Ulcers are open sores that occur when stomach acid damages the lining of the digestive tract. Ulcers can happen anywhere in the digestive system. In this article we will discuss two types of ulcers, peptic and duodenal. Peptic ulcers include those of the stomach, also called gastric ulcers, are result in pain with eating. Duodenal ulcers occur in the upper part of the intestines, named the duodenum and cause pain a few hours after eating. If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of an ulcer you should visit your doctor to find out for sure. This article is not meant to replace the advice of your professional physician, but can help you formulate your own questions so that you can discuss them with your healthcare provider.
What is a peptic or duodenal ulcer?
Peptic and duodenal ulcers are actually pretty common and recent reports estimate that more than 200,000 cases of these ulcers are documented per year in the United States. There are probably even more in reality as some people with smaller ulcers will not seek professional treatment for them.
Oddly enough, having too little stomach acid can cause the same symptoms as having too much gastric acid in your system. Gastric acid, gastric juice, or stomach acid is a digestive fluid formed in the stomach and is composed of hydrochloric acid, potassium chloride, and sodium chloride. It’s what the body produces under normal circumstances to break down food into nutrients.
Stomach acid is naturally really strong and sometimes is compared in strength to battery acid. It needs to be strong to break down foods that we eat and help move the waste products through the intestines. Our digestive system has a protective lining called epithelial cells. These cells produce a thick coating of mucus that protects the stomach from the stomach acid. Without this protective lining, the stomach acid produced begins to work on the tissues of the body itself and creates sores called ulcers.
Symptoms of gastric and duodenal ulcers
The most common symptom of a duodenal ulcer is abdominal pain. With a gastric ulcer the pain may worsen or get better with eating, depending on the type of food consumed. Some spicy foods, for example, can irritate the lining of the stomach even more, while dairy products like yogurt may soothe the stomach.
Treatment for peptic ulcers
Many peptic ulcers are not serious and can be resolved with proper treatment within a few months.
Treatment for digestive system ulcers includes lifestyle changes such as nutrition, exercise, and stress management and/or medications to decrease stomach acid production until the sores heal. If non-beneficial bacteria is indicated as part of the problem, antibiotics may be prescribed. This round of antibiotics should be followed up with beneficial bacteria such as acidophilus in supplement form.
Your healthcare professional will discuss the results of your tests and help you understand your condition and address the prescription and plan that will meet your needs. It is important to follow your doctor’s advice so your ulcers won’t grow larger or worse, result in GI bleeding, which can be life threatening.
Throughout your treatment and going forward, remember to drink plