Gastric ulcers

Gastric ulcers affect many people. The problem is often caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. In fact, about 50 to 60% of the adult population has the Helicobacter pylori bacteria. Stomach ulcers can also occur for other reasons. A simple test can show if Helicobacter pylori is present in the blood, below we describe more about stomach ulcers and how they are treated. Further down, you can read more about the most common symptoms.

A stomach ulcer can flare up and disappear after a few days, often the problem comes back. An ulcer often causes pain in the upper part of the stomach, and many people also experience a general feeling of discomfort. The bacteria that often cause ulcers can live in the body for a long time, and many people don't even know it. But after a few years, ulcers can develop in the stomach or duodenum. If left untreated, the ulcer can lead to various diseases, in some cases causing cancer and other more serious diseases. The condition is treatable, there are medications that fight the bacteria and there are also effective medications that reduce the hydrochloric acid produced by the stomach. A ruptured ulcer can also lead to anemia (iron deficiency).

How Helicobacter pylori gives you a gastric ulcer

For many years, doctors believed that stomach ulcers were only caused by stress, poor eating habits, smoking or other lifestyle-related causes, but with the discovery of the bacterium in 1982, medical science found that in many cases this bacterium was the underlying cause of the ulcers.
Once the bacterium enters the body, an enzyme (urease) is secreted and the body responds by increasing the production of hydrochloric acid, which attacks the stomach wall that protects the stomach from the strong acid present in the stomach. Once the bacteria have damaged the lining of the stomach, an ulcer develops. The ulcer can cause infections and affect the entire digestive system.
Most people are infected as children, but it is now suspected that the bacteria are often spread within the family. The bacteria can be ingested through food or water, and it is likely to be passed on through feces. Good hygiene and always washing your hands thoroughly after using the toilet minimizes the risk of infection.

Treatment for stomach ulcers

Gastric ulcers often heal on their own; many people don't even know they've had one. Unfortunately, it often comes back, so an ulcer should always be investigated and treated by a doctor. If an ulcer is not treated, it can develop into a so-called bleeding or ruptured ulcer. This can lead to very serious complications.
The treatment available today is effective and the majority of people are helped. The type of treatment depends on the cause of the ulcer. In some cases, doctors use proton pump inhibitors (Omeprazole) together with antibiotics.
In other cases, proton pump inhibitors are sufficient. The latter reduces the amount of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which is sometimes enough to allow the stomach lining to heal. If the ulcer is caused by Helicobacter pylori, two different types of antibiotics are often used. The treatment is often combined with a proton pump inhibitor until the ulcer has completely disappeared.

The stomach produces as much as 2 liters of stomach acid per day. This acid digests food effectively and relatively quickly. However, the acid should not come into contact with other tissues, so the stomach has a mucous membrane that traps the highly corrosive acid. When this mucous membrane is exposed to Helicobacter pylori or if the stomach produces too much stomach acid, the mucous membrane can be damaged, causing the corrosive acid to come into contact with tissue and an ulcer to form.

Symptoms of gastric ulcers

Symptoms of gastric ulcers can vary and are often different for each individual. However, there are some symptoms that can be considered general for ulcers, regardless of the underlying cause of the ulcer. In some cases, the symptoms can be exacerbated by food.
Below we describe the most common symptoms and further down you will also find the most common causes of stomach ulcers.

A burning sensation in the upper stomach - this can come and go, often feeling better after a meal.

What can I do to relieve gastric ulcers?

  • Avoid alcohol
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables: Eating plenty of different fruits and vegetables is key to a healthy digestive system. These foods are also rich in antioxidants which inhibit oxygen secretion. A 2017 study shows that this is important for the prevention and treatment of stomach ulcers.
  • Fiber: A diet with dietary fiber reduces the risk of developing peptic ulcers.
  • Probiotics: Foods containing active bacterial culture, such as probiotic yogurt, can help reduce Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. Probiotics have been shown to improve symptoms of indigestion.
  • Vitamin C: This powerful antioxidant can be effective in alleviating H. pylori, especially when taken in small doses over a long period of time. Fruits, legumes and vegetables, such as oranges and tomatoes, contain high levels of vitamin C.
  • Zinc: This micronutrient is important for maintaining a healthy immune system and healing wounds. Oysters, spinach and beef contain high levels of zinc.
  • Selenium: This can reduce the risk of infection complications and can also promote healing. Brazil nuts, tuna and halibut contain high levels of selenium.
  • Again, avoid alcohol as it causes the body to produce more stomach acid. This can lead to stomach ulcers.
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