Excerpted from "A Year of Health Hints"
365 Practical Ways to Feel Better and Live Longer
An ulcer is a sore or break in one of the body's protective
tissue layers. Ulcers located in the stomach (gastric ulcers) and
ulcers in the first section of the small intestine (duodenal
ulcers), are grouped under the label "peptic ulcers".
They afflict men, women and children.
Persons with a family history of peptic ulcers tend to be at
greater risk for getting them. A bacteria called Heliobacter
pylori may cause about 80% of peptic ulcers. About 20% of peptic
ulcers may be caused by the repeated use of aspirin, ibuprofen
and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as
Common symptoms of peptic ulcers are:
A gnawing or burning feeling just above the navel within 1-1/2 to 3 hours after eating
Pain that feels like indigestion, heartburn, or hunger. The pain often awakens the person at night. Pain relief comes within minutes with food or antacids
Bloody, black or tarry looking stools
Nausea or vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds
Weight loss without trying or loss of appetite
Paleness and weakness if anemia is present
Doctors can diagnose peptic ulcers with blood and breath tests, X-rays, and/or endoscopy. Endoscopy is done by passing a long tube through the mouth and into the stomach and small intestine. It is the most accurate way to diagnose a peptic ulcer.
For treatment, your doctor may prescribe:
An antibiotic (example: Biaxin) and a medicine that blocks acid (example: Prilosec) if Heliobactor pylori is present
Prescription medicines to decrease or stop the stomach's production of hydrochloric acid.
Over-the-counter antacids, or acid controllers or reducers
Surgery to cut the nerves that stimulate acid production or to remove part of the stomach. This may be needed if other treatment methods fail.
If you have an ulcer, you can soothe the pain in various ways. Some tips are:
Eat smaller, lighter, more frequent meals for a couple of weeks. Big, heavy lunches and dinners can spell trouble for people with ulcers. Frequent meals tend to take the edge off pain.
Avoid anything that will stimulate excess stomach acid. That includes coffee, tea, and soft drinks containing caffeine. Even decaffeinated coffee should be avoided because it can cause heartburn.
Limit alcohol or avoid it, if necessary
Discontinue use of aspirin and other NSAIDs, which irritate the stomach lining.
Try antacids (with your physician's O.K.) on a short-term basis. (Don't try to self-medicate an ulcer. You may soothe the symptoms without treating the problem itself).
Don't smoke. Smokers get ulcers more often than nonsmokers. No one is sure why.
Try to minimize stress in your life. Stress doesn't cause ulcers. But for some people, stress may trigger the release of stomach acid, which can result in ulcer flare-ups.