A thickened form of mucus functions as an internal barrier and safeguards your stomach from the harsh effects of acids that enable digestion. When the thickness of this mucus decreases, these digestive acids start eating the linings of your stomach. This soon turns into an ulcer in your stomach. Ulcers develop due to multiple reasons, including a persistent use of a few drugs. Bacterial infections can also lead to ulcers. This medical condition shows up with distinctive signs. There are many ways in which it can be diagnosed. Treatment of ulcers is generally nonsurgical in nature; however, in very rare instances, surgeries are performed as part of the treatment plan. Apart from drugs, you can also consider home remedies to minimize the effects of ulcers. Prevention is better than cure; it hence helps to know how to avoid likely development of stomach ulcers.
Damages of the inner lining of your stomach or the walls of the top part of small intestine (known as duodenum) are commonly known as peptic ulcers. These ulcers form when the walls break or develop holes. The wall linings have thickened mucus to insulate tissues from acidic effects of gastric or digestive juices. Ulcers can form in the duodenum, stomach as well as in your food pipe. Ulcers on duodenum are most widely observed than the other forms of ulcers. Unhealthy habits – such as regular and over-intake of foods rich in fats, and your genetic make-up were once thought to be the leading causes of ulcers.
Increased secretion of stomach acids was earlier attributed to genetics. But, the role of a bacterial strand – known as Helicobacter pylori – was established in as high as 80% – 90% of ulcers. Medical studies also establish strong links between formation of ulcers and stressful living, smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as naproxen, ibuprofen or aspirin). One or more of these preconditions with the presence of Helicobacter pylori strands are known to trigger peptic ulcers.
Other likely causes of ulcers
It is observed that those with blood group A are more vulnerable to ulcers in stomach. In case of ulcers in the top part of small intestine (duodenum), those with blood group O are known to run added risks of getting them. Cells of blood type O do not have an upper layer to safeguard the walls of small intestine. Hence, people with such types of blood may face additional risks than others.
Elderly people are more likely to develop peptic ulcers. One reason is the loss of efficiency of a valve between the duodenum and your stomach. As one ages, this valve lets enzymes of your liver to enter your digestive tract. As these enzymes are extremely acidic in nature, they end-up eating away the mucus lining of the stomach. Also, people living with autoimmune conditions such as arthritis may turn more vulnerable to ulcers. This may be due to their regular consumption of painkillers such as ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.
Signs of ulcer
One of the common signs of ulcer is dyspepsia or indigestion. It can also show up as a burning sensation and as moderate pain in your stomach. It is important to note that all forms of stomach ulcers may not lead to indigestion. You may be tempted to state that pain gnaws or bites a part of your stomach. Signs of ulcer also include loss of bodyweight, flatulence, bloating or gas formation, darkened stool, nausea, pain in abdomen, vomiting, etc.
Discomforts such as pains may come under control with the use of antacids or if you take some fluids. The condition may need prompt treatment. If left without any treatments, this condition may aggravate. Internal bleeding problems may – over a period of time – turn into near-fatal conditions.
Diagnosis and treatment of ulcers
Your doctor will aim to assess the signs as well as check your clinical history. The assessment will also include taking note of medications that you are currently taking. One of the first steps to diagnose ulcers is to ensure there are no infections of H. pylori. This can be done through a breath examination or testing a sample of stool, blood, etc. In case of a breath examination, you are advised to breathe inside a container, soon after drinking a clear fluid. The container is then sealed and is checked for traces of carbon-dioxide. Infection by a bacterial strand will result in a larger presence of the gas.
Your treating doctor may also use a few other approaches for diagnosis. The common approaches include endoscopy (a slender tube goes deep inside your stomach and to the top parts of the small intestine) or a barium test (you are asked to consume barium which highlights the digestive tract; it thus helps easy viewing of your small intestine and stomach). In some specific instances, a sample of tissue from your digestive tract is taken. This sample is studied under a powerful microscope to assess the medical condition.
