to stop NSAIDs and take proton pump inhibitors for six to eight weeks to allow the boils to heal.
“If the ulcer is in the stomach, we usually repeat the endoscopy to check for healing, because rarely, a peptic ulcer that doesn’t heal can be caused by cancer,” Kia says. Signs of internal bleeding — such as vomiting blood, or black bloody stools — are warning signs that may require hospitalization, blood transfusions, and urgent endoscopy to treat bleeding ulcers.
Diet and stomach ulcers
What you eat and drink contributes to the health of the lining of the digestive tract. Researchers have found that substances such as alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine can increase acid secretion in the stomach.
“Although certain foods — including spicy, oily, or fatty foods, along with soda, alcohol, or caffeine — can cause an ulcer-type pain called dyspepsia, there’s no evidence that these foods can make heartburn itself,” says Soudagar. However, he recommends avoiding these foods or consuming them in moderation to minimize discomfort from ongoing ulcer disease.
Adding colorful plant foods to your plate can help ward off peptic ulcer disease. Plants contain various kinds of flavonoids that give beautiful color to the leaves and skin. Among the many important roles in health, flavonoids have been found to have gastroprotective effects. Not only are flavonoids anti-inflammatory, but they also contribute a variety of protective features, including antioxidants and antioxidants H. pylori inhibitors, which play an important role in keeping the lining of the digestive tract protected from damaging free radicals and pathogens.
“Smoking and heavy alcohol use are independent risk factors for ulcers and may prevent healing,” Kia says. So, stopping these substances is a positive step towards preventing PUD.
Probiotics or beneficial bacteria can also help, as these friendly insects can inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria and/or compete for available nutrients and growth factors.
Limit stomach ulcers
How else can you treat and prevent peptic ulcers? These seven lifestyle changes can help:
- Quit smoking. If you smoke tobacco products, stop. Nicotine can increase acid production in the stomach and aggravate existing ulcers, prevent healing, and increase the risk of recurrence.
- Moderate alcohol intake. For women, that means no more than one drink per day and for men, two drinks per day. (One drink equals a 5-ounce glass of wine, 12-ounce beer, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.) Do not mix alcohol and drugs, as over time they can cause damage to the lining of the digestive tract.
- Eat a variety of whole plant foods. Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains for vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, which can help boost immunity, strengthen the integrity of the lining of the digestive tract, and heal pre-existing ulcers. Limit spicy, fatty, and fried foods, which can make PUD worse.
- Stay hydrated and limit caffeine intake. Drink water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of fluids, especially water, every day.
- Get probiotics. Strengthen your gut with healthy bacteria, which you can get from fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and apple cider vinegar. You may need a targeted probiotic supplement if you are being treated with antibiotics for H. pylori. Consult a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who specializes in gastrointestinal health.
- Avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen — unless aspirin is medically necessary.
- Pay attention to your mental health. Stress, anxiety, and depression can indirectly cause peptic ulcers. Poor eating habits and destructive lifestyle behaviors, which can occur with mental health conditions, can contribute to ulcers.
These lifestyle changes may not be easy at first, but research shows they make a difference. In a recent risk assessment that followed 71 people with a moderate to high risk of recurrence of PUD for one year, one group received an individualized intervention with educational brochures, lifestyle change counseling, psychological counseling for depression and anxiety, and home and nursing health care. treatment guidance. The control group received no intervention, only a follow-up call every three months to see if there was ulcer recurrence.
Findings revealed that individualized interventions improved not only relapse rates, but also anxiety, depression, pain levels, and quality of life.
Peptic ulcers can be painful. But adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle can help prevent and treat it.