Stomach ulcers in adults have a lot of possible causes, but one cause that is often overlooked is stress. Even if you are healthy and have no other health problem, simply being stressed out could be causing painful stomach ulcers to occur.
Stomach ulcers are sores in the lining of your stomach or small intestine. The stomach lining and small intestine have a layer of mucus which protects them from acidic digestive juices. If this mucus is reduced, our digestive juices can eat away at our stomach lining or small intestine, creating those pain-inducing stomach ulcers we want to avoid.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers in Adults
There are many symptoms of stomach ulcers in adults, but some are more common than others. There are a few symptoms which are almost always associated with stress ulcers. The following is a list of the most common symptoms of stress ulcers. If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it could be a sign that you are suffering from a stomach ulcer:
- Pain: Abdominal pain is perhaps the most common symptom of stomach ulcers. Pain is often accompanied with bloating and is centered in the middle-to-upper abdominal areas. It will often occur after eating or at nighttime. It can be either be a burning or stabbing sensation.
- Indigestion: If you notice bloating, excessive gas, hiccups, or burping after eating, that is a sign of indigestion. Indigestion frequently occurs in combination with ulcers.
- Nausea: Frequent feelings of nausea can be due to stomach ulcers. This nausea is more common either in mornings or on an empty stomach, when an imbalance in digestive fluids can cause minimal to severe nausea.
- Heartburn: Heartburn is another common symptom. If there is a burning sensation felt in the chest area, it could be due to stomach acid regurgitating and flowing up into your esophagus. This can be caused by stomach ulcers.
- Heaviness in the abdomen: Feelings of heaviness or fullness in the abdomen can be due to stomach ulcers. Often, drinking too much water or eating too much can lead to this, but if you have not done either of these and still have a feeling of fullness in your stomach, there’s a good possibility it is due to a stomach ulcer.
- Symptoms of the flu: If you have symptoms of the flu, like fever, nausea, and general fatigue, but they don’t seem to go away, it could be the result of a stomach ulcer. Stomach ulcers can cause a wide range of flu-like symptoms.
- Excessive hunger or loss of appetite: Both an extreme hunger or a sudden loss of appetite can be caused by stomach ulcers. Both feelings can be caused by the pain from ulcers.
- Vomiting blood: When left untreated, stomach ulcers can cause you to vomit blood. If this symptom occurs, you need immediate medical attention.
- Blood or other discoloration of stool: If your stool begins to appear red, that could be blood and it could be the result of a stomach ulcer. Ulcers may also cause your stool to seem darker than normal.
Secondary Signs and Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers in Adults
While the most common stomach ulcer symptoms in adults have already been listed, there are also some secondary symptoms that can occur. These symptoms may not be as noticeable or as likely to be connected to stress ulcers, but they can be caused by ulcers either way.
Secondary symptoms of stress ulcers can include mood changes, such as anxiety or depression. As well, stress ulcers can cause other symptoms such as fatigue, malaise, difficulty sleeping, headaches, migraines, sinus problems, and skin problems. If any one or a combination of these occurs, particularly in conjunction with the more common symptoms, it could be a good indication that you may be suffering from a stress ulcer.
Causes of Stomach Ulcers in Adults
- Stress: Stress is one of the most unrecognized causes of stomach ulcers. If you are under extreme stress, you are more likely to develop stomach ulcers. As well, if you place your body under extreme stress by smoking, drinking alcohol, or eating spicy food, you can also increase your chances of developing an ulcer.
However, there are some other common causes of stomach ulcers that you should rule out before attributing your case to stress.
- NSAIDs: NSAIDs are anti-inflammatory and anti-pain medications which are commonly used and include well-known brand names like “Aspirin” and “Ibuprofen”. These medications typically have few side effects, but long-term use can cause stomach ulcers in some cases.
- H. pylori infections: H. pylori infections are very common bacterial infections that can affect anyone. While they often do not cause symptoms, in some cases, an H. pylori infection can irritate your stomach lining and lead to ulcers.
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome: Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is a rare disease, so it’s not a common cause of stomach ulcers, but when someone does have it, they will also likely have stomach ulcers. This disease causes an increase in the amount of stomach acid your body produces, which can damage your stomach lining.
Diet for Stomach Ulcers in Adults
Now that you know the causes and symptoms of stomach ulcers, you may also want to know what can be done to prevent them. Avoiding stress is crucial. Diet is also important. There are many foods that can make stomach ulcers worse, as well as some which can actually help treat ulcers. If you already have a stomach ulcer, there are some foods to eat and some foods to avoid:
Foods to Eat:
- Probiotics and fermented foods
- High soluble-fiber foods
- Whole grains
- Low-fat foods
- Fruits and vegetables rich in anti-oxidants
Foods to Avoid:
- Orange and grapefruit juice
- Dairy products
- Onions and garlic
- Tomato products
- Black and red pepper
- Chili pepper and other spicy foods
Home Remedies for Stomach Ulcers in Adults
While diet is always helpful when it comes to stomach ulcers, there are some home remedies that you can use for increased healing and treatment of ulcers. There are certain foods and natural remedies that have been shown to be effective in treating and healing stomach ulcers:
- Broccoli: One of the best natural cures for stomach ulcers is broccoli. Not only is broccoli high in fiber, which is good for treating stomach ulcers, but it is also loaded with a protective compound called glucoraphanin. Studies have shown that broccoli not only reduces gastric inflammation and associated pain but can actually fight off H. pylori infections, which are a major cause of stomach ulcers.
- Bananas: Bananas have antibacterial properties, meaning they can stop the growth of H. pylori infections. They also help lower the acidity of stomach acid, which helps prevent inflammation and worsening of ulcers. Eating a few ripe bananas every day will help keep stomach ulcers in check.
- Cabbage: Cabbage can help your stomach lining heal after an ulcer has occurred. Cabbage contains an amino acid that increases blood flow to your stomach lining, which helps it heal from ulcers.
Ulcers can become serious if left untreated
While certain medications and diseases can lead to ulcers, one of the most common causes is stress and poor lifestyle. Ulcers can become serious if left untreated, and they usually cause enough pain and other symptoms to severely impact your life. Luckily, there are a number of foods that can be used to cure and heal ulcers, as well as fight off the infections that sometimes lead to them. So if you know that you have an ulcer, try a broccoli-banana-cabbage smoothie. It may not be the tastiest combination of flavors, but it will help keep your stomach healthy and the ulcers away.
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“Causes of Stomach Ulcers,” NHS web site, May 21, 2015; http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Peptic-ulcer/Pages/Causes.aspx.
Fleet, Anna, “10 Signs You May Have an Ulcer,” Active Beat web site, July 19, 2015; http://www.activebeat.com/your-health/10-signs-you-may-have-an-ulcer/.
“Home Remedies for a Stomach Ulcer,” Top 10 Home Remedies web site; http://www.top10homeremedies.com/home-remedies/home-remedies-stomach-ulcer.html, last accessed December 18, 2015.
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“Stomach Ulcer Symptoms?” Ulcer-Cure.com, http://www.ulcer-cure.com/index.php/all-about-stomach-ulcers/ulcer-symptoms, last accessed December 18, 2015.