In this article:
- What Foods Should Be Avoided if You Have Stomach Ulcers?
- What Foods Are Beneficial When Suffering From Stomach Ulcers?
- What Are the Common Causes of Peptic Ulcers?
- What Are the Symptoms of Peptic Ulcers?
- What Lifestyle Changes Should Be Made to Ease the Pain of Stomach Ulcers?
- When to See a Doctor
- Final Word
Peptic ulcers are open painful sores that develop inside the gastrointestinal tract.
They can be of two types depending on their exact location. The ones that develop on the stomach lining are called stomach or gastric ulcers, whereas those that form in the upper section of the small intestine are called duodenal ulcers.
Both these types are often used interchangeably, (1) but they are different. It is possible to have both stomach and duodenal ulcers at the same time.
Most cases of peptic ulcers are caused by an overgrowth of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, which is naturally found under the mucous layer of the stomach. Many people have the bacteria, but developing peptic ulcers depends on the strain of H. pylori, the immune system of the individual, and environmental factors. (2)
Peptic ulcers can lead to a lot of digestive distress that can be further aggravated by the wrong food choices. You need to be extra careful about your diet when dealing with this problem as many foods can irritate the sores. (3)
What Foods Should Be Avoided if You Have Stomach Ulcers?
Here are some foods that can aggravate stomach ulcers:
1. Alcoholic beverages
Alcoholic beverages decrease the mucosal structure of the stomach lining and cause peptic ulcers. Thus, it is advised to limit alcoholic beverages. (4)
Coffee, including decaffeinated coffee, does not cause peptic ulcers but can increase acid secretion, which will irritate the stomach lining. (5) So people with stomach ulcers are advised to decrease their coffee intake, primarily if they are symptomatic.
3. Spicy foods
As in the case of coffee, spicy foods do not cause peptic ulcers, but they tend to increase the secretion of gastric acids, which can further damage and irritate the stomach lining.
The excess stomach acid may also lead to acid reflux, which is another reason to cut down on your spice intake. (6)
4. Red meat
There is no indication that red meat can cause peptic ulcers or increase irritation. Although decreasing ultra-processed and deep-fried foods such as bacon, sausage, pepperoni, and hotdogs should be avoided or decreased. (7)
5. Carbonated drinks
Like coffee and pepper, carbonated drinks can cause stomach lining irritation and must be avoided. (8) Your drinks should be non-carbonated beverages, and herbal teas are preferred.
6. Milk and dairy products
Milk and dairy products were once used to treat peptic ulcers, but now it is known that eating dairy products increases the production of gastrin, which increases the secretion of gastric acid. (9) This can irritate the stomach lining and worsen the symptoms of peptic ulcers.
Choosing low-fat dairy alternatives may be better, but do run it by your doctor first.
7. Other food items
It is not necessary to restrict acidic foods unless you are intolerant; likewise, decreasing desserts is also not needed except for high-fat or fried desserts such as doughnuts or pastries.
Desserts can be added back into the diet after speaking with your dietitian.
What Foods Are Beneficial When Suffering From Stomach Ulcers?
Although foods cannot cure peptic ulcers, some foods can help eliminate H. pylori, such as the following:
- Foods rich in antioxidants such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and bell peppers are beneficial because they help build the immune system and fight against the H. pylori infection. (10)
- Fermented foods, such as yogurt (with lactobacillus), kimchi, and sauerkraut, can help good gut bacteria grow and eliminate H. pylori.
- Foods rich in fiber such as spinach, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli are also beneficial for gut health.
- Food items loaded with vitamin A such as sweet potatoes are also recommended for this condition.
What Are the Common Causes of Peptic Ulcers?
In 2011, about 15.5 million Americans were diagnosed with peptic ulcers. It was estimated that H. pylori was the causative factor in 70% of the patients diagnosed with stomach ulcers, making it the leading cause of this condition. (11)
Another cause of gastric ulcers is factors that decrease the mucosal layer’s structure, such as using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen. (12) Other factors include smoking, stress, and shock.
