Approximately 20 million Americans will develop an ulcer over their lifetimes, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports. These open sores form on the inside lining of your gastrointestinal tract -- along the esophagus, stomach or small intestine. While it is a common misconception that eating spicy foods can cause an ulcer, the condition is actually the result of bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori. A diet for an ulcer emphasizes eating easily digested, mild-flavor foods and avoiding foods that cause irritation and inflammation in your digestive tract.
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A burning pain is the most commonly associated symptom of an ulcer. This pain may be worse during the night or when you lie down. It may also flare when your stomach is empty, go away temporarily and even be relieved by antacid medications. You may also experience weight loss, appetite changes, nausea or vomiting, heartburn, indigestion or belching. Seek medical attention if these symptoms persist or worry you.
Helicobacter pylori is a bacteria found naturally in the tissues of the stomach and small intestine. While researchers believe that this bacteria may have protective health benefits, it is known to cause infection. According to the National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse, H. pylori can damage the mucous coating that protects the stomach and duodenum. This damage allows stomach acids to get through to the sensitive lining beneath. Together, the H. pylori and stomach acid irritate the lining of the digestive tract and cause an ulcer to form.
One treatment for H. pylori-related ulcers is antibiotics, which have proved to be 90 percent effective. The downfall is that they are expensive and can cause antibiotic resistance. Thus, probiotics have been researched as a viable alternative. The "Journal of Nutrition" compiled data to determine the effectiveness of probiotics in reducing gastric inflammation and treating H. pylori. The journal found that seven out of nine studies showed an improvement of H. pylori density and the reduced risk of developing inflammatory disorders after the administration of probiotics.
Probiotics are available as a supplement or in certain foods. These foods include milk, yogurt, kombucha, miso soup, kefir, sauerkraut, dark chocolate, soy milk, olives, tempeh and pickles. Choose yogurt varieties that contain live or active cultures and do not have added sugar or syrups for best results. Kombucha, or fermented tea, is a staple in Asian grocery stores and can be served hot or cold. It is a dark tea that enhances digestion. Tempeh is a soy protein rich in probiotics and eaten as a meat alternative; it can be grilled, sauteed or baked. Miso soup, a combination of vegetable broth and tofu, is high in protein and probiotics. Available at most health food stores, microalgae, also called blue algae, is a grassy, green plant used in juice.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Peptic Ulcer
- National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse: H. pylori and Peptic Ulcers
- Journal of Nutrition: Helicobacter Pylori and Probiotics
- Reader’s Digest: 13 Probiotic-Filled Foods
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Helicobacter Pylori and Peptic Ulcer Disease
- KidsHealth: Ulcers
- MedlinePlus: Gastritis