Someone may have had stomach problems for years: a lot of pain, belching and often heartburn. This may be accompanied by nausea and loss of appetite. After eating he may feel bad and tired. If the complaints continue, the person may experience vomiting, causing him to lose a lot of weight in a short time. These complaints indicate a stomach ulcer. Nowadays, a stomach ulcer can be treated well.
- What is a stomach ulcer?
- Men are more likely to have stomach ulcers
- What causes a stomach ulcer?
- Most common causes
- Helicobacter pylori bacteria
- Deterioration of the mucous membrane layer
- What are the symptoms of a stomach ulcer?
- Gastric perforation
- No complaints
- How are stomach ulcers diagnosed?
- How is a stomach ulcer treated?
- Stomach protector
- What can you do yourself against stomach ulcers?
Stomach ulcer / Source: Alila Medical Media/Shutterstock.com
What is a stomach ulcer?
The term ‘peptic ulcer’ refers to an ulcer in the stomach or – more commonly – in the duodenum. Ulcers form when the protective mucosal lining of the stomach or duodenum becomes damaged, allowing the acidic and aggressive gastric juice to come into contact with the nerves in the connective tissue layer of the stomach. This causes all kinds of complaints such as pain, nausea and vomiting.
Men are more likely to have stomach ulcers
About twice as many men as women develop a stomach ulcer. Stomach ulcers can now be treated adequately.
What causes a stomach ulcer?
Most common causes
The two most common causes of a stomach ulcer are:
- an infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacterium that has certain properties that allow it to survive in the acidic stomach;
- the long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Helicobacter pylori / Source: Yutaka Tsutsumi, Wikimedia Commons (CC0)
Helicobacter pylori bacteria
The Helicobacter pylori bacteria causes chronic gastric mucosal inflammation in the stomach. Nevertheless, most people have no complaints and only one in five infected people develops a stomach ulcer.
Stomach complaints can occur due to the long-term or frequent use of NSAIDs such as diclofenac, ibuprofen and naproxen. This can also cause an ulcer in the stomach or duodenum.
Deterioration of the mucous membrane layer
- pylori and NSAIDs damage the protective mucous membrane of the stomach or duodenum. This mucosal layer prevents digestive juices from damaging the stomach and duodenum.
What are the symptoms of a stomach ulcer?
Symptoms of a stomach ulcer include:
- A burning sensation or pain in the stomach area (upper abdomen, stomach pain). The pain from a stomach ulcer is usually most severe after eating. With a duodenal ulcer, on the other hand, the pain is worse when the stomach is empty, such as during the night.
- Some people also have pain in the back (back pain).
- Loss of appetite and weight loss.
- Bloating or nausea after eating.
- Heartburn (pyrosis), heartburn;
- Belching (ructus).
When a stomach ulcer causes bleeding, it produces black, tarry stools. However, it can also be manifested by vomiting blood (blood vomiting).
In some cases, the ulcer can suddenly break through into the abdominal cavity (perforation), causing stomach acid to leak. Perititis may be the result. In the event of a perforation, emergency medical attention must be sought.
There are people who have a stomach ulcer without (initially) experiencing any complaints.
How are stomach ulcers diagnosed?
If someone regularly suffers from stomach complaints, it is wise to visit the doctor. The doctor will ask about the complaints the patient is experiencing, his general health and the doctor will perform a physical examination. If a stomach ulcer is suspected, the doctor will refer the patient for further examination. Helicobacter pylori can be detected by:
- a blood test;
Collection of blood for research / Source: Istock.com/Jovanmandic
- an examination of the stool; or
- a breath test.
How is a stomach ulcer treated?
If the stomach ulcer is caused by Helicobacter pylori, the doctor will usually prescribe a course of treatment consisting of a combination of two different types of antibiotics and an antacid. An antibiotic fights the bacteria and an antacid makes the gastric juice (temporarily) less acidic, allowing the hole in the mucous membrane to recover better. If Helicobacter pylori cannot be detected, an antacid is sufficient. For most people, the treatment is successful and the Helicobacter pylori disappears after this course of medication, making the complaints a thing of the past.
The doctor may also advise discontinuing the use of NSAIDs. This is not always possible. In that case, a stomach protector can offer a solution.
Milk stimulates the production of stomach acid / Source: Stefan Kühn, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)
What can you do yourself against stomach ulcers?
You can, among other things, observe the following lifestyle rules and nutritional advice to combat the complaints:
- Stop smoking. Smoking weakens the stomach lining.
- Take sufficient exercise to keep the body in good condition.
- Ensure sufficient rest, a regular lifestyle, relaxation and a good night’s sleep. Stress does not cause stomach complaints, but it can inflame them.
- Eat healthy and varied. There is useful advice on the Nutrition Center website.
- Eat fiber-rich food, because fiber reduces the effect of acidic gastric juice on the stomach lining.
- Eat at regular times, do not forget to have breakfast and allow enough time for the meal, do not take too large portions and chew the food well.
- Do not eat anything three hours before going to sleep.
- Drink little milk, because milk stimulates the production of stomach acid.
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