Stomach ulcers are often also known by the name peptic ulcers. They are basically painful sores which can be found in the stomach lining or small intestine. As per a study by the American Gastroenterological Association, about 4 million people suffer from stomach ulcers and one in ten people can get the problem in their lifetime. The problem occurs when the thick layer of mucus which protects our stomach from digestive juices gets reduced. This is a very common health problem and ulcers which occur in the stomach are also called gastric ulcers.
What causes stomach ulcer?
- Infection with Helicobacter pylori- H. Pylori is basically a type of bacteria, which could infect about two-third of people in the world. It infects the stomach, and in some cases may even lead to stomach diseases. It can also cause problems like ulcers in the stomach or duodenum. The infection by H. Pylori is the main cause in about 8 in 10 cases of stomach ulcer. Once you get infected, the treatment is essential else infection will be left for a lifetime. What happens is, in many people it causes no problem and many of these bacteria just live in the lining of the stomach and duodenum without any harm. This in turn causes the defense mucus barrier to be disrupted, and allows the acid to cause inflammation and ulcers.
- Anti inflammatory drugs like aspirin- The anti inflammatory drugs are also known as non- steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which come in many different types of brands. Examples include: Aspirin, Ibuprofen And Diclofenac. These drugs are taken by people for arthritis or for muscular pains etc and sometimes they affect the mucus barrier of the stomach that allows acid causing an ulcer.
- Other factors- Some viral infections can also cause stomach ulcer whereas its other causes are really rare. Stomach cancer may look similar to an ulcer, but cancer in the stomach is quite uncommon, and it may need to be ruled out if one is found to have a stomach ulcer.
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Symptoms of stomach ulcer
Those having small ulcers may not necessarily show any symptoms, but some ulcers could cause serious bleeding. Pain in the abdomen is the most common symptom, but some people may not even get any pain as it differs from person to person.
Some other common symptoms of ulcers include:
- Feeling of fullness and problem consuming fluids
- Hunger and feeling of an empty stomach, 1 to 3 hours after a meal
- Mild nausea
- Pain in the upper abdomen
- Chest pain
- Bloody or dark, tarry stool
- Weight loss
- Blood in vomiting
Having a stomach ulcer means the treatment will largely depend on whether the cause is H. Pylori infection or non- steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs. For stomach ulcer relief, a course of antibiotic medicines will be recommended, if it is caused by H. Pylori infection. This is called eradication therapy, as it tends to kill bacteria. On the other hand, if the ulcer is caused by NSAID’s and there is no H. Pylori infection, then a month or two courses of proton pump inhibitors will be given. And finally, when the stomach ulcer is caused by a combination of both, then two month course of PPIs and antibiotic medications is given.
- Eradication therapy- In this therapy, the combination of two or three antibiotics and Proton pump inhibitor is given at the same time. The ulcer medicines or antibiotics used for eradication therapy are: Amoxicillin, Clarithromycin, Metronidazole.
- Proton pump inhibitors- Proton pump inhibitors works and blocks the actions of proteins known as proton pumps that are largely responsible for producing stomach acid. If the amount of stomach acid is reduced, then it will prevent any further damage to the ulcer and it will heal naturally. The two common PPI’s used for ulcer relief are: Lansoprazole and Omeprazole.
- H2- receptor antagonists- These work by blocking the actions of a protein named histamine that is responsible to stimulate the production of acid. For treating stomach ulcers, Ranitidine is a commonly used H2-receptor antagonist.
- Antacids and alginates- It is very much recommended to consult your general physician before starting any ulcer medication. There are several additional ulcer medicines that may help you to relieve from the symptoms. One can have antacids that may help to neutralize stomach acid on the short term basis. Then is alginates which tend to produce a protective coating on the lining of the stomach. Antacids are usually preferred when one experience symptoms, whereas alginates can be taken after your meals. But remember not to take these medicines, within an hour of taking PPI’s or ranitidine as this may block its effects.
Apart from taking medicines for ulcer, one could even try some natural home remedies which will be an alternative way to relieve symptoms.
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Natural ways for treating ulcer
- Bananas- Bananas is the most effective remedy for stomach ulcers. There are sitoindosides present in unripe and dried bananas which increase mucus in the digestive tract and further provide a strong protective coating that helps to prevent and heal ulcers. Unripe bananas can also promote growth of cells in the intestinal tract. And not to forget they also contain water soluble polysaccharides, the compound that is found in the anti ulcer prescription drug named Sucralfate. For treating ulcers you need to make banana powder, simply peel the fruit and cut it into slices. Keep it under the sun or a food dehydrator and let it dry slowly. After it dries, grind it into fine powder and try to mix 2 tablespoons of powder with a single tablespoon of honey. Finally have the mixture for three times a day; mid morning, mid afternoon and during bedtime.
- Honey- Honey helps to treat ulcer in two ways. Firstly, the glucose oxidase an enzyme present in the body produces hydrogen peroxide that kills harmful bacteria which contributes to the development of ulcers. In fact, there are certain varieties of honey, which proves to be more effective than others in healing and treating ulcer.
- Cabbage- As long as there is enough of beneficial bacteria present in the body, the disease causing bacteria which leads to ulcer remains in check. The best way you could fortify good bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract is possible, if somehow you manage to include cultured and lactic acid fermented foods in the daily diet. Foods that could help in maintaining a balance of beneficial bacteria in the bowels are some homemade sauerkraut, yogurt, buttermilk and pickled vegetables. Even if we talk about ulcer treatments in particular decades before antibiotics, cabbage juice has been used successfully to prevent or heal peptic ulcers.
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For ulcer relief, here are some more tips which can be followed.
- Eat healthy- Always make sure that you eat a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Avoiding vitamin rich foods may make it quite difficult for the body to heal ulcer.
- Consider some pain relievers- If you rely on pain relievers on a regular basis, then you could try acetaminophen but remember only after doctor’s recommendation.
- Watch your stress- Being stressed out may worsen signs and symptoms of stomach ulcer. So make sure that you don’t feel much stressed in life as it could create a problem on health.
- Avoid smoking- Smoking a cigarette could largely interfere with the protective stomach lining and may also increase stomach acid. So for better health, on should avoid smoking.
- Limit alcohol- Excessive alcohol intake could lead to irritation and erode the mucus lining in the stomach and intestines which may cause bleeding and inflammation.
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