A stomach ulcer, also known as a gastric ulcer, is a sore or lesion in the lining of the stomach. It occurs when the protective layer of mucus that usually coats the stomach lining is damaged or reduced, allowing stomach acid to erode the tissues. Stomach ulcers can range in size and depth.
There are two main types of stomach ulcers:
1. Gastric Ulcers: These ulcers occur in the stomach lining. They are typically found in the upper part of the stomach and can cause pain and discomfort, especially after eating.
2. Duodenal Ulcers: These ulcers develop in the first part of the small intestine called the duodenum. Duodenal ulcers are more common than gastric ulcers and often cause a burning or gnawing pain in the upper abdomen, usually between meals and at night.
The symptoms of stomach ulcers can vary from person to person, and some individuals may not experience any symptoms at all. However, common symptoms of stomach ulcers include:
1. Abdominal pain: This is the most common symptom of a stomach ulcer. The pain is typically described as a burning or gnawing sensation that may be felt in the upper abdomen, between the breastbone and the belly button. The pain can come and go or be persistent.
2. Indigestion: Many people with stomach ulcers experience indigestion, including symptoms like bloating, belching, and feeling full quickly after eating.
3. Heartburn: Stomach acid refluxing into the oesophagus can cause a burning sensation in the chest, known as heartburn.
4. Nausea and vomiting: Some individuals may experience nausea and vomiting, particularly after eating or taking certain medications.
5. Loss of appetite: Stomach ulcers can lead to a decreased appetite and unintended weight loss.
6. Dark or black stools: Stomach ulcers can cause bleeding, which may result in dark, tarry stools.
7. Fatigue: Chronic blood loss from a stomach ulcer can lead to anaemia, causing fatigue and weakness.
The causes of stomach ulcers can vary, but the two main factors are:
1. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection: This bacterium is the most common cause of stomach ulcers. H. pylori can weaken the protective lining of the stomach and duodenum, making them more susceptible to damage from stomach acid. It is usually contracted through contaminated food, water, or close contact with an infected person.
2. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Regular and long-term use of NSAIDs like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and others can irritate the stomach lining and lead to the formation of ulcers. These medications inhibit the production of certain chemicals that protect the stomach lining, making it more vulnerable to damage.
Other factors that can contribute to the development of stomach ulcers include:
– Excessive alcohol consumption: Alcohol can irritate and erode the stomach lining, increasing the risk of ulcers.
– Smoking can weaken the stomach’s protective lining and impair its healing ability.
– Stress: While stress alone does not cause ulcers, it can worsen symptoms and delay healing.
– Certain medical conditions: Conditions like Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and liver or kidney disease can increase the risk of developing stomach ulcers.
– Genetic factors: Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing stomach ulcers.
Holistic Approach to treating stomach ulcers
A holistic approach to treating stomach ulcers involves addressing the underlying causes, promoting overall well-being, and supporting the body’s natural healing processes. Here are some holistic strategies that can be beneficial:
1. Diet and Nutrition: Follow a balanced diet that includes whole, unprocessed foods. Avoid spicy, acidic, and greasy foods that can irritate the stomach. Include foods that promote healing, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and probiotic-rich foods like yoghurt and fermented vegetables.
2. Herbal Remedies: Certain herbs can help soothe the stomach and promote healing. Consult a qualified herbalist or naturopathic doctor for guidance on appropriate herbal remedies.
3. Stress Management: Chronic stress can worsen stomach ulcer symptoms. Practice stress-reducing techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or engaging in hobbies and activities that promote relaxation.
4. Lifestyle Modifications: Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, as they irritate the stomach lining and delay healing. Maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep to support overall well-being.
5. Probiotics: Probiotics can help restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut and support digestive health. Consider incorporating probiotic supplements or consuming foods like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
6. Mind-Body Therapies: Techniques like acupuncture, acupressure, and hypnotherapy may relieve stomach ulcer symptoms and promote healing. Consult with a qualified practitioner to explore these options.
7. Identify and Address Food Sensitivities: Some individuals may have food sensitivities that can exacerbate stomach ulcer symptoms.
Consider working with a healthcare professional to identify and eliminate any trigger foods from your diet. It’s important to note that while these holistic approaches can be beneficial, they should not replace medical treatment. Always consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and guidance on the best treatment plan for your condition.
SOURCE: Elsie Ijorogu Reed
MBA, PSM, HWP, IPHM, MCMA, SNHS DipUK and USA trained Holistic Wellness Practitioner