Stomach ulcers: everything you need to know
Many things can cause stomach pain. A very common culprit is a stomach ulcer. Also known as a peptic ulcer, there are several causes for the ailment – which affects around one in ten people. Peptic ulcers are essentially holes or sores in the protective lining of the upper part of the small intestine (the duodenum) or the stomach. They form when the protective mucus that lines the stomach becomes ineffective and leaves the stomach and surrounding area vulnerable to stomach acids and enzymes.
Stomach acid is a potent liquid that assists in digesting food. It also protects against microbes. To protect the tissues of the body from this acid, it also secretes a thick layer of mucus, explains Medical News Today.
Ulcers are easily curable if detected in time. Left undetected or untreated, they could wreak havoc and cause sufferers’ immense pain and discomfort.0
Over the years, there have been many theories as to what causes most stomach ulcers. A common belief is that the modern diet is a big culprit. Spicy, oily and gassy foods are usually omitted from the diet of patients who suffer from ulcers or stomach ailments.
Ulcers have been linked to alcohol, caffeine and even genetics, but these have since been debunked. Yes, these poor habits certainly exacerbate the symptoms of a stomach ulcer, but they do not cause them. Other factors include the abuse of over-the-counter painkillers, excessive alcohol use, psychological stress and smoking. Previous studies claimed that other causes of ulcers are excess stomach acidity, or hyperacidity and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. The first-mentioned can occur owing to smoking, stress and some foods. Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is a rare condition in which excess stomach acid is produced. The medical community is still split on whether these are viable causes.
Later studies have proven that a bacterial infection causes stomach ulcers, says Web MD. The bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is present in many duodenal ulcers and stomach ulcers.
There are a few identifiable symptoms of stomach ulcers, though they can all be indicators of other problems. Stomach ulcers need to be diagnosed by a medical professional, so please speak to your doctor before taking any pain medication or antacids. Having medical insurance like Affinity Health can make finding and affording a doctor so much easier.
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If you have a stomach ulcer, you may notice pain in the middle of the stomach, behind the belly button. The pain can occur anywhere in the abdomen, though. Many patients report feeling a burning sensation around the same area as well. The problem is worse after meals, mostly if the meal was spicy or oily.
This pain is sometimes described as a “biting” or “gnawing” pain. Some people may describe a hungry sensation, says Medical News Today.
You may also experience flatulence and bloating, before or after meals. Excessive weight loss and weight gain are also indicators, particularly if you didn’t make any drastic changes to your diet.
Stomach ulcers: Treatment
As mentioned above, there are several dietary changes recommended for people who suffer from ulcers. Mainly, try to avoid alcohol and tobacco products. Many doctors suggest avoiding eating after 8 pm and drinking lots of water to both aid digestion and keep the organs and intestine hydrated.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a popular remedy for colds, flu and general immune boosting. It is also a powerful antioxidant. All of these properties are instrumental in combating H. pylori. Vitamin C can be supplemented and easily found in a range of fruits, legumes and vegetables.
Fibre: Adding more fibre to your diet will keep your stomach regular and help get the waste and gas out of your intestine easily. Fibre doesn’t only help with ulcers, but also in preventing them.
Medications for Stomach ulcers
Zinc: This is a micronutrient that promotes a healthy immune system and healing wounds, much like vitamin C. It is taken in pill form, usually with Iron. However, you will be advised to steer clear of iron supplements if you have a stomach ulcer, as high levels of iron have been linked to constipation. Zinc can be found in Oysters, spinach and beef.
Selenium: Brazil nuts, yellowfin tuna and halibut are recommended for their high selenium content. Selenium may reduce the risk of complications owing to infection and may also promote healing.