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Peptic Ulcers – causes, side effects and treatments at

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 by

An ulcer – also called a sore – is an open and painful tissue wound. Peptic ulcers refer to painful sores that form in the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine (duodenum).

An ulcer in the stomach is called a gastric ulcer and an ulcer in the duodenum is called a duodenal ulcer.

Peptic ulcers occur when Helicobacter pylori (a common bacteria in the stomach) or a drug weakens the protective mucous coating of the stomach and duodenum, letting stomach acids and an enzyme called pepsin – which helps digest food – erode the mucosal wall.

H. pylori infection is usually contracted in childhood, but most people won’t have any symptoms until they’re older. This infection usually doesn’t cause problems in childhood; however, it can cause gastritis (irritation and inflammation of the stomach lining), peptic ulcer disease, and even stomach cancer later in life.

Known symptoms, risk factors for peptic ulcers

The most common symptom of peptic ulcers is abdominal pain, usually in the upper-middle part of the abdomen, above the navel and below the breastbone. The pain is akin to a burning sensation or gnawing and may go through to the back. The pain is often worse at night and early morning.

The pain usually comes several hours after a meal and can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

Other symptoms of peptic ulcers include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Smoking and drinking alcohol are some of the risk factors for developing peptic ulcers. Smoking, in particular, increases acid secretion which can aggravate ulcers and lead to complications. Smoking also prevents medications from effectively treating the ulcers.

People who take over-the-counter painkillers (such as NSAIDs) in excess are also prone to gastric ulcers. This includes older adults who frequently take pain relief drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen.

Stress may also increase the risk of ulcers.

Body systems harmed by peptic ulcers

Untreated ulcers can lead to more serious health complications such as:

  • Perforation: Perforation refers to the formation of holes. The lining of the stomach or small intestine can develop perforation which can cause an infection. A sign of a perforated ulcer is sudden, severe abdominal pain.
  • Internal bleeding: Untreated ulcers can lead to significant blood loss and thus, require hospitalization. Signs of a bleeding ulcer include lightheadedness, dizziness, and black stools.
  • Scar tissue: A scar forms after an injury has healed. Scar tissue makes it difficult for food to pass through your digestive tract. Signs of scar tissue include vomiting and weight loss.

These complications are serious and may require surgery.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent peptic ulcers

Dietary changes are important for treating and preventing peptic ulcers.

It is recommended to avoid intense spices and flavorings like chili powder, garlic, and black pepper as these can induce the production of stomach acids, exacerbating the condition.

Other foods/habits to avoid or cut down on include:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Soda
  • Processed foods
  • Smoking

Your diet should contain plenty of foods rich in vitamin A and fiber that dissolves easily.

Sources of soluble fiber:

  • Apples
  • Barley
  • Carrots
  • Flax seeds
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Oats
  • Oranges
  • Psyllium husk

Sources of vitamin A:

  • Broccoli
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Liver
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes

Antioxidant-rich foods like berries and snap peas are also recommended.

Treatments, management plans for peptic ulcers

Some natural remedies for peptic ulcer include apple cider vinegar, ginger, aloe vera juice and cranberry juice, among others.

Activated charcoal tablets can also help relieve stomach discomfort caused by peptic ulcers. These tablets can soak up excess acid in the stomach. However, taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs alongside activated charcoal may interfere with effectiveness.

Where to learn more


Peptic ulcers occur when painful sores form in the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine (duodenum). It is caused by the erosion of the stomach lining due to excess production of stomach acids.

Infections from H. pylori, a common stomach bacteria, is one of the causes of peptic ulcer. The most common symptom of peptic ulcers is abdominal pain.

Sources include:


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