Do you constantly get a nagging burning pain in the middle-upper part of your stomach when you are hungry or when you eat certain kinds of foods? You probably have an ulcer!
When I was much younger, I began to have that pain in my late teens and thought it was regular stomach pain. Then a friend who was a medical student, casually told me that I have an ulcer and since then I made sure to keep an antacid handy.
After over 10 years later, l decided to get a proper diagnosis of the kind of ulcer and how to better manage it.
This article will talk about what ulcer is, causes of ulcer, how it is diagnosed and how to properly manage it to avoid further complications.
What is a stomach ulcer?
A stomach ulcer is a painful open sore found in the lining of the stomach. They grow when the protective mucus layer of the stomach gets damaged. This can be caused by several things, both known and unknown. Sometimes, when we consume food or water contaminated with the H Pylori bacteria, the bacteria destroy the protective layer and that’s where it all begins. An ulcer can be mild, moderate and very severe.
What are the causes of stomach ulcers?
According to popular belief, it is said that stomach ulcers are caused by eating spicy and peppery foods. I bet a lot of people still think that’s what causes ulcers, but contrary to that, several other things cause stomach ulcers and spicy and peppery foods may just trigger it.
The H pylori bacteria: helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) is a bacteria believed to cause all forms of stomach ulcer and inflammation of the stomach linen. Studies show that about 60-90% of stomach ulcers are caused by H.pylori. This bacteria is usually ingested but it doesn’t cause ulcers in every person who ingests it. When I went for a proper diagnosis for my ulcer, I told the doctor that I know I have an ulcer but I’d like to know what type of ulcer it is and the cause. The nurse then drew blood and took it to test if the H pylori bacteria was present in my system and if it was the cause of the ulcer, in a few hours the result was out and the bacteria was not found in my system, so my next question was why do I have an ulcer? This led us to the next point.
Idiopathic: idiopathic ulcer is an ulcer with no known cause and it appears spontaneously. This seemed to be the case of my ulcer, not H Pylori, not NSAIDs and not even stress. In situations like this you need to observe yourself for things that trigger the pain, both food and activities, then avoid them. Antacids and medication will also help you manage the pain.
NSAIDs: prolonged use of NSAIDs like ibuprofen, aspirin and certain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can cause stomach ulcers. Painkillers help manage pain and inflammation in the body but certain chemicals protect the stomach and maintain the pH level. Taking certain pain relief medicine disrupts the production of those chemicals and can lead to ulcer and stomach bleeding. If your ulcer is caused by pain meds, your doctor should be able to prescribe a safer one. If you just love to take NSAIDs for little aches, you need to stop because you may also be damaging your kidneys.
Having an ulcer automatically restricts your diet and what you can consume, hence everything you eat should be mild in order not to further trigger the ulcer.
How to fix a stomach ulcer
Cabbage: cabbage is a popular remedy for stomach ulcers. Vitamin U is not a very popular vitamin but it is present in cabbage and its ability to heal ulcers is amazing. Researchers say drinking a glass of cabbage juice has proven to be more effective than other forms of medication. It also contains antioxidants that help treat H pylori infection. I tried this the last time I had an ulcer pain and it worked but trust me, it can be gross to drink if you are used to having pineapple and other sweet smoothies. But if you are not brave enough to drink it, you can just eat it as well.
Apples: this fruit contains a flavonoid that stops the growth of helicobacter pylori. Apples are rich in fibre. Foods with high fibre content like oats, pears etc can lower the acidity of the stomach and ease or prevent the pain. They say an apple a day keeps you away from the doctor, so don’t hold back on consuming apples.
Yoghurt: yoghurt, especially Greek yoghurt contains probiotics and probiotics contain good bacteria that help fight and eliminate bad bacteria like H.pylori and others in the body. Have a cup of yoghurt at least once a day. If you don’t like sugar, go for the unsweetened yoghurt. It will reduce and prevent pain.
Carrots: vitamin A helps in warding off ulcers, gastric inflammation and indigestion and carrot is rich in vitamin A. eat carrots regularly, either by adding it to your meals, blending it with other fruits as a smoothie or just chewing it the rabbit way, it will prevent or gradually shrink the stomach ulcer.
Honey: honey has a lot of healing properties that’s why it is used to even treat surface wounds. Honey has an antimicrobial effect against h.pylori. Take honey in your teas and any other thing you’d normally use sugar for. You can simply just take the honey in teaspoons like that, it will soothe the pain and ultimately heal the stomach ulcer.
Spinach: spinach is one of the healthiest green vegetables known and it can be used to cure stomach ulcers and gastric problems. Spinach can be eaten or blended and drunk like other smoothies. This vegetable is rich in nitrates. Research carried out showed that rats fed on vegetables rich in nitrate had a thicker layer of the mucosal lining and protected them from acid and cut the risk of stomach ulcers. other foods rich in nitrate include beetroot, celery etc
Garlic: garlic seems to have some superpowers as it proves to be effective in healing and preventing a lot of health issues. Garlic has a strong antibiotic effect and studies show its effectiveness in treating ulcers and speeding up the healing process.
These few foods amongst many others are the food items people battling ulcers should deliberately include in their diets to heal and stop the ulcer from worsening. There are, however, foods that you should avoid as they can be major triggers of stomach ulcer pains.
Foods to avoid if you have a stomach ulcer include:
Alcohol, Tomatoes, Milk, Deep-fried foods, Caffeine and sodas, Oily fatty food, Citrus fruits.
There is a long list of items but in my next article, I’ll elaborate on foods to avoid, and why.
Other things to avoid are eating very large meals and eating meals too fast especially if you haven’t had any meal all day. If you have a diagnosed or undiagnosed ulcer, make sure to always have an antacid handy, (Gestid, Gelusil, Gaviscon, Mist mag) there are so many out there. It will provide quick relief for the pain and antacids also help with heartburn and other gastrointestinal discomforts. Better still, go for a test so that it can be properly treated especially if it’s caused by h pylori bacteria and if it’s caused by NSAIDs your doctor should be able to prescribe a better replacement or monitor your dosage till you get better. Stomach ulcers can be deadly if left untreated and not properly managed.