When it comes to ulcers, many people suffer in silence out of the assumption that what they are experiencing could be simply a bad tummy reaction from spicy foods or the occasional heartburn.
Until it gets to the point where you feel a sudden sharp pain that increasingly gets worse, your stool is dark and sticky, or you start vomiting blood, then you rush to the doctor.
To avoid the situation from going from zero to hundred, there are certain indicators you need to watch out for.
But first, let us take a look at what ulcers are, what you need to know about them and what you can do to keep them at bay.
What are ulcers?
First things first. Certain foods do not cause ulcers. They may aggravate the pain and make the discomfort worse but they are not the cause.
That said, when it comes to stomach and duodenal ulcers which are referred to as peptic ulcers – they are sores that occurs when the lining of the stomach or small intestine get damaged.
During digestion, your stomach produces acid to help break down the food. To protect the stomach tissues, it also secretes a mucus layer.
When the layer of mucus becomes ineffective, the acid may affect stomach tissue creating a sore thus causing moderate to severe burning type of pain.
The most common cause of peptic ulcers is the H pylori. This is a bacterium that lives in the stomach lining and when it bores through the stomach or small intestine lining, it gives way to stomach acids. This causes damage to the delicate tissues.
Also use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such aspirin and ibuprofen that are used for pain treatment may impair the mucous lining.
This, unfortunately plays a huge role in certain people who may develop ulcers especially if they use these drugs often and have done so over a long period of time.
Certain diseases, especially those related to stomach cancer, may also increase acid production which can erode the stomach leading to large painful ulcers.
Signs and symptoms
The main symptom is usually a sharp, dull or burning like pain in the upper middle part of abdomen just above the navel.
Sometimes the pain may come when the stomach is empty and it may last for a few minutes to several agonizing hours.
You may also experience nausea, loss of appetite and vomiting. In severe cases they may cause slow or fast bleeding. The former may lead to low blood cell count, pale skin and other symptoms associated with anemia. The latter may cause you to throw up bloody grainy like material or you may notice some blood in your stool. In the event this happens, seek immediate medical help.
What to do
If you want to avoid getting ulcers or should you already have them, here is how you can neutralize the stomach acid.
Avoid cigarettes, coffee and alcohol which increase gastric acid production weakening the mucosal barrier thus putting you at a higher risk of contracting ulcers.
To manage mild pain, you can use over the counter antacids or histamine blockers to neutralize the stomach acid.
You can also opt to seek alternative medication from your doctor and avoid NSAIDs.
When it comes to diet, you can consider staying away from acidic fruits such as oranges, tomatoes, grape fruits etc. Don’t fall for the milk myth, as it is not proved to be helpful, but add garlic to your food instead.
Last but not least, drink lots of water, keep the stress levels down and eat more frequently.
The suggestions addressed in this article are not from a medical expert. You may want to visit a specialist for proper diagnosis.