What is a Stomach Ulcer?
An ulcer is a sore or lesion that develops in the tissue lining of the stomach or duodenum. The stomach produces stomach acids such as pepsin and hydrochloric acid to digest the food. If these stomach acids and digestive juices injure and corrode the stomach’s lining of protective mucus, then an ulcer may form. Ulcers in the stomach are known as stomach or gastric ulcers while those found in the duodenum are called duodenal ulcers. They can develop at any age, but are generally uncommon amongst children and teenagers. Stomach ulcers tend to affect people over the age of 60, particularly more women than men.
Symptoms and signs
The symptoms and signs of a stomach ulcer include:
Diagnosing Stomach Ulcers
If a stomach ulcer is suspected, your doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination as well as medical history. A range of tests may be performed to check your blood, tissue or breath for H. pylori bacterium.
Additional tests may also be performed and include:
- X-rays of the stomach and duodenum
- Barium meal
What Causes Stomach Ulcers?
There are a variety of factors that may contribute to the development of an ulcer and these include:
- Bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)
- Certain medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which include aspirin, ibuprofen and analgesics
- Excessive amounts of alcohol
- Family history of ulcers linked to being group type O
- Physical stress such as major surgery or trauma like severe burns
Help for Stomach Ulcers
Stomach ulcers cannot be healed overnight, but with the correct treatment and lifestyle modifications, a recurrence can be prevented. Over-the-counter drugs such as antacids may be used to treat mild symptoms but are generally not as effective.
Antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors or histamine receptors may be prescribed to stop acid production and kill H. pylori bacterium. Some of these medications can result in some negative side effects which include diarrhea, dizziness, headaches and nausea. Certain lifestyle changes such as eating several smaller, healthier meals during the day, eliminating caffeine, alcohol and smoking as well as reducing stress can decrease gastric irritation.
A more natural alternative to reducing the symptoms of stomach ulcers is the use of herbal and homeopathic treatments. These remedies have been used for many years and can safely and effectively prevent the recurrence of ulcers and other digestive problems.
Carefully selected herbs such as Matricaria recutita (German Chamomile) and Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet) provide a balancing and tonic effect on the body’s system and also promote healthy levels of stomach acids and digestive secretions. Other herbal ingredients such as Zingiber officinale (Ginger) and Foeniculum vulgare (fennel) are both commonly used as a digestive aid to support healthy digestion.