Causes Of Stomach Ulcers
Stomach ulcers happen when theres damage to the layer that protects the stomach lining from the acids in your stomach.
This is usually a result of:
- an infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria
- taking anti-inflammatory medicines , such as ibuprofen or aspirin particularly if they’re taken for a long time or at high doses
It used to be thought that stress or certain foods might cause stomach ulcers, but there’s little evidence to suggest this is the case.
Stomach ulcers can affect anyone but are more common in people aged 60 or over. Men are more affected than women.
Mayo Clinic Q And A: How Is A Peptic Ulcer Treated
DEAR MAYO CLINIC: Last year,I was diagnosed with heartburn due to a peptic ulcer. My doctor suggested that I see a specialist. Who should I see, and what type of treatment is available?
ANSWER: Many people will note that they have “heartburn,” and it is important to know that such a symptom could be related to one of several issues in the digestive tract, including peptic ulcer disease. This is where visiting with a health care professional who specializes in disorders of the gastrointestinal tract a gastroenterologist can help.
Once diagnosed and treated, ulcers usually heal within several months. But a gastroenterologist can help you find the underlying cause of your ulcer and decide on the best treatment going forward.
A peptic ulcer is an open sore on the inside lining of the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. Peptic ulcers are not rare, and their frequency can depend on age, gender, other medical issues, medications and geography.
It’s possible to have a peptic ulcer and not have any symptoms, although they may cause stomach pain. In some people, a peptic ulcer isn’t identified until they experience symptoms related to a complication from an ulcer, such as bleeding or a hole in the lining of the stomach or bowel.
H. pylori is a bacterium that can live in the mucous layer covering the lining of the stomach. It doesn’t always lead to health problems, but it can sometimes trigger inflammation of the stomach’s inner layer, producing an ulcer.
Foods To Avoid With A Peptic Ulcer
There are several rules that govern which foods you should and should avoid if you have a peptic ulcer. Foods that are spicy or acidic are clearly those you need to avoid, but there are other lesser-known culprits to consider.
This includes dairyonce considered the go-to home remedy for peptic ulcerswhich can increase the amount of stomach acids as the lactose in dairy is broken down. The same applies to caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, both which can also increase acid production.
Fatty foods are bad for you in several ways. They are harder to digest and require larger amounts of digestive acids to break them down. Saturated fats also provide H. pylori an ideal environment to thrive .
The foods to avoid if you have a peptic ulcer include:
- Baked goods, like cupcakes and pastries which are often high in hydrogenated fat
- Cheese, including cheese sauces
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Other Benefits Of Nuts
Nuts have become a recommended part of people’s diets because of the general health benefits they convey. According to the review in Nutrients, nuts â including tree nuts and peanuts â are dense in nutrients and rich in healthy, unsaturated fats. They’re also an excellent source of protein, fiber, minerals and antioxidants.
Eating nuts, according to the review, has shown to help reduce the risk of:
Milk And Dairy Products
Milk and dairy products were once used to treat peptic ulcers, but now it is known that eating dairy products increases the production of gastrin, which increases the secretion of gastric acid. This can irritate the stomach lining and worsen the symptoms of peptic ulcers.
Choosing low-fat dairy alternatives may be better, but do run it by your doctor first.
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What Are The Causes Of Peptic Ulcers
The most common causes of peptic ulcers has been found to be Helicobacter pylori infection which invade the intestinal lining and damage it while proliferating. Also, indiscriminate use of NSAIDs has found to precipitate peptic ulcers.
Alcohol & tobacco intake as well as consumption of oily, spicy foods may worsen the condition of peptic ulcers, but has not been found to cause them. The most common, first line treatment for ulcers is administration of antacids and proton pump inhibitors which dilute the concentration of acid secretions in the stomach or reduce the acid production respectively.
What Are The Possible Complications Of Peptic Ulcer Disease
An ulcer left untreated may cause serious complications, including:
- Internal bleeding: While most people with ulcers wont have bleeding, this is the most common complication that can occur. A slow bleeding ulcer can cause anemia or even severe blood loss.
- Perforation: An ulcer that is continuously eroded by acid can eventually become a hole in the stomach or intestinal wall. This is intensely painful and also dangerous. It allows bacteria from the digestive tract to enter the abdominal cavity, which can lead to an infection of the abdominal cavity called peritonitis. From there, the infection is at risk of spreading to the rest of the body . This can lead to a life-threatening condition called .
- Obstruction: An ulcer in the pyloric channel, the narrow passageway that leads from the stomach into the duodenum, can become an obstruction that blocks the flow of food into the small intestine. This can happen after the ulcer has healed. Ulcers that have gone through a healing process may build up scar tissue that enlarges them. An ulcer that is big enough to obstruct the small intestine can stall the digestive process, with numerous side effects.
