Can Milk Help an Ulcer?

Milk
Milk eases the pain of peptic ulcers. (Image: View Stock/View Stock/Getty Images)

If you suffer from stomach ulcers, drinking milk won't cure the condition, but it will give you temporary relief from pain caused when stomach acid contacts the open sore. Doctors once prescribed milk and a bland diet as part of the treatment for peptic ulcers. A bacterial infection, not stress or spicy food, actually causes stomach ulcers. Fermented milk products could help protect you from reinfection. Seek your doctor's advice before changing either your diet or your medication.

Ulcer Causes

Direct physical damage could have caused your ulcer. If you drink alcohol heavily, you could erode your stomach lining. Chemical burns or scalding could trigger the problem, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen set the stage for stomach damage by reducing blood flow. The most likely reason for your ulcer lives in the digestive system of one in five Americans over 40. The Helicobacter pylori bacteria attack the stomach's protective coating. Digestive acids do the rest of the damage. Stomach acids trigger intense pain in the ulcer, and any medicine or food you take that counteracts the acid, such as milk, decreases your discomfort.

Preventing Irritation

Drinking a glass of milk when you take common pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen could reduce your chances of developing ulcers. Milk helps avoid the chronic irritation of the stomach lining that develops after long-term use of NSAID pain relievers. Taking a few swallows of milk before you swallow pills prevents the medicines from sticking in your throat. Irritating NSAIDs cause ulcers of the esophagus and small intestine as well as stomach ulcers. Follow the medicine with an 8 oz. glass of water or milk, and don't lie down until you're sure the pills have entered your stomach.

Healthy Diet

Drinking milk could contribute to your healthier lifestyle if you're at risk for developing ulcers and wish to take preventive action. Both coffee and soft drinks increase stomach acid, so if you occasionally substitute milk for these troublesome beverages, you naturally decrease acid problems. Other natural remedies include high-fiber foods and foods such as apples, celery and garlic that aid in healing ulcers. Tea also contains the flavinoids responsible for the healing effect. Flavinoids slow the growth of the H. pylori bacteria that cause most stomach ulcers.

Probiotics

Fermented milk products contain beneficial bacteria that help maintain the health of your digestive system. Friendly bacteria, or probiotics, displace harmful germs in the gut and reduce your susceptibility to infection. Lactobacilli live in cultured dairy products such as fermented milk, or kefir, as well as yogurt, cottage cheese and acidophilus milk. Two types of Lactobacilli, L. johnsonii and L. salivarious, slow the growth of ulcer-causing H. pylori. If you buy pasteurized cultured dairy products, you'll not receive a dose of beneficial bacteria with your meal. Pasteurization kills all organisms in the milk. Look for milk products labeled as containing live cultures if you want the protection of probiotics.

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