What Are the Symptoms of Peptic Ulcers?
Some symptoms of peptic ulcers are:
- Abdominal pain and a burning sensation
- Blood in the stool
What Lifestyle Changes Should Be Made to Ease the Pain of Stomach Ulcers?
No specific diet can cure stomach ulcers, but eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains is helpful because they are full of fiber and lean proteins.
Decreasing alcohol consumption, carbonated beverages, and food that causes stomach upset is necessary. Other lifestyle changes are quitting smoking and staying hydrated.
Here are some additional tips to manage this condition:
- Take your prescription (antibiotics or H2 blockers) or any other medicines as directed.
- Eat 4–6 smaller meals rather than three big meals.
- Don’t lie down immediately after eating.
- Do not eat anything for at least 2–3 hours prior to bedtime.
- Avoid late-night snacking.
When to See a Doctor
Consult your doctor if:
- Your symptoms persist or get worse despite proper treatment and care.
- You start losing weight.
- You get blood in your vomit.
- Your stools become black or tarry.
Some micronutrients might be compromised due to peptic ulcers, such as calcium, iron, and vitamin B12. Ask your doctor if adding a multivitamin to your regimen is necessary.
NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and aspirin can cause peptic ulcers, which is why these medications should only be taken when medically necessary.
- Peptic ulcer disease – statpearls – NCBI bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534792/.
- Kao CY, Sheu BS, Wu JJ. Helicobacter pylori infection: An overview of bacterial virulence factors and pathogenesis. Biomed J. 2016;39(1):14-23. doi:10.1016/j.bj.2015.06.002.
- Vomero ND, Colpo E. Nutritional care in peptic ulcer. Arq Bras Cir Dig. 2014;27(4):298-302. doi:10.1590/S0102-67202014000400017.
- Bishehsari F, Magno E, Swanson G, et al. Alcohol and Gut-Derived Inflammation. Alcohol Res. 2017;38(2):163-171.
- Shimamoto T, Yamamichi N, Kodashima S, et al. No association of coffee consumption with gastric ulcer, duodenal ulcer, reflux esophagitis, and non-erosive reflux disease: a cross-sectional study of 8,013 healthy subjects in Japan. PLoS One. 2013;8(6):e65996. Published 2013 Jun 12. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065996
- Choe JW, Joo MK, Kim HJ, et al. Foods Inducing Typical Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Symptoms in Korea. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2017;23(3):363-369. doi:10.5056/jnm16122
- Gramza-Michałowska A. The Effects of Ultra-Processed Food Consumption-Is There Any Action Needed?. Nutrients. 2020;12(9):2556. Published 2020 Aug 24. doi:10.3390/nu12092556
- Cuomo R, Savarese MF, Sarnelli G, et al. The role of a pre-load beverage on gastric volume and food intake: comparison between non-caloric carbonated and non-carbonated beverage. Nutr J. 2011;10:114. Published 2011 Oct 14. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-10-114
- Khoder G, Al-Menhali AA, Al-Yassir F, Karam SM. Potential role of probiotics in the management of gastric ulcer. Exp Ther Med. 2016;12(1):3-17. doi:10.3892/etm.2016.3293
- Guerra-Valle M, Orellana-Palma P, Petzold G. Plant-Based Polyphenols: Anti-Helicobacter pylori Effect and Improvement of Gut Microbiota. Antioxidants (Basel). 2022;11(1):109. Published 2022 Jan 4. doi:10.3390/antiox11010109.
- Wang FW, Tu MS, Mar GY, et al. Prevalence and risk factors of asymptomatic peptic ulcer disease in Taiwan. World J Gastroenterol. 2011;17(9):1199-1203. doi:10.3748/wjg.v17.i9.1199.
- Drini M. Peptic ulcer disease and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Aust Prescr. 2017;40(3):91-93. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2017.037.