What is a stomach ulcer?
Stomach ulcers, which are also known as gastric ulcers, are painful sores in the stomach lining. Stomach ulcers are a type of peptic ulcer disease. Peptic ulcers are any ulcers that affect both the stomach and small intestines.
Stomach ulcers occur when the thick layer of mucus that protects your stomach from digestive juices is reduced. This allows the digestive acids to eat away at the tissues that line the stomach, causing an ulcer.
Stomach ulcers may be easily cured, but they can become severe without proper treatment.
What causes stomach ulcers?
Stomach ulcers are almost always caused by one of the following:
- An infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)
- Long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen
Rarely, a condition known as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome can cause stomach and intestinal ulcers by increasing the body’s production of acid. This syndrome is suspected to cause less than 1 percent of all peptic ulcers.
Symptoms of stomach ulcers
A number of symptoms are associated with stomach ulcers. The severity of the symptoms depends on the severity of the ulcer.
The most common symptom is a burning sensation or pain in the middle of your abdomen between your chest and belly button.
Typically, the pain will be more intense when your stomach is empty, and it can last for a few minutes to several hours.
Other common signs and symptoms of ulcers include:
- dull pain in the stomach
- weight loss
- not wanting to eat because of pain
- nausea or vomiting
- feeling easily full
- burping or acid reflux
- heartburn (burning sensation in the chest)
- pain that may improve when you eat, drink, or take antacids
- anemia (symptoms can include tiredness, shortness of breath, or paler skin)
- dark, tarry stools
- vomit that’s bloody or looks like coffee grounds
Talk to your doctor if you have any symptoms of a stomach ulcer. Even though discomfort may be mild, ulcers can worsen if they aren’t treated. Bleeding ulcers can become life-threatening.
7 Signs You May Have A Stomach Ulcer
As sores are found on the stomach lining, it makes sense that one of the top signs and symptoms of this condition, is pain in your stomach.
The pain can be felt, anywhere between an individual’s chest and belly. This can be dull, achy, or a burning sensation.
Some have pain that lasts for hours, others feel their pain is relieved after they have taken some antacids or have eaten a small meal.
At the end of the day, the severity of the pain depends on how much the stomach ulcer has progressed.
Less severe pain will indicate the early stages of an ulcer; a more progressive pain may indicate further complications.
One of the initial symptoms of a stomach ulcer, is bloating. Many patients will report a feeling of bloating in their midsection, specifically.
Other key factors of bloating include feeling as if your clothes aren’t fitting as easily as they once did along your waist; or a feeling that you have gained a few pounds – even when the scale indicates otherwise.
For some ulcer patients, a lack of appetite, mixed with the nausea and vomiting that a peptic ulcer can bring, will usually equal out to some weight loss.
Still, there are some stomach ulcer sufferers that consume the same amount of food they normally would, and begin to lose weight anyway due to the ulcer.
A lot is going on in the stomach area, for those suffering from a peptic ulcer.
Therefore, a very telltale sign of an ulcer in the stomach is when a patient loses their appetite, and this is simply due to having pain or soreness in that area.
Oddly enough, other times, there are individuals that report they feel much better after they have put something in their system, even a small snack.
If you have ever experienced heartburn, you know how annoying it can be. It’s a burning sensation in the chest that can even mimic a heart attack. If it begins to subside with water or an over the counter antacid, it’s most likely just heartburn, and an indication that something you ate hasn’t settled right. If it is consistent, regardless of what you eat, it may be a stomach ulcer. Those suffering through a peptic ulcer often complain about intense heartburn and/or gastrointestinal pain; causing a person to burb or hiccup excessively after eating. This one is tricky, because an antacid can help subside this symptom, temporarily, however, if you find that you are developing heartburn more frequently than usual; a visit to the doctor is in order.
If you have ever experienced heartburn, you know how annoying it can be. It’s a burning sensation in the chest that can even mimic a heart attack.
If it begins to subside with water or an over the counter antacid, it’s most likely just heartburn, and an indication that something you ate hasn’t settled right. If it is consistent, regardless of what you eat, it may be a stomach ulcer.
Those suffering through a peptic ulcer often complain about intense heartburn and/or gastrointestinal pain; causing a person to burb or hiccup excessively after eating.
This one is tricky, because an antacid can help subside this symptom, temporarily, however, if you find that you are developing heartburn more frequently than usual; a visit to the doctor is in order.
Some stomach ulcer sufferers report they still feel hungry even directly after eating a meal, or they develop a hunger or thirst they can’t seem to quench.
This is because of the excess in digestive fluids within the stomach.
While peptic ulcer patients may confuse this feeling with being hunger, it is actually associated with the stomach pains from the ulcer sores themselves.
Vomiting is common with ulcer due to high levels of digestive juices in your stomach and intestines.
But if your vomit contains traces of blood, this can indicate an advanced state of ulcer and needs medical attention as soon as possible.
Home Remedy Treatments for Ulcers
Go by gut reactions
Highly spiced and fried foods, long thought to be prime culprits in instigating ulcers, are now considered to have little bearing on either the development or course of an ulcer.
However, they do bother some people who already have ulcers.
If you find that spicy meals, for example, are always followed by a severe gnawing pain, assume that there may be a cause and effect. The same goes for any other food that seems to cause you discomfort.
Test your limits
An elimination diet can help you determine if any specific food triggers an increase in ulcer symptoms.
An elimination diet involves avoiding frequently eaten and common food allergens for two or three weeks, then reintroducing them one by one, and taking note of which ones trigger symptoms.
The real key to keeping gastric juices from attacking the lining of the digestive tract is to keep some food present as much of the time as possible.
Try eating smaller meals more frequently. Don’t overeat, though — too much food causes formation of more gastric juices as well as weight gain.
Simply spread your normal amount of calories over more and smaller meals. Snack on healthy treats, such as carrot sticks and whole-wheat crackers.
Up your fiber
People with ulcers should eat as many unrefined and high-fiber plant foods as possible.
A diet rich in highly processed grains (such as white flour) deprives the body of fiber and protein, which can shield the digestive lining from stomach acid. Some high-fiber foods include spinach, cabbage, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.
Skip the milk solution
One of the earliest treatments for ulcer flare-ups was milk, which was believed to neutralize stomach acid.
However, scientists now know that foods high in calcium increase stomach acid. So while the protein part of the milk may soothe, the calcium may make matters worse.
The question of alcohol’s impact on ulcer formation remains unanswered.
Many medical experts believe that people who drink heavily are at higher risk of developing ulcers than those who drink lightly or not at all.