Approach to treat ulcers can vary based on its underlying causes. In general, the condition is treated with medications, and in very remote instances, surgical procedures are employed. If the ulcer in your intestinal tract has started bleeding profusely, you may need transfusion of blood along with hospitalization for intensive or critical care. Drugs belonging to a family called proton pump inhibiting medicines are commonly prescribed. These drugs inhibit the production of acids that damage the cells of your stomach lining or intestinal walls. Doctors also recommend intake of H2 receptor blocking drugs; these also slow down and control the production of gastric juices or acids.
In case of surgical interventions, the surgeon may either restrict nerves which stimulate your stomach to produce gastric acids or remove the ulcerous parts. There are a few other surgical possibilities such as knotting an artery to control internal bleeding, repair of an ulcer by removing tissues from a different part for patchwork, etc.
Foods you can eat when you have ulcers
It is common to have allied discomforts such as acid reflux. You are hence advised to keep away from sour or spicy foods. But, there are a few types of foods which can help remove strands of H. pylori from your system. These are apples, berries (blackberries, blueberries, etc.), foods with an abundant amounts of probiotics (such as yogurt and miso), spinach, kale, and vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, radish or cauliflower. As part of remedial measures taken at home, you can consider taking glutamine (made available through many food sources), olive oil as well as honey.
Apples – It is not without reason this fruit helps keep a doctor away from you. Apples are safe on your stomach mainly as they a have lower presence of acids. The fruit has high shares of phosphorous in it; its helps keep stresses away from your digestive system. It is also known for its ability to remove toxins from your body. Many scientific studies substantiate the fruit’s ability to boost the health of your nerves as well as your nervous system.
Blackberries – Berries are known to have unique properties to control the progression of H. Pylori. Blackberries have rich amounts of flavonoids; these substances help reduce the acidic effects of harmful bacterial strands in your digestive tract. Though these strands are generally found in most of our guts, blackberries can help keep these strands in a balanced state.
Blueberries – Strands of bacteria H. pylori are known for the problems they can trigger in the stomach. Only in a few people it ruptures the linings of the digestive tract. Blueberries are endowed with phytochemical substances which can stabilize the strands and can decrease gut-toxicity. Apart from blueberries, other types of berries (mainly those with rich colors) are known to have substances to treat conditions like gastritis or other problems in your gastric system.
Probiotic foods-Miso – It is a paste (with a salty taste) produced from beans. The most commonly used item is fermented soybeans. It is widely available as a paste, soups or as a sauce. Due to the fermented nature of beans, it is a great source of probiotics. In other words, it has a knack of making good bacteria in your body. These good bacteria help in many gastric conditions such as nausea, intolerance of lactose as well as ulcers. Its key function is to stabilize the bacterial levels in your guts. It is also widely taken by people living with a leaky-gut as well as a few other digestive disorders. Miso is also known to boost your immunity levels.
Yogurt – This is a widely known food source for probiotics. As milk is fermented by healthy bacteria in lactic acid, yoghurt is also considered as one of the safest sources. It is used as a cure for several gastric conditions such as diarrhea (especially among children) and to cure the most common signs of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It can also be consumed by people living with intolerance of milk-based sugars such as lactose.
Other types of probiotic foods include kimchi (made of cabbage added with garlic, flakes of red chili pepper and salt), tempeh (another variant of soybean; this is often taken as a substitute for meat), etc.
Spinach – This leafy vegetable has a high level of fiber. This helps in treating gastric disorders including difficulties to pass stools and also promotes digestion. Spinach offers great protection to the mucus or linings of your stomach and intestines. Thus, it can also help avoid likely onset of ulcers in your gastric tract. The anti-inflammatory properties of spinach help decrease internal swelling. The leafy greens are also known to boost your metabolism; this can help control cravings or spells of hunger. Dietitians often use these strengths of spinach for the effective management of your bodyweight.
Kale – It is a widely used leafy vegetable from the cruciferous family. Its rich levels of vitamin K, vitamin A and vitamin C along with a very low calorie count make it a very rich food. It also has abundant amounts of antioxidants to relieve you from oxidative stresses. As it has a bulky composition, it can stave off hunger or food-cravings. It is also a reason for its ability to keep gastric acids under control. In essence, it is categorized as a low energy-density food. Such foods are ideally preferred to keep your bodyweight under check.
