Many of us grew up with the mindset that if we don’t eat, the worms in our stomachs would eat our intestines, and that would lead to stomach ulcers.
This was basically used to scare those who didn’t like to eat so we could eat and prevent stomach ulcers.
This is a misconception, though, and now that you’re grown, it’s crucial you understand what a stomach ulcer is and what it entails. Ignorance is never an excuse, though.
What is Ulcer?
Ulcer refers to a painful sore area either inside or outside the body. In basic terms, it’s a wound or a sore.
What are the types of ulcer
Peptic Ulcer, also called stomach ulcers, refers to sores lining the esophagus, stomach, or upper part of the small intestine. It is three types; Gastric, Duodenal, and Esophageal Ulcers through Gastric and Duodenal are more prevalent.
What is Gastric Ulcer?
Gastric ulcers, also referred to as Stomach ulcers are sores opened on the lining of the stomach.
What is Duodenal Ulcer?
Unlike the gastric ulcer, the sores develop in some parts of the intestine
What is Esophageal Ulcer
Just as the name implies, this type of peptic ulcer occurs in the tube that links the stomach and the throat, known as the esophagus.
Causes of Peptic Ulcer
Peptic ulcer occurs when stomach acid (pepsin to be precise) ulcerates the stomach lining. This could be triggered by different factors which include;
- The presence of Helicobacter pylori (a bacteria) in the stomach. How the bacteria gets into the stomach is not clear, but when it does, it weakens the protective mucous layer of the stomach lining exposing the stomach lining to stomach acid
- The constant use of non-inflammatory pain relievers such as Aspirin, ibuprofen, and diclofenac can also reduce the action of certain hormones that protect the stomach lining resulting in stomach ulceration.
- Eating peppery food and spicy food.
- Alcohol consumption (especially on an empty stomach) and smoking can increase stomach acid concentration, hence predisposing one to stomach ulcer.
Furthermore, what may trigger a patient A ulcer may not trigger a patient B ulcer, and symptoms may also be different.
So when you notice something odd, it is essential to report it to your medical practitioner so that proper diagnosis can be carried out.
How to Diagnose Peptic Ulcer
The use of upper gastrointestinal series: Here, barium, a white liquid, is swallowed to make ulcers clearer and coat the digestive tract. Then X-rays of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine are carried out.
H. pylori Laboratory Test
Stool, breath, and blood tests can be used to determine H. pylori’s presence in the body. A blood test is said to be the most inaccurate.
For the breath test, radioactive carbon is ingested, and the patient breathes into the bag. If the breath samples contain carbon dioxide, then the person is infected with H pylori.
What are the Symptoms of ulcers?
It is interesting to note that some people may even develop an ulcer and would not know, so they keep taking drugs like buscopan to ease the pain, this is not good as they may never get well and would soon begin to say the drugs are not working.
So the symptoms of ulcer include;
- Burning stomach pain that radiates towards the back
- Stomach pain that occurs before eating and during eating too
- There could also be nausea or feeling bloated
- In very severe cases, there could be vomiting or stooling blood, feeling tired or faint due to the pain that occurs when one tries to eat and finally unexplained weight loss.
But then why wait for it to get to the severe case when you can be appropriately diagnosed and treated before it gets out of hand?
So when you notice these symptoms, you should visit your physician to run a lab test and be properly diagnosed and treated. A peptic ulcer can be cured and appropriately treated if the rules are strictly adhered to.
Now, for those that have ulcers already, there is another misconception that when one drinks milk, the pains will go away. Well, the truth is the pain will subside, but it only makes it difficult for the wound to heal.
This is because the milk would result in more stomach acid production, which in turn makes the ulcer worse. So rather than take milk, take yogurt as it contains good bacteria (due to fermentation it has undergone) that can heal ulcer wounds.
As an ulcer patient, you should avoid the following:
- Acidic foods like tomatoes and some fruits (Oranges, Pineapples, etc.)
- Fruit juice (the ones containing fruits that are acidic like oranges)
- Fried foods
- Carbonated drinks, e.g., Pepsi, coca-cola, etc
- Spicy foods
- Also, avoid smoking and eating shortly before going to bed. This habit also helps to prevent heart disease
Treatment Options for Ulcer
Medications for the reduction of acid production
Protecting the lining of the small intestine and stomach with medications
The bacteria H. pylori is destroyed using antibiotics medications
The use of antacids to neutralize stomach acids
Proton pump inhibitors are used not only to block acid production but also to promote healing
- Getting enough sleep
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol
Food containing probiotics should be highly considered
Drinking of milk should be avoided as they tend to increase the acid content
Stress makes symptoms of peptic ulcers worse. So it is best to watch stress levels
If certain pain relievers are not working for you, talk to your doctor.
To prevent the risk of developing an ulcer, stick to the following;
- Do not drink more than two bottles of alcoholic beverages per day.
- Do not mix alcohol with medications.
- Wash your hands frequently to avoid infections.
- Limit your use of Ibuprofen, Aspirin, and other pain medications that can trigger ulcers.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle, quit smoking, and other tobacco use.
- Eat a balanced diet rich in vegetables and whole grains
Finally, you can live a healthy life even if you have an ulcer as long as you stay away from your triggers and adhere to your drug regimen.
You can also prevent ulcers by eating healthy meals.