Peptic ulcers are single or multiple open sores affecting the mucous membranes of stomach lining and/or the lining of the intestines.
Ulcers are usually caused by the digestive lining becoming thinner and less able to withstand the effects of the digestive juices.
Ulcers can be differentiated by name and by the time symptoms appear. In many people they remain asymptomatic and may heal without scarring. Only once the ulcer(s) become chronic are “true” symptoms experienced.
Gastric ulcer is a type of ulcer that occurs in the stomach and is caused by ulceration, inflammation and destruction of the stomach lining. They are less common than other types.
Duodenal ulcers occur in the duodenum, the first part of the digestive tract after the stomach. They occur 3-5 times more frequently than gastric ulcers and are 4 times more common in men than in women.
Gastric ulcer pain is abdominal discomfort – a dull, gnawing sensation that typically occurs 2-3 hours after a meal or when the stomach is empty (such as in the middle of the night). The pain may be intermittent for days or weeks.
Other symptoms may include:
- General discomfort in the abdomen
- Bloating or fullness after eating
- Feeling sick
You should see your doctor immediately if you have:
- Sharp, persistent stomach pain
- Bloody or black stools
- Vomiting blood or substances that look like coffee grounds
This may indicate that the ulcer has perforated, which requires immediate medical treatment.
Helicobacter pylori infection: up to 80% of peptic ulcers are associated with infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. These bacteria make a home in the upper parts of the digestive system and attach to the mucosal lining. They release a substance called urease that damages the intestinal lining, allowing digestive juices to corrode the intestinal wall and forming an ulcer.
Since many stomach ulcer cases resolve once this bacterium has been eradicated, a Helicobacter Pylori Test is invaluable if you suffer from stomach ulcers.
The GI Map is a king amongst H.pylori testing as it also offers virulence factors that help to differentiate between the more aggressive and problematic subtypes or the less problematic ones. In addition, it includes a sensitivity panel which determines which medication is effective for personal H.pylori infection, removing the need to rely on a one-size-fits-all model.
Imbalanced stomach acid: some ulcers are a result of excessive production of stomach acid, but for many, low stomach acid is a much more common part of the picture.
Stomach acid plays a very important role in killing off the bugs we’re exposed to in our food and environment. Since 80% or more cases of stomach ulcers are thought to be caused by the bacterial infection Helicobacter pylori, low stomach acid is a significant risk factor.
If you already have an ulcer you may have reduced stomach acid secretions as the body is trying to protect itself from further damage. This makes us even more vulnerable to infection and compromises digestion.
A GI Effects Stool Test assesses your protein digestion efficiency, which is strongly related to stomach acid levels.
Regular use of painkillers: medicines such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause peptic ulcers. Common medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and diclofenac include NSAIDs. Regular use can increase your chances of getting a stomach ulcer, so it’s advisable to address the underlying condition. Once discussed with your doctor, Smart Nutrition can support you with diet and lifestyle advice.
Poor diet/lifestyle: smoking and a diet high in fatty fried foods, sugar, coffee, alcohol, acidic and spicy foods can lead to over acidity, predisposing you to a stomach ulcer or greatly exacerbating an existing condition.
A consultation with Smart Nutrition is a great way to find out the best foods to eat, those to avoid and to learn how to put together ulcer-friendly menus. We can also suggest supplements to help to soothe the intestinal lining, speeding the road to recovery.
Stress: a number of studies link stress to an increased risk of peptic ulcer. Stress interferes with stomach acid secretions and weakens the immune system, both of which may allow a Helicobacter pylori infection to take hold. Because stress increases acidity, it also exacerbates existing ulcers.
If stress is a significant factor in your life, an Adrenal Stress Test can pinpoint precise imbalances that may be contributing to your condition. Smart Nutrition can target these with diet, supplement and lifestyle advice.