Understanding Stomach Ulcers
Also known as peptic or gastric ulcers, stomach ulcers are caused by a some erosion or hole in the gastrointestinal tract. Some stomach ulcers may signify a greater and more serious problem like cancer. It is believed that the erosion occurs when the gastrointestinal tract of the stomach is exposed to hydrochloric acid and pepsin, which is typically found in the juices of the stomach. Infection from certain bacteria as well as taking anti-inflammatory medication is also believed to play a part in the development of a stomach ulcer. The hallmark symptom of a stomach ulcer is a burning sensation in the abdominal region that can last for few hours. Stomach ulcers are often misinterpreted as being heartburn.
Stress and diet are also believed to play a role in the development of a stomach ulcer. Stomach ulcers affect more women than men and typically occur in ages 60 and over.
Each year it is estimated that five million Americans develop a stomach ulcer. Each year about 6,000 people die of ulcer-related complications.
Purpose of a Stomach Ulcer Diet
The primary reason for consuming certain foods and at certain times if you are prone to developing a stomach ulcer is to reduce the irritating effects that the acidic juices impart on the lining on the gastrointestinal tract. The diet also seeks to reduce gastric juices and prevent some of the uncomfortable side effects of a stomach ulcer.
But according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, no one diet is better or worse for reducing the occurrence of stomach ulcers. But for others, many have found relief with following a few simple dietary guidelines to preventing the onset of an ulcer.
Know When to Eat
In order to not overwhelm your digestive tract, some health practitioners recommended eating small meals divided over the course of the day. Also, it is encouraged to not eat three hours before going to bed; even a small pre-bedtime snack is discouraged. Lying prone will encourage gastric acid production during the night and cause discomfort.
Know How to Eat
When sitting down to eat, take your time and chew your food slowly and completely. Eating too quickly or in a frenzied manner can incite stomach discomfort. After you eat, it is also encouraged to sit up comfortably for at least one hour.
Foods and Behaviors to Avoid
Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee as well as tea and carbonated drinks can all bring on symptoms of a stomach ulcer by increasing gastric acid production. It is best to stick to flat beverages like water, flavored water. It is also recommended to avoid alcohol or consume alcohol in small amounts and preferably on a full stomach.
If you feel that one kind of food brings on pain such as spicy food, then it is best to avoid it. Even though research has shown that even a very bland diet does not prevent a stomach ulcer, many individuals have received relief from following their own body's signs and signals for which foods should be avoided.
One primary lifestyle behavior that any stomach ulcer diet will include as a staple rule is the avoidance of smoking. According to the National Institute of Health, studies show that cigarette smoking increases one's chances of getting an ulcer. Smoking also slows the healing of existing ulcers and also contributes to ulcer recurrence.