Stomach ulcers, also called peptic ulcers, are sores in the lining of your stomach. People who have stomach ulcers experience indigestion and burning stomach pain that may come and go. 1 Stomach ulcers occur when the acid in your stomach damages tissue. 2 An estimated six million people in the United States suffer from stomach ulcers each year.3
Causes of Stomach Ulcers
One of the main causes of stomach ulcers is the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen and aspirin. People who take more than one type of NSAID or who take large amounts of NSAIDs on a regular basis are at risk for stomach ulcers. 4 Another main cause of stomach ulcers is a stomach infection caused by the bacterial strain Helicobacter pylori. 5 Although not everyone who gets this infection will show symptoms, your risk of the infection increases with age; by age 60, 50 percent of people will be infected by H. pylori. 6 Stomach ulcers may also be caused or exacerbated by stress, smoking, and alcohol abuse.
When to See a Doctor
If you have constant stomach pain for several days and have not been previously diagnosed with a stomach ulcer, you should see your doctor. Black or bloody stools and vomiting blood are also reasons to seek medical advice immediately. If not treated, stomach ulcers will get worse, and surgery may be needed. 7
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if you test positive for H. pylori. Additionally, try these home remedies and lifestyle accommodations to help your stomach ulcer.
Change Your Pain Reliever
If you regularly take NSAIDs for pain relief, switching to acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, may help. If you take a stronger prescription NSAID, talk to your doctor about alternatives.
Your body needs fiber to properly digest food, and research has shown that fiber can also help with stomach ulcers. 8 The Institute of Medicine recommends 38 grams of fiber daily for men ages 50 or younger, and 30 grams for men over 50. Women ages 50 and younger should get 25 grams of fiber daily, while women over 50 need 21 grams. An estimated 95 percent of Americans don’t meet these guidelines. 10 Some foods that contain high amounts of fiber include beans, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber supplements may also help.
Probiotics have proven effective in fighting the H. pylori bacteria. Probiotics are helpful bacteria and yeasts, and are the same or very similar to the bacteria and yeast already present in your body. A 2015 study found that taking probiotics along with traditional stomach ulcer treatment helped patients get rid of the harmful H. pylori bacteria.
You can take probiotics as a nutritional supplement or eat foods containing probiotics. Some examples of these foods include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that olive oil can defeat H. pylori. 12 Laboratory tests showed the extra virgin olive oil had an antibacterial effect against H. pylori. You can get more olive oil into your diet by using it as a replacement for butter, cooking with it, and making homemade salad dressing with olive oil and vinegar.
Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Smoking
If this isn’t already obvious, smoking, alcohol, and caffeine can make the symptoms of stomach ulcers worse. 13 If possible, quit tobacco use as soon as possible. Smoking increases your risk for stomach ulcers and also slows your recovery time. 14 Cut down on the amount of caffeine or alcohol you consume, especially if you notice more stomach pain after consumption.
Stress isn’t good for anything, and now there’s another reason to get your meditation practice going. Research from the Centers for Disease Control shows that people who feel stressed are more likely to get peptic ulcers than those who do not. 15 A Danish study also showed that stress increased the risk for stomach ulcers caused by either H. pylori or NSAID use. 16 To decrease stomach ulcers, patients should learn proper stress management techniques such as deep breathing, exercise, meditation, and not taking on too much.
The name sounds like something from a fantasy novel, but dragon’s blood is actually a type of plant sap used in traditional Chinese medicine. Laboratory tests have shown that dragon’s blood can block the growth of H. pylori, leading to less stomach ulcers. Dragon’s blood is available as a supplement in health stores.
Vitamin C is crucial for a healthy body and immune system. It may also protect your body from stomach ulcers. A study from the San Francisco VA Medical Center showed that patients with the H. pylori bacteria also had low blood levels of vitamin C. 17 Ensure you’re getting enough vitamin C from your diet, or take a supplement. Adult men need 90 milligrams daily, while adult women need 75 milligrams. Foods such as citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, and potatoes are high in vitamin C.
A study done in 1949 showed that 13 patients successfully treated peptic ulcers with fresh cabbage juice. 18 Cabbage is high in vitamin K, which is necessary for blood and bone health. To get more raw cabbage into your diet, juice it or eat it chopped in salads. Eat cooked cabbage in egg rolls, soups, and stir fries.
Stomach ulcers are uncomfortable and painful. Living a healthy lifestyle can help you manage your stomach ulcers, so start applying these tips and soothe your belly!
For more natural remedies to digestion discomfort, keep reading here:
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