Lifestyle measures, such as changes in diet, can sometimes play a significant role to help cope with a stomach ulcer. Some particular foods might worsen the symptoms. These foods vary from patient to patient – and it’s not always easy to identify them. But in general, here are pieces of information for your stomach ulcer diet restrictions!
Stomach ulcer (what you need to know)!
As the name suggests, stomach ulcer is a condition that refers to an open sore within the lining of the stomach. What causes the disease is not always easy to discover. But in most cases, it is associated with the following factors:
- Infection associated with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (commonly live in the tissues or mucous layer covering the stomach). This bacterium often causes no problems, but sometimes it can also trigger inflammation that eventually produces an ulcer. H-pylori infection can be contagious, but it’s not clear how the infection spread to others. It might spread from person to person through water, food, or by a close contact (kissing for example).
- Regular use of certain medications, such as pain relievers (especially NSAIDs, anti-inflammatory drugs). In long term; a frequent use of aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen might irritate the stomach lining and cause inflammation. Taking certain other medications along with these pain medications might also increase the risk of developing ulcers.
Your digestive tract, including the stomach, is coated with a protective mucous layer so it doesn’t get hurt easily. But if the amount of mucous decreases and the amount of stomach acid increases, a stomach ulcer could develop!
Normally, digestive juices containing pepsin (digestive enzyme) and stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) play a key role in the digestion process. But when the protective mucous layer of your stomach is broken down, pepsin and hydrochloric acid can damage your stomach tissue which may result in an ulcer.
The symptoms of stomach ulcer may vary. But the most common one is a gnawing, burning pain especially in the tummy (abdomen) – though in some cases, the disease isn’t painful or may only be noticed if a complication of the disease (ulcer bleeding for example) develops.
Some characteristics of this stomach ulcer pain are as follows:
- Typically, the pain gets worse with empty stomach (such as at night or between meals) and gets better when you eat (after a meal). With empty stomach, there is no enough food to buffer your excess stomach acid. Taking an antacid can also help soothe the pain.
- The pain is usually more noticeable between the navel (belly button) and breastbone. Sometimes it can be severe enough to also extend elsewhere in the body, such as the back.
- It can come and go (chronic) for days or weeks.
Other stomach ulcer symptoms include:
- Heartburn, an unpleasant sensation caused by stomach acids that rise up to the esophagus.
- Digestive discomforts such as bloating, feeling of fullness, fatty food intolerance, nausea, and vomiting.
- Less often, the disease might cause; appetite changes, unexplained /unintentional weight loss, difficulty breathing, tarry /black stools (dark blood in the stools), vomiting blood, or feeling faint.
Stomach ulcer diet restrictions
It’s important to treat the disease comprehensively so you can expect a complete cure. With improper treatment, the disease might come back after treatment – or cause some of the following complications:
- An ulcer could be severe enough to bleed, causing internal bleeding that can be chronic and cause anemia. Sometimes bleeding occurs quickly, leading to a significant blood loss and possibly resulting in life-threatening bleeding because of shock!
- Ulcers can cause inflammation and swelling. This may obstruct the passage of food through your stomach, making you become full easily.
- Perforation, a medical emergency that can occur when the disease has caused a hole that goes all the way through the wall of the stomach.
Treatment is dependent on the underlying cause and severity of your ulcer. If it’s caused by H-pylori infection, you need to take antibiotic as well as directed. Complete the full course of your antibiotics – otherwise the bacteria may become resistance.
- If the disease is caused by certain pain relievers that you use regularly, your doctor can prescribe alternatives that are safe for your stomach lining. For example, acetaminophen (like Tylenol) doesn’t contain aspirin and is not an NSAID. If necessary, you may need to take medications to help provide extra protection to the lining of your stomach such as sucralfate (Carafate).
- Medications to help eliminate the counterproductive effects of stomach acid such as; antacids (to neutralize existing acid and provide a quick pain relief), histamine H-2 blockers (to reduce the production of acid in the stomach), and proton pump inhibitors (to block acid production and promote the affected lining to heal).
Along with these conventional treatments, some lifestyle measures – such as changes in diet – can help too! Though there is no specific guideline of stomach ulcer diet restriction to follow, in general here are some foods /factors that may worsen the symptoms or make the disease take longer to heal:
Spicy and oily foods
As mentioned before, it’s important to keep your stomach acid in balance, this is especially true if you have stomach ulcer. Too much stomach acid can make the symptoms worse. Also the affected lining of the stomach will take longer to heal.
Spicy foods are not actually to blame for the cause of peptic ulcers or heartburn, according to some studies – but they may cause both worse, especially if you eat them with a large meal. To keep safe, eat spicy foods in moderation since they can increase the extent of your acid production.
The same goes for oily foods. They can trigger and worsen heartburn, a common symptom of stomach ulcer. It’s much better to choose grilled, baked, or roasted foods than fried foods. Also, go easy on butter!
For many people, fatty foods can cause digestive discomforts especially if you eat them too much. They are not easy to digest so will stay longer in the stomach and delay your stomach emptying. The longer they remain in the stomach, more stomach acid you have. The production of stomach acid continues until your stomach is enough emptied!
So to keep safe, reduce your dietary fat intake. If your heartburn flares up, you may need to avoid fatty foods for a while since they can make your acid reflux more likely.
Too many foods high in fiber
Sometimes eating too many foods very rich in fiber could be counterproductive when you’re coping with stomach ulcer. While fiber is a good way to promote healthy digestive system, it can also result in elevated amount of acid in the stomach.
You don’t need to avoid foods high in fiber, just make sure to eat them moderately! Many foods high in fiber, such as whole grain and fruits, are high in vitamins and other essential nutrients. Not eating enough vitamins (especially vitamins A and C) will make the body more difficult to heal your ulcer. Healthy balanced diet is the key.
Bad dietary habits
While certain foods can trigger more acid production, your bad dietary habits also have an effect. For example, there will be an increased amount of stomach acid if you have a long gap between meals. So take your meals regularly, and also avoid overeating!
Furthermore, it’s much better to avoid eating too often. In the past, eating more often throughout the day was thought as a helpful way to ease the symptoms. But today experts know that this idea may even trigger more excess stomach acid.
You might also think that a late night snack is a good way to help buffer stomach acid. But actually it doesn’t help because it can disturb your healthy and balanced diet!
What else to restrict?
Limit also foods and beverages that cause discomfort in the stomach. For most people, these include:
- Soda, cola, or carbonated drinks.
- Coffee, caffeinated drinks.
- It can hurt and irritate your stomach lining, making your ulcer take longer to heal.
- Chocolate and acidic foods.
- Tomatoes, including tomato products such as tomato sauce.
- Strongly flavored cheeses.
- Black or green tea (with /without caffeine).
- And if necessary, consider restricting milk and dairy products until your ulcer heals completely. Drinking milk may improve ulcer pain for a while, but it can cause more excess acid afterward and increase pain.
What else to know?
In addition to restricting foods mentioned above, it’s also important to avoid the following things:
- Tobacco smoke. Some studies suggest that cigarette smoking is linked to the increased risk of developing ulcers in individuals infected with H-pylori. Harmful chemicals in the tobacco smoke may interfere with the protective stomach lining. Some may also drive more acid production in the stomach.
- Many patients find that untreated stress can worsen the symptoms. Sometimes stress is inevitable, but it’s manageable!
- Lack of sleep. The symptoms can be severe enough to interfere with your sleep at night. And if you don’t sleep well, your body immune system decreases – as well as your body’s ability to heal ulcers. So try to get enough sleep!
- Too often use of NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin, and many others) can contribute to cause ulcers and prevent the damaged stomach lining from healing quickly. Beware of other medications, including products for cough and cold liquids – some may contain NSAID ingredients, so read all labels carefully!
Include also some foods containing probiotics such as miso, low-fat yogurt, or sauerkraut. Because they may help give you extra protection in fighting against bacterial infections such as H-pylori bacteria! Foods rich in antioxidants (such as cherries and blueberries) are also recommended to boost your immune system.