Ulcer means open wounds or sores. But the term ‘peptic’ refers to acid, which is its root cause.
There are two types of peptic ulcer, which are: gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcer.
Gastric and duodenal simply refer to where these sores are located in the body. While the former can be found in the stomach, the latter afflicts the duodenum – the upper part of the small intestine, which is also referred to as the small bowel.
Peptic ulcers can be attributed to two main factors:
• Bacterial infection: According to online platform Mayo Clinic, this happens when the stomach or duodenum is infected with the Helicobacter Pylori (H.Pylori) bacterium. They break down the mucous layers that serve as protection for the stomach walls, opening them up to acidic damage.
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These are painkilling drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, ketorolac, etc. However, because these drugs are easily accessible over the counter, people tend to abuse them, which makes them a common cause of peptic ulcers. According to the National Institutes of Health, prolonged use of NSAIDs opens the stomach up to ulcers by taking away its natural defense mechanism, thereby rendering them impotent.
The following are some common signs of peptic ulcers:
• Pains in the stomach: usually in the upper abdominal parts.
• Bloating: this is a feeling of fullness or swelling in the abdominal area. This is caused by excess gas in the stomach
• Heartburn: peptic ulcer can also cause a burning feeling in the chest area. This is caused when the stomach acid moves upward to the esophagus.
• Nausea and vomiting: there could also be a feeling of wooziness and queasiness which might also, sometimes, lead to emesis (vomiting).
• Bloody stool: in some chronic cases, peptic ulcers can cause damage to the esophagus, stomach, or intestine, causing internal bleeding, which can affect the color of the stool. While it could be evident in the stool as blood traces sometimes, other times it could reflect in the form of black, tar-like stools.
• Bloody Vomit: Similar to the case of bloody stools, blood can also be evident in the content from the stomach after emesis.
When to see a doctor
According to Online portal Healthline, stomach ulcers don’t stop at abdominal pain. If left untreated, they can create a hole in the stomach, which requires surgery.
On rare occasions, ulcers might signal larger problems, like cancer.
So, see your doctor if you have the severe signs or symptoms listed above. Also, see your doctor if over-the-counter antacids and acid blockers relieve your pain but the pain returns.
Stomach ulcers are treated with antibiotics and medications to reduce and block stomach acid.
In addition to this well-proven treatment plan, research has shown that there are also some natural home remedies that may be useful in managing a stomach ulcer. So, talk with your doctor about adding these foods to your diet:
Flavonoids: Research suggests that flavonoids, also known as bioflavonoids, may be an effective additional treatment for stomach ulcers.
Flavonoids are compounds that occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Foods and drinks rich in flavonoids include: soybeans, legumes, red grapes, kale, broccoli, apples,
berries, and teas, especially green tea. These foods may also help the body fight against the H. pylori bacteria.
Probiotics: These are the living bacteria and yeast that provide healthy and important microorganisms to your digestive tract. They are present in many common foods, particularly fermented foods such as buttermilk and yogurt. You can also take probiotics in supplement form.
Honey: Honey is far from simply sweet. Depending on the plant it’s derived from, honey can contain up to 200 elements, including polyphenols and other antioxidants. Honey is a powerful antibacterial and has been shown to inhibit H. pylori growth.
As long as you have normal blood sugar levels, you can enjoy honey as you would any sweetener, with the bonus of perhaps soothing your ulcers.
Garlic: Garlic extract has been shown to inhibit H. pylori growth in lab, animal, and human trials. If you don’t like the taste (and lingering aftertaste) of garlic, you can take garlic extract in supplement form.
Garlic acts as a blood thinner, so ask your doctor before taking it if you use warfarin (Coumadin), other prescription blood thinners, or aspirin.
Cranberry has been shown in some studies to help decrease urinary tract infections by preventing bacteria from settling on the walls of the bladder. Cranberry and cranberry extract also may help fight H. pylori.
You can drink cranberry juice, eat cranberries, or take cranberry supplements.
No specific amount of consumption is associated with relief. Too much cranberry in any form may cause stomach and intestinal discomfort due to its high sugar content, so start with small amounts and increase gradually.
Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains: A diet centered on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is not only good for your overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic, a vitamin-rich diet can help your body heal your ulcer.
Foods containing the antioxidant polyphenols may protect you from ulcers and help ulcers heal. Polyphenol-rich foods and seasonings include: dried rosemary, Mexican oregano, dark chocolate, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, elderberries, and blackberries, as well as black olives.
Foods to limit or avoid with ulcers and acid reflux
Some people with ulcers also have acid reflux disease. In some people, certain foods can affect the lower part of the esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing acid and stomach contents to back up into the esophagus.
This can cause injury to the esophagus, as well as heartburn, indigestion, and other discomfort. To reduce acid reflux pain, you may want to limit coffee and other caffeinated beverages, carbonated beverages, chocolate, chilies and hot peppers, processed foods, foods with a high amount of salt, deep-fried foods, acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes.
Overeating and eating within two to three hours of going to bed may also worsen the symptoms of acid reflux.
Not every food acts the same for every person, so keeping track of which foods seem to make acid reflux symptoms worse can be helpful.
Regular alcohol use causes significant stomach inflammation. Also, alcohol is another substance that can relax the lower part of the esophagus, increasing your risk for acid reflux.
It can take some time, teamwork, and determination to find the right treatment for your ulcers, but keep in mind that ulcers can be cured.
In addition to a treatment plan agreed upon by you and your doctor, you can incorporate natural approaches with healthful foods that may give you some relief and accelerate healing.
Adding plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet and reducing alcohol intake will almost certainly get you on the road to health.
As much as home remedies can help in bringing relief to persons suffering from peptic ulcers, it is advisable to seek the help of a doctor to be able to find out the root cause and get medical care.