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Living With Peptic Ulcers

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Updated July 08, 2014

Woman in living room laying on sofa
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When you have been diagnosed with a peptic ulcer (peptic ulcer disease), your doctor will have provided you with a treatment plan which will include antibiotics or lifestyle modifications, or both. In the majority of cases, a peptic ulcer will heal in time with proper treatment.

During this treatment, while taking any medications your doctor may prescribe, you will want to learn how to reduce, and prevent if possible, the symptoms a peptic ulcer can cause. This involves a few lifestyle and diet modifications.

Dietary Modifications

In the area of diet, doctors in the past had advised people with ulcers to avoid spicy, fatty and acidic foods. However, it has been shown that a bland diet is ineffective for treating or avoiding ulcers. This doesn't mean a bland diet is bad for ulcer sufferers. In fact, it may make them feel better. Some people who have peptic ulcers can eat whatever they want with no problems. For many others, however, eating certain foods can cause irritation, excessive acid production, and heartburn. For them, they need to know what foods are safe, and what foods to avoid. They need to know how to prepare foods to avoid ingredients that will cause a flare-up of their symptoms. The following tips and resources can help.

Eat 6 small meals instead of 3 big meals.
This keeps your stomach from getting too full. This will also reduce gastric pressure. Another tip is to eat slowly.

Don't eat or drink anything for at least 2 hours before going to bed.
If you take naps, try sleeping in a chair. Lying down with a full stomach can cause stomach contents to press harder against the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), increasing the chances of refluxed food. Gravity will help keep food and stomach acid in the stomach where it belongs.

Avoid foods that trigger excessive acid production or heartburn.
There are several foods and beverages that may cause symptoms. The most common foods to avoid, the foods most likely to cause problems for ulcer sufferers, are listed here. You can also check out a chart for recommended foods for ulcer sufferers. If you aren't sure what foods trigger your symptoms, try keeping a record for a week.

Avoid alcohol.
Alcohol increases the production of stomach acid, which will irritable an ulcer and worsen symptoms. Alcohol also relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing stomach contents to reflux back up into the esophagus. If you still want to consume alcohol, find out how and when to consume alcohol when you suffer from heartburn.

Lifestyle Modifications

Don't smoke.
Smoking stimulates the production of stomach acid. It can also delay the healing of the ulcer, and has been linked to a recurrence of ulcers. Find out the other reasons it's good to stop smoking if you suffer from heartburn.

Relax.
Many people believe that stress causes ulcers. While critically ill patients who are on a breathing machine are at risk of so-called “stress ulceration,” everyday stress at work or home doesn't appear to cause peptic ulcers. However, while stress hasn't been linked directly to the development of ulcers, it may lead to behaviors that can trigger ulcer symptoms. Follow these relaxation tips to alleviate stress, and thus make stress-related heartburn less likely.

Avoiding certain over-the-counter pain relievers
The use of aspirin and NSAIDs (non steroidal inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and Aleve) can cause ulcers, or aggravate symptoms if you already have an ulcer. If you need to take these medicines, your doctor may prescribe another medicine to protect your stomach.

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Additional Resources

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Heartburn / GERD
  4. Daily Life
  5. How to Live With Peptic Ulcers - Dietary Modifications

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