What are Peptic Ulcers?
Peptic ulcers are open sores, lesions or ulcers that develop on the inside lining of the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine, the duodenum. Stomach acids such as hydrochloric acid and pepsin are present in peptic ulcers.
An ulcer that is found in the stomach is called a gastric ulcer, while an ulcer in the duodenum is called a duodenal ulcer. They tend to be more common in men aged between 30 and 50 years and may also affect middle aged or elderly women.
Symptoms and signs
The symptom and signs of peptic ulcers include a burning, gnawing pain the middle abdomen. This pain is often described as a dull ache that may come and go for a few days or weeks. It starts two to three hours after a meal and is generally worse if you skip a meal. The pain often surfaces at night or early in the morning when your stomach is empty.
Other symptoms include:
Diagnosing Peptic Ulcers
The diagnosis of peptic ulcers is based on your physical symptoms as well as medical history. Certain tests may be performed such as testing your breath, tissue or blood to check whether H. pylori bacterium may be the cause. Other tests include:
- X-rays of the stomach and duodenum called an upper GI series
- An endoscopy is a procedure where a lighted tube with a tiny camera is used to look inside the stomach and duodenum.
- Biopsy is a procedure where a tiny piece of your stomach is removed and viewed under a microscope
What Causes Peptic Ulcers?
The causes of peptic ulcers include:
- Bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) - bacteria may be carried by many people while not everyone with H. pylori infections will develop a peptic ulcer.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen and analgesics
- Excessive amounts of alcohol
Other factors that may contribute to peptic ulcers developing include a family history of ulcers linked to being blood group type O, physical stress such as major surgery or trauma like severe burns. Emotional stress may worsen an ulcer.
Help for Peptic Ulcers
With the correct treatment, peptic ulcers can be cured, although they do take a long time to heal. Peptic ulcers may be treated with over-the-counter drugs such as antacids but they are not as effective as prescription drugs and often recur.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic to kill the bacteria and proton pump inhibitors or histamine receptor blockers to prevent the stomach from producing too much acid. If H.pylori is detected, then a course of antibiotics together with a drug that protects the stomach lining and prevents too much acid production is called triple therapy.
However, these medications can bring about some harsh side effects such as diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, nausea and interfere with liver function. In men, certain side effects of medication may lead to breast enlargement and impotence. In some cases, surgery may also be required. Making certain changes to your diet such as eating more fiber and cutting out caffeine, alcohol and smoking will also reduce the prevent and speed the recovery process of peptic ulcers.
While conventional treatments may provide symptomatic relief for peptic ulcers, they can also cause a wide range of health problems. Fortunately, herbal and homeopathic remedies can safely and effectively prevent the recurrence of ulcers and other digestive disorders. A well known herb for digestive health is Matricaria recutita, (German Chamomile) which contains anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and calming properties.
Other herbal ingredients such as Filipendula ulmaria and Ulmus fulva are extremely effective in reducing pain and irritation while also protecting the digestive tract and reducing stomach acid secretions. In addition, Sutherlandia frutescens has been used for thousands of years to treat chronic and acute digestive complaints and also acts as a potent tonic.