Cabbage – It is nature’s own remedy to treat ulcers. Intake of cabbage is known to have healed people living with ulcers in less than half the time taken by other modes of treatment. Juices from cabbage are another way to treat ulcers. The key item present in this wonder-vegetable is known as glutamine; clinical studies indicate that this substance is more effective than many antacids available to treat stomach problems. The good news is – cabbage has properties to cure both duodenal as well as stomach ulcers. You may be surprised to note, one of the best natural remedies is combining cabbage juices with pulpy extracts from raw potato. If you require a medium to blend cabbage juices, you are advised to try either porridge made of barley or oatmeal.
Broccoli – Sprout of this vegetable contains a substance called sulforaphane; this is known to have the capabilities to kill H. pylori. The substance can reach bacterial strands which are difficult even for antibiotics to reach. Also, a few strands of bacteria may develop stiff resistance to antibiotics; broccoli sprouts are also known to work against such drug-resistant bacterial strands. There is more to broccoli’s wonder powers – the substance present in this vegetable is known to minimise risks associated with formation of tumors, especially colon and breast cancers. It is widely believed that it may stimulate the making of a few proteins to detox your body and thus eliminate likely onset of autoimmune conditions like cancers.
Radish – This magical vegetable can streamline the flow of bile as well as boost the production of digestive fluids. It thus works as a good natural remedy to heal problems in your stomach and intestines. The high level of water stored in radish works like a water pill (diuretic) and helps remove toxins from your body. It is the reason why it is also administered to achieve weight management goals. These facts are not surprising as radish also belongs to the cruciferous genre of vegetables – similar to broccoli, kale, etc. The pronounced presence of glucosinolates in radish is considered as the main factor for its efficiency to remove toxins from your body.
Cauliflower – Like broccoli, cauliflower also has sulforaphane. This substance safeguards the lining or walls of your digestive tract – especially your stomach, small intestine, etc. When you chew cauliflower, active glucosinolates turn into sulforaphane – a key player in detoxing your system. A healthy share of nutrients such as carbinols (of the indole genre) helps activate detoxing enzymes. As a diuretic, this vegetable’s water content helps maintain the health of your digestive system. Its fiber content helps avoid risks of ulcers in your duodenum and other gastrointestinal disorders. Availability of glucosinolate safeguards the walls and linings of your stomach. As a result, your body is safe from leaky-gut syndrome, ulcers as well as other problems in the digestive tract.
Olive oil – This oil has plenty of phenolic substances. These are known to erect an effective defense against likely infections of H. pylori. In some recent studies, phenolic substances present in olive oil are found to work against multiple strands of this bacteria; of which, a few are known to be resistant to anti-bacterial drugs. Also, the stability levels of phenolic substances are considered as another big advantage. Under standard testing conditions, these substances remained intact for a long time. Thus, the remedial properties of olive oil are believed to work for a longer time without breaking down into constituents.
Honey – It is widely believed that honey – if taken by mixing with cinnamon – can heal ulcers in your stomach. Honey can also heal wounds, in general. Since ulcer is a wound, honey can heal damages or wounds showing up on the inner walls of your stomach or small intestine. If you have hypersensitivity or any known allergies to honey, you are advised to take it along with bread or have it with other liquids.
In general, you are advised to take lesser levels of fats derived from dairy products. You can either opt to take milk which is low on fats or milk-variants with no fats. If you have lactose-intolerance (i.e., inability to digest sugars naturally available in milk) you can go for substitutes such as soy milk. Foods made of whole grains are known to be safe because of the high share of fiber in them.
Moreover, you are advised to take meals in smaller portions all through the day; this practice is safer than taking three square-meals. Small-sized, multiple meals can help arrest excessive production of acids. It is equally important to take lots of water to keep ulcers under greater control.
Also, you may need to avoid items like alcohol, coffee, tea or foods made with spices. It is also not a good practice to smoke while having an ulcer. On the whole, a diet with low levels of carbohydrates and high on fiber content is the best way to control the effects of ulcers. All these measures gain added significance as recent strains of ulcer-causing bacteria have turned highly resistant to anti-bacterial drugs or antibiotics.