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Diet for Duodenal Ulcers

author image Jill Corleone, RDN, LD
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.
Diet for Duodenal Ulcers
Top view of woman clutching her stomach due to an ulcer pain flare up. Photo Credit: AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

A duodenal ulcer is an open sore found at the beginning of your small intestine, a site referred to as the duodenum. Infection with bacteria called Helicobacter pylori and long-term use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory medications -- such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) -- are common contributing factors to duodenal ulcer formation. Treatment is medically focused and typically includes antibiotics and acid-suppressing medication. There is no evidence to support that dietary choices promote duodenal ulcer healing, but some diet modifications may ease your symptoms.

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Diet for Symptom Management

Woman in her kitchen, writing in her food journal
Woman in her kitchen, writing in her food journal Photo Credit: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Alcohol irritates to the lining of the stomach and duodenum and slows the passage of food through your digestive system. These effects may interfere with ulcer healing. Therefore, most doctors recommend avoiding or limiting alcohol if you have an ulcer. Other dietary changes related to duodenal ulcers are based on your personal tolerances. Eating smaller meals limits stretching of your digestive organs and may prevent discomfort. Keeping a food journal can help you identify and avoid foods that provoke or worsen your pain. Common offenders include caffeine, pepper, garlic, chili powder and highly acidic foods, like citrus juice or tomato sauce.

When to Call Your Doctor

Young man clutching his stomach in a doctor's office waiting room
Young man clutching his stomach in a doctor's office waiting room Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Complications can occur with a duodenal ulcer that can be dangerous. Potential problems include bleeding, the development of holes in your duodenum or an intestinal blockage. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience severe abdominal pain, dizziness or fainting; your stools are bloody, black or tarry; or you're vomiting blood. Also be sure to contact your doctor if your symptoms are not improving or worsening.

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