- Stomach cancer: Some gastric ulcers can become malignant over time. This is more likely when your ulcer is caused by H. pylori infection. H. pylori is a contributing cause of gastric cancer, though fortunately, this is uncommon.
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What Causes Stomach Ulcers Dont Assume Spicy Foods Are To Blame
For decades, spicy foods were blamed for painful stomach ulcers. People doubled over in pain were advised to cut back on fiery foods.
In the 1980s, however, that theory was debunked, as was the thought that stress causes ulcers. Matthew Bechtold, MD, a gastroenterologist at MU Health Care, said the primary causes of ulcers are a bacterium known as Helicobacter pylori and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs .
H. pylori spreads through contaminated food and water or unsanitary conditions. It can cause ulcers by growing in the lining of the stomach, producing inflammation and causing the stomach and intestinal lining to be more easily damaged by stomach acid.
NSAIDs that can lead to ulcers include popular over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. They can irritate the stomachs lining and may interfere with chemicals that help regulate the protective lining.
Ulcers caused by NSAIDs can be prevented by reducing or eliminating use of the drugs. Your doctor may also prescribe a daily medicine, such as Prilosec, Pepcid or Cytotec.
Even though the beliefs about what caused ulcers were disabused more than 30 years ago, Bechtold said to this day many patients dont know that spicy foods are not harmful.
They tend to blame the spicy foods for their issues, he said.
A study on capsaicin the ingredient responsible for spiciness in peppers showed it might even be good for the stomach.
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Coffee May Aggravate Ulcers
That being said, drinking too much coffee is bad for existing ulcers.
Most coffee varieties have an average pH of 4.85 to 5.10. On the pH value scale, anything below 7.0 is considered acidic. So, coffee is slightly more acidic than water, which has a neutral pH of 7.0.
Coffee also contains caffeine, which is a naturally bitter-tasting compound. It tastes delicious in espresso, frappes, and whatever other creative concoctions baristas come up with, but that bitterness can also irritate your stomach lining and make ulcer symptoms worse.
Finally, brewing coffee doesnt just make it flavorful. The process also releases nine types of acids:
Caffeine also stimulates the secretion of gastric acids and gastrin release. These promote reflux and heartburn, both of which are uncomfortable at best, and can be downright excruciating for those with severe ulcers.
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Is Yogurt Good For Stomach Ulcers
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Keep Your Dairy Low Fat
Foods high in fat may cause discomfort and should be avoided when you have an ulcer, so include dairy foods that are low in fat. Good choices include low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt or cheese, buttermilk, low-fat ice cream or sherbet. If you do not tolerate dairy foods, soy milk may be an option for you. Milk does not coat the stomach to relieve pain, so it is not necessary to drink large amounts, according to MedlinePlus.
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How Do Tumors From Zes Cause Peptic Ulcers
Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is a rare disorder that happens when one or more tumors form in your pancreas and duodenum. The tumors release large amounts of gastrin, a hormone that causes your stomach to produce large amounts of acid. The extra acid causes peptic ulcers to form in your duodenum and in the upper intestine.
Nuts And Ulcers: Possible Benefits
Nuts contain some nutrients that are powerful antioxidants, according to a review published in the journal Nutrients in June 2010. These include tocopherols, phytosterols, folic acid, selenium and magnesium. The reason this could be important for ulcers is due to a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori .
H. pylori is one of the main causes of ulcers, says the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. An H. pylori infection can break down the protective coating in the stomach and allow acids to get in and cause an ulcer.
However, a diet rich in antioxidants may help protect against many inflammatory conditions, including ulcers. “Most adults in America have H. pylori in their stomachs, but few people get ulcers,” Rubman says. “Antioxidants may help keep these bacteria stable and prevent them from causing an ulcer.”
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What Causes Gastritis And Duodenitis
The most common cause of gastritis and duodenitis is a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. Large amounts of the bacteria invading your stomach or small intestine can cause inflammation.
H. pylori may be transferred from person to person, but exactly how is unclear. Its believed to be spread through contaminated food and water, although this is less common in the United States. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, approximately 20 to 50 percent of people in the United States may be infected with H. pylori. By comparison, up to 80 percent of people in some developing countries are infected with the bacteria.
Other common causes of gastritis and duodenitis include the long-term use of certain medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen, or drinking too much alcohol.
Less common causes include:
How Do I Know If I Have An Ulcer Or Gastritis
There are also many differences between the two conditions. Both conditions cause inflammation in the stomach lining, but gastritis is general inflammation while an ulcer is a patch of inflamed stomach lining. Ulcers cause more severe, localized pain with the risk of cancer, bleeding, and stomach perforation.
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Symptoms Of Stomach Ulcers
A number of symptoms are associated with stomach ulcers. The severity of the symptoms depends on the severity of the ulcer.
