Stomach ulcer is an open sore in the lining of the stomach (gastric). Fortunately it’s often treated successfully. However, sometimes this open sore turns into serious and cause dangerous complications. Therefore, it’s important to take the entire course of your treatment. A few changes of lifestyle can help, too. Here are some stomach ulcer Do’s and Don’ts to remember!
What to do with stomach ulcer?
In most cases, the disease is linked to an infection of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (also known as H-pylori). Interestingly, not all people who’re infected with H-pylori develop stomach ulcer. It seems that other factors are involved. In general, the risk of developing the disease may increase with the following risk factors:
- Tobacco smoke. Smoking can hurt the stomach lining, causing increased risk of developing an ulcer especially in people with H-pylori infection.
- If you experience uncontrolled, untreated stress.
- Other factors such as abusing alcohol and too much eating spicy foods.
Another common culprit is frequent use of pain relievers especially NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory) such as naproxen, aspirin, and ibuprofen. Rarely, the disease might be caused by serious health conditions such as non-cancerous or cancerous tumors.
When the open sore is small, there is usually no symptom. In fact, many patients (about three-quarters of all cases) don’t have symptoms. As the disease progresses, a number of discomforts and symptoms will occur. They may vary greatly from person to person. But the most common one is a burning pain in the upper abdomen.
This stomach pain may come and go (chronic). And when it strikes, it usually lasts for a few minutes or hours. Many times, it worsens with empty stomach or when there is no any food that buffers your stomach acid – and will usually improve with antacids or after eating. It can sometimes be severe enough to wake you up at night. Other symptoms are as follows:
- A feeling of fullness, which may also be followed with abdominal bloating.
- Stomach discomforts such as nausea or mild vomiting.
- Acid reflux discomfort (heartburn).
- Fatty food intolerance.
- In severe cases, the disease may cause appetite changes, unexplained weight loss, vomiting blood, black-tarry stools (blood in the stools), fatigue, chest pain, and feeling faint.
Stomach ulcer complications are rare – but if they occur, they could be very dangerous. These include; internal bleeding, perforation (a dangerous condition in which an ulcer causes a hole through the stomach wall), and swelling that can be large enough to block the passage of food through your stomach.
Some factors may cause an ulcer take longer to heal. Even in rare cases, it persists or doesn’t heal even with treatment. Furthermore, there is also a chance for the disease to return months or years later. Therefore follow all instructions given by your doctor to make sure it’s completely cured.
Fortunately with prompt treatment, stomach ulcer should not cause any serious complications. Along with prompt treatment, do the following things to get quick healing and prevent a refractory ulcer (a condition of when your ulcer fails to heal):
Stay with a healthy balanced diet!
Though there is no specific diet for people with ulcer, it’s always worth a try to follow a well-balanced diet. Eating right is not only helpful to soothe the symptoms, but also great idea to allow the open sore in your stomach lining to heal more quickly. For more guidance about stomach ulcer diet, see here!
Use caution with NSAIDs
As mentioned earlier, NSAIDs can hurt the lining of your stomach especially if you take them frequently. If you do need to take them, take them with food to help reduce the risk of irritating your stomach lining. Also (if possible), take them at the lowest dose! Or consider alternative choice, Tylenol for example, that doesn’t cause ulcers!
To keep safe, it’s much better to ask your doctor before taking any pain relievers – this is especially true if your ulcer is caused by regular use of NSAIDs! If necessary, your doctor may prescribe Cytoprotective agents (such as Cytotec and Carafate) to protect your stomach lining – also other medications to keep your stomach acid level in balance such as acid blockers or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).
Protect yourself from another H-pylori infection!
During recovery, you might be still vulnerable to get infected with H-pylori. It’s not known how this infection spreads. But it’s worth a try to adopt good personal hygiene practices such as washing your hands properly after going to the toilet or before taking a meal. Also, make sure that your foods are cooked completely. And don’t live in the crowded area with poor sanitation!
Get enough sleep every day!
To boost your recovery faster, you need to have strong immune system. And your sleep can play a vital role to keep your immune system working optimally. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to sleep well at night. For example, sometimes your ulcer pain can be severe enough to wake you up from sleep. If you have sleep problem, talk with your doctor especially if it doesn’t improve with lifestyle measures!
How about antacids?
Antacids can help ease ulcer pain and other symptoms (such as heartburn), but not to cure the disease. They are available without prescription, so you can easily get them from pharmacies. To use them more effectively, take them after a meal. On empty stomach, they can last more quickly (just an hour or faster). But if you take them after eating, they can last longer up to 3 hours.
Stomach ulcer don’ts
In many cases, stomach ulcer heals within a few weeks – this is especially true if the disease is treated before it becomes advanced. If some complications of the disease have occurred, the disease is usually more difficult to treat or takes longer to heal (see more in here).
To help make the open sore of your ulcer heal more quickly, it’s also worthwhile making changes to avoid such things as:
Tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke
Smoking can increase the risk of developing an ulcer since it may hurt the protective stomach lining and trigger more acid production in the stomach. Studies also suggest that it may make ulcers take longer to relieve.
It’s not fully understood why smoking causes these negative effects. To keep safe, avoid smoking (including second-hand smoke) at least until your ulcer is completely healed!
Excessive consumption of alcohol can hurt the lining of your stomach and intestines by eroding the mucous lining in the digestive tract. Over time, this might cause inflammation and bleeding, which are bad when you’re healing from an ulcer. Also, don’t drink alcohol when you take NSAIDs, because the two may cause a significant stomach upset!
Milk and dairy products
In a few decades ago, people believed that drinking milk can help treat stomach ulcer and relieve its symptoms. But now doctors understand that this is wrong perception. Even milk and dairy products, especially if you consume excessively, can be counterproductive when you’re recovering from an ulcer.
Drinking milk may make your symptoms improve for a while, but then later they worsen. Because milk can cause excess acid in the stomach!
Avoid also other foods that cause abdominal discomfort such as fatty foods, spicy foods, chocolate, caffeinated and carbonated drinks. Also, don’t eat late at night – take your meal at least 2-3 hours before your bedtime!
Any medications that can hurt your stomach lining
Now you know that regular use of NSAIDs can both trigger and worsen your stomach ulcer. They can prevent your ulcer from healing quickly, too. So again, ask your doctor about what you can take for pain relief during or a few weeks after treatment. You may need to stop taking any NSAIDs if using these medicines caused your stomach ulcer.
Also, be careful to other over-the-counter (OTC) products (such as cold or cough liquids) that contain NSAID ingredients. And don’t take certain other medications (such as alendronate, anticoagulants, and steroids) along with NSAIDs!
Stress is a psychological problem that can affect you physically. For examples, it can drive more acid secretions in the stomach. It also can weaken the strength of your body immune system. All these things worsen your ulcer symptoms and result in slow healing.
For summary, see also the following – stomach ulcer Do’s and Don’ts table – (please go to the next page):