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things that don't cause ulcers

Ulcers: Debunking Six Common Myths

Ulcers are one of the most common medical conditions suffered by many people today. It is often dismissed as an everyday ailment but can pose serious medical risks if not treated early. Many people are guilty of self medication and continue their unhealthy practices. To make matters worse, common ulcer myths have become everyday facts that only make the condition worse. So the next time you feel those gastric juices acting up, here are six common ulcer myths you definitely should be aware of.

Myth 1: Stress can cause Ulcers

Stress can aggravate an existing medical condition but it alone can’t cause ulcers. Stress is not only a psychological condition but it too affects how our body works. Our heart rate increases and our gastric juices become active. If you have an existing ulcer it can make the condition worse by interacting with open wounds in the stomach. As stress increases, ulcer pain worsens. This is why avoiding stress when a person is suffering from ulcers is advised.

 Myth 2: Spicy foods can cause Ulcers

A common misconception about eating spicy foods is that it can cause hemorrhoids or an ulcer. In both cases this is untrue. Medical studies have shown that spices have a preventive effect on ulcers. Research has shown that people who eat spicy foods consistently have less of a chance of developing ulcers than those who eat less spicy foods.

Capsaicin which is found in chili peppers stimulates the stomach’s nerve endings to release stomach protecting chemicals. It also has bacteria killing properties and can control the growth of H. Pylori, the bacteria responsible for ulcers. Capsaicin has the ability to restore acid balance in the stomach.

Eating spicy food can leave people with heartburn which might lead people to think they are suffering from ulcers. Spices can’t cause ulcers, but like stress, it aggravates the medical condition.

Myth 3: Milk can heal Ulcers

Milk can counteract the effects of spices and lessen its effects for people suffering from ulcers. Milk can provide temporary relief from the effects of ulcers but is not a treatment. Milk by nature is alkaline which can neutralize stomach acids. It is strongly suggested that people suffering from ulcers consult their doctor and never self-medicate.

Milk can form a barrier in the stomach, preventing acids from coming into contact with open wounds. However, it does not in any way heal the ulcer. Lactose intolerance is also a concern as people age. People should remember that although milk is an alkaline it still can  turn into acids over time once ingested. This could aggravate the condition if milk is the only step taken to overcome ulcers.

Myth 4: Probiotics promotes healing

Probiotics are good bacterium that aids you when you are bloated or suffering from chronic gas pain, but they cannot stay in the stomach to heal the ulcer. This promotes good digestion but can’t be considered as a treatment for ulcers. Some good bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus can decrease H. pylori. This can reduce your risks for developing ulcers but is of little use when you already have the medical condition.

Myth 5: Alcohol cannot cause your ulcers to get worse

As the saying goes, everything in excess is bad for your health. Drinking large amounts of alcohol increases your risk for developing ulcers. Alcohol can cause bleeding complications and irritates sensitive stomach lining. Alcohol intake, together with medication, can also worsen or cause ulcers. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS taken with alcohol can increase the risk for ulcers.

Coffee, soda, and tea increases stomach acidity. This can cause stomach irritation and should be avoided when suffering from ulcers.

Myth 6: Smoking does not cause Ulcers

Being a smoker increases your risks for many medical conditions including ulcers. Smoke irritates and inflames sensitive inner linings. It impedes normal blood circulation that can cause fine blood vessels in the stomach lining to erode. Smoking also impedes the normal healing process.

Lifestyle Changes 

Aside from taking in medications living a healthy lifestyle can heal and prevent ulcers. Excessive alcohol intake and smoking should be avoided for people diagnosed with ulcers. These impede the normal healing process and degrade the effectiveness of medications.

Eating regularly can prevent the onset of ulcers. The stomach is emptied after 2-3 hours and meals should be planned accordingly. Eating a light snack between meals goes a long way in preventing ulcers. This stops stomach acid buildup and prevents it from corroding sensitive stomach lining.

Taking prescribed acid reducing medications prevents further destruction of stomach linings. Most ulcers go away after resorting to a healthy lifestyle. Ulcers maybe one of the most common ailments but this should not be taken lightly either. If this is a chronic condition, consulting with your doctor is highly advised to prevent serious medical complications.

written by Ronald Uy, RN

Check out additional H.I.C. articles on Ulcers

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