The most common symptom is a burning sensation or pain in the middle of your abdomen between your chest and belly button. Typically, the pain will be more intense when your stomach is empty, and it can last for a few minutes to several hours.
Other common signs and symptoms of ulcers include:
- dull pain in the stomach
- heartburn, which is a burning sensation in the chest)
- pain that may improve when you eat, drink, or take antacids
- anemia, whose symptoms can include tiredness, shortness of breath, or paler skin
- dark, tarry stools
- vomit thats bloody or looks like coffee grounds
Talk to your doctor if you have any symptoms of a stomach ulcer. Even though discomfort may be mild, ulcers can worsen if they arent treated. Bleeding ulcers can become life-threatening.
What Are The Causes Of Ulcer
Ulcers are also caused by an increase in stomach acid caused by stress, medications, diet, smoking, alcohol, or H. pylori, a type of bad bacteria
The cause of about 70% ulcers is the overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin are another major cause as they damage the stomach and intestinal lining.
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Coffee Usually Has Trigger Ingredients
In addition to the acids, caffeine, and bitterness in the coffee itself, many people also add things to their coffee that can make ulcer symptoms worse. For instance, milk contains lactic acid and has an acidic pH level of 6.7 to 6.9. Chocolate is also bitter and contains caffeine. These can all trigger the symptoms of an ulcer.
Sugar is another common coffee additive that can promote the growth of H. pylori in the stomach. In fact, studies have shown that H. pylori is more likely to colonize the stomachs of people who eat a lot of sugary foods.
So, if you love your coffee with milk and sugar, you should rethink your beverage of choice if you have an ulcer. The same goes for chocolate-flavored coffees and other sweetened coffee drinks.
Limit Eating Too Much Chocolate
Chocolate is one of the types of foods to avoid with ulcers . It may increase your chances of developing ulcers or worsen your ulcer condition.
Actually, eating chocolate boosts the secretion of stomach acids this weakens the lining wall of the digestive tract, increasing the discomfort. It can also lead to heartburn.
For that reason, it is good to always limit the consumption of chocolate if you have ulcers.
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How Are Stomach Ulcers Diagnosed
Diagnosis and treatment will depend on your symptoms and the severity of your ulcer. To diagnose a stomach ulcer, your doctor will review your medical history along with your symptoms and any prescription or over-the-counter medications youre taking.
To rule out H. pylori infection, a blood, stool, or breath test may be ordered. With a breath test, youll be instructed to drink a clear liquid and breathe into a bag, which is then sealed. If H. pylori is present, the breath sample will contain higher-than-normal levels of carbon dioxide.
Other tests and procedures used to diagnose stomach ulcers include:
- Barium swallow: You drink a thick white liquid that coats your upper gastrointestinal tract and helps your doctor see your stomach and small intestine on X-rays.
- Endoscopy : A thin, lighted tube is inserted through your mouth and into the stomach and the first part of the small intestine. This test is used to look for ulcers, bleeding, and any tissue that looks abnormal.
- Endoscopic biopsy: A piece of stomach tissue is removed so it can be analyzed in a lab.
Is Cheese Bad For Stomach Ulcers
Low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, and mildly flavored cheeses, such as cottage cheese, are all good options. Be careful, though. Lactose intolerance and milk protein intolerance are common reasons for GI discomfort in some people. And many experts recommend eliminating dairy to help treat peptic ulcers.
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What Are The Risk Factors For Atrophic Gastritis
Youre more likely to develop AG if you have an H. pylori infection. This type of infection is fairly common around the world. It is more prevalent in areas of poverty and overcrowding.
Autoimmune AG is quite rare, but people who have thyroid disorders or diabetes are more likely to have this condition. Youre also more at risk if youre African-American or of northern European descent.
AG is more common in people who are of Hispanic or Asian descent.
Both AG and autoimmune AG can significantly increase your risk of stomach cancer.
Many cases of AG go undiagnosed because there are usually no symptoms. However, if an H. pylori infection is present, common symptoms include:
How Is Atrophic Gastritis Diagnosed
An AG diagnosis usually involves a combination of clinical observation and testing. During a physical exam, your doctor will check for stomach tenderness by lightly pressing on certain areas of your stomach. Theyll also look for signs of B-12 deficiency, such as paleness, rapid pulse, and neurological deficits.
Your doctor might order blood tests to check for:
- low levels of pepsinogen, a protein produced by the stomach cells
- high levels of gastrin, a hormone that stimulates the production of stomach acid
- low levels of B-12
- antibodies that attack stomach cells and intrinsic factor
In some cases, your doctor may need to perform a biopsy. Your doctor will insert an endoscope, down your throat and into your stomach. Theyll then take a sample of tissue from your stomach to look for evidence of AG. The sample of stomach tissue can also indicate signs of an H. pylori infection.
If you dont already have a gastroenterologist, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
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