Ulcer Diet Food List (What to Remember)

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Lifestyle modifications, including changes in diet, are usually necessary to support healing process of people with ulcers. What you eat will play a role to help control your stomach acid level so the open sore is likely to heal more quickly. There is probably no single formula to follow since each case is unique – but in general here are a few things to remember in ulcer diet food list!

Peptic ulcers (brief summary)

They are open sores that develop within the soft lining of the stomach (called as stomach ulcer) or duodenum, which is the first segment of your small intestine (this is called as duodenal ulcer).

A range of factors can make peptic ulcer more likely. But in most cases, it is associated with the following factors [1]:

Bacterial infection, specifically due to infection caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. This bacterium often causes no problems, but sometimes it can trigger inflammation that provokes an ulcer to form.

H. pylori infection could be contagious. Unfortunately 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).

NSAIDs, anti-inflammatory drugs! Long term use of these pain relievers (e.g. 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.

Your digestive tract, including the stomach and small intestine, is coated with strong protective mucous layer so it doesn’t get hurt easily. And if the amount of mucous decreases and the amount of digestive acid increases, an ulcer may develop!

Normally, digestive juices containing pepsin (digestive enzyme) and digestive acid (hydrochloric acid) play a key role in the digestive process. But when the protective mucous layer is broken down, pepsin and hydrochloric acid can damage the soft tissues, increasing the risk of developing an ulcer.

The symptoms of peptic ulcer vary by individual. But the most common one is a gnawing, burning pain especially in the tummy (abdomen cavity). See also, how does ulcer feel like?

Some characteristics of ulcer pain are as follows [2]:

  1. Typically, the pain gets worse with empty stomach (such as at night or between meals) and gets better when you eat food that buffers the acid. With empty stomach, there is no enough food to buffer your excess stomach acid. Taking an antacid can also help soothe the pain.
  2. The pain is usually more noticeable felt between the navel (belly button) and breastbone. Sometimes it can be severe enough to also extend elsewhere in the body, such as the back.
  3. It may come and go (chronic) for days or weeks.

Other stomach ulcer symptoms include:

  1. Heartburn, an unpleasant sensation caused by stomach acids that rise up to the esophagus.
  2. Digestive discomforts such as bloating, feeling of fullness, fatty food intolerance, nausea, and vomiting.
  3. 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.

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:

  1. 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!
  2. Obstruction. Ulcers can cause inflammation and swelling. This may obstruct the passage of food through your stomach, making you become full easily.
  3. 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 or small intestine.

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.

Other treatments:

  1. If the disease is caused by certain pain relievers, 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 medications to help provide extra protection to the lining of your stomach such as sucralfate (Carafate).
  2. 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 healing to the affected lining).

Ulcer diet food list, what to avoid?

Along with the conventional treatments mentioned above, lifestyle measures such as changes in diet could help a lot!

There is no specific guideline of stomach ulcer diet restriction to follow. But in general, here are some foods that may worsen the symptoms or make the disease take longer to heal [3]:

Spicy and oily foods

Again, it’s important to keep your stomach acid in balance. Too much stomach acid can make the symptoms worse. Also, this imbalance may cause the affected lining of the stomach 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 – or avoid them if you have to!

The same goes for oily foods. They 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!

Fatty foods

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, the more stomach acid you have. The production of stomach acid continues until your stomach is enough emptied!

So reduce your dietary fat intake. If your heartburn flares up, you may need to completely avoid fatty foods for a while since they make acid reflux more likely.

Too much foods high in fiber

Sometimes eating too many foods very rich in fiber could be counterproductive when you’re coping with 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!

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) would 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!

Also, avoid late night snack! You might think that late night snack is a good way to help buffer stomach acid during sleep. But actually it doesn’t help – instead, 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:

  1. Soda, cola, or carbonated drinks.
  2. Coffee, caffeinated drinks.
  3. Alcohol. It can hurt and irritate your stomach lining, making your ulcer take longer to heal.
  4. Chocolate and acidic foods.
  5. Tomatoes, including tomato products such as tomato sauce.
  6. Strongly flavored cheeses.
  7. 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 this usually causes more excess acid afterwards.

Ulcer diet food list, what to eat (what’s more)?

While foods mentioned earlier are considered bad, there are also some foods that may help relieve your stomach ulcer symptoms and get rid of the disease more quickly.

The key is a healthy balanced diet. Choose a healthy diet with enough vegetables, whole grains – and also fruits, especially some that are high in vitamins A and C to promote quick healing (but restrict acidic fruits)!

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 are also recommended to boost your immune system. For examples; cherries, cauliflower, blueberries, apples, broccoli, carrots, leafy greens (spinach & kale) and olive oil can help fight against H-pylori infection.

Kale, spinach, and other leafy greens are high in B vitamins and calcium. Olive oil has healthy fatty acids which may help treat your H-pylori infection. Broccoli contains an essential substance called sulforaphane, which probably is a strong anti-H. pylori agent.

Foods high in vitamin C are good for the body immune system. But eating tomatoes, citrus fruits, or other acidic sources may worsen the ulcer pain, because they can increase stomach acid. So look for non-acidic sources for your vitamin C boosters such as melon, asparagus, apples, dark leafy greens, cauliflower, and red bell peppers. 

Other healthy choices such as licorice, garlic, and turmeric may also round out the table of things you might want to try in your ulcer diet food list.

But it’s still important to incorporate them in a healthy and balanced diet. Don’t only focus on specific foods! Instead, full you diet with a variety of healthy foods. And eat them in moderation [4]!

Don’t drink peppermint tea if you have GERD (heartburn)! Although peppermint may help soothe your stomach lining, it may worsen your GERD symptoms.

In addition to changes in diet mentioned above, it’s also important to avoid the following things:

  1. Tobacco smoke. Studies suggest that cigarette smoking is linked to the increased risk of developing ulcers in individuals infected with H-pylori [5]. Harmful chemicals in the tobacco smoke may interfere with the protective stomach lining. Some may also drive more acid production in the stomach.
  2. Stress. Many patients find that untreated stress can worsen the symptoms. Sometimes stress is inevitable, but it’s manageable!
  3. Lack of sleep. Ulcer symptoms could 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 get enough sleep everyday!
  4. Beware of other medications, including products for cough and cold liquids – some may contain NSAID ingredients, so read all labels carefully!

For summary, see also the following ulcer do’s and don’ts list table: