Stomach ulcers are not rare, but very common in most individuals. If you or your loved ones is suffering from stomach ulcer then it is only obvious for you to think of them as a serious medical condition.
A number of people think heat generated in the body is the main cause of stomach ulcers. A lot of people also believe that stress is the only cause that results in stomach ulcers. However the fact is that there are various other reasons apart from these which result in stomach ulcers including bacterial infections.
What Causes Stomach Ulcers?
There is not one single cause that can be attributed to the occurrence of ulcers. But what studies do prove is that stomach ulcers occur due to imbalances in the digestive fluids in the stomach that tend to get more acidic in nature thereby resulting in an ulcer. Ulcers are very commonly triggered by a bacterial infection caused by bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). Other factors that could result into a stomach ulcer include:
- Use of strong medications particularly including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen and others that are prescribed by doctors. Even safely coated medicines can result in stomach ulcers.
- Excessive acidic production that results due to conditions like gastrinomas, tumors occurring due to the acid-producing cells in the stomach resulting in an increased acid production
- Uncontrolled drinking of alcohol
- Smoking or excessive tobacco chewing
- Serious medical conditions
- Radiations, given as a part of treatments to the abdominal area
Can Stomach Ulcers get Serious?
Stomach ulcers are normally not a very serious condition and can be treated with appropriate diet restrictions and medications. However, in some cases, they could cause certain complications. Some complications that could result due to a stomach ulcer include:
1. Internal Bleeding
One of the most common complications associated with stomach ulcers is that of internal bleeding. It normally occurs when a stomach ulcer develops at the site of a blood vessel.
This bleeding can be both short term or long term. Both of these types of bleedings can cause anemia, fatigue and other serious conditions like shortness of breath, discoloration of the skin or heart palpitations. Excessive bleeding can result in vomiting blood or passing blood through stools.
In case you feel symptoms of severe anemia, you would need to visit your doctor at the earliest. In case the doctor suspects a stomach ulcer, you may be referred to a gastroenterologist for a detailed check up. An endoscopy is normally conducted to identify the cause of the bleeding and sometimes immediate treatment may be administered for stopping the bleeding.
Sometimes detailed procedures are carried out to stop the internal bleeding caused due to an ulcer. In some cases of severe bleeding, blood transfusions may be required to support treatment.
This is a much rarer complication occurring due to a stomach ulcer. This occurs when the ulcer causes the lining of the stomach to split open.
This condition is normally considered as a very serious one since it causes the bacteria living in the stomach to escape and infect the abdominal lining. This is called as In this medical condition, the infection spreads rather fast into the blood causing a sepsis and then eventually spreads to the other parts of the body. This condition can result in multiple organ failures which are fatal when ignored and left untreated.
The common symptoms of this condition is a sudden and a sharp pain in the abdomen that worsens all of a sudden. In case you are suffering from such a pain speak to your treating doctor at the earliest. Peritonitis is an emergency condition that requires immediate medical attention including the admission in the hospital. In certain cases, a surgery may be required to correct the condition at the earliest and prevent it from impacting the other parts of the body.
3. Gastric outlet obstruction
Certain complicated cases of stomach ulcers could result in the inflammation or scarring of the ulcer which eventually causes an obstruction in the food passage through the digestive track. This is called gastric outlet obstruction.
Some of the symptoms of this condition include severe vomiting with undigested food being thrown out of the body through the vomit, feeling of bloating or fullness and a weight loss that could be all of a sudden. An endoscopy is normally performed to confirm gastric outlet obstruction.
In case the obstruction is caused due to an inflammation, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2-receptor antagonists are recommended to reduce the acidic levels in the stomach until the inflammation settles down. In cases where the obstruction is caused due to a scarred tissue, a surgery may be required to treat the same while in some cases it may be treated by passing a small balloon through an endoscope and inflating it to widen the site of the obstruction.
How are Stomach Ulcers Treated?
In case you or your loved one is suffering from a stomach ulcer, the course of treatment would largely depend upon the causes. With an aggressive treatment, most ulcers are treated in a short span of time ranging from one to two months. In case the cause of the stomach ulcer has been identified as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacterial infection, then certain antibiotics are recommended along with a medicine known as proton pump inhibitor (PPI) is recommended.
Although there aren’t any major precautions involved in managing stomach ulcers, it is important to avoid stress, alcohol, spicy foods and smoking to help the ulcers heal faster.
Are Natural Remedies Helpful in Treating Stomach Ulcers?
While antibiotics and other forms of medications are crucial to treating stomach ulcers, there are also certain natural home remedies that are found helpful in treating stomach ulcers. These natural home remedies are safe and do not have any side effects. They not only help in easing the symptoms associated with stomach ulcers but also help in healing them. Some of the tried and tested home remedies include:
1. Consuming flavonoids
According to some research that has been conducted in the field of finding cures for stomach ulcers, there have been indications that flavonoids or bioflavonoids are effective in treating stomach ulcers. Flavonoids are natural compounds that are found in a number of fruits and vegetables. Some of the foods and drinks that contain high amounts of flavonoids in them include soybeans, legumes, red grapes, kale, broccoli, apples, berries and teas like green tea.
However, certain foods containing flavonoids like citrus fruits and red wine could cause irritation to stomach ulcers.
2. Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice
This is no different from the old licorice with the sweet flavor extracted. Studies have shown that deglycyrrhizinated licorice can be helpful in treating ulcers by impacting the growth of H. pylori bacteria. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice is easily available as a supplement. However, before consuming this it is important to exercise care as excessive consumption of licorice can be bad for some people.
Certain bacteria are considered as good bacteria and are found in our foods. Probiotics are examples of good bacteria that help in keeping the digestive system stay on track. These probiotics are found in a number of foods including Buttermilk and yogurt. Probiotics can also be consumed in the form of supplements and are found helpful in eliminating the H. pylori bacteria.
Honey is a natural food that is known to have a number of antioxidant properties. Honey is known to have a number of antibacterial properties that help in curbing the growth of H. pylori bacteria. Hence apart from the sweet boon, honey can also aid in soothing your ulcers.
Garlic is a superfood that is known to have certain medicinal properties. In treating stomach ulcers, garlic is known to be highly beneficial in curtailing H. pylori growth in the lab, animal, and human trials. If you are not a big garlic fan because of its strong and pungent taste, you could choose to consume garlic supplements.
Cranberry is found highly beneficial in treating urinary tract infection and is also helpful in fighting the H. pylori bacteria. Excessive amounts of cranberry juice or cranberry fruit can harm the stomach and hence the same must be consumed in moderation. Also, certainly packed cranberry juices available in the market are loaded with sweeteners that cause you more harm than any good.
Some foods like coffee, chilies, deep fried foods, processed foods and heavy meats are known to worsen the symptoms of stomach ulcers. Hence, it is important to avoid these when dealing with stomach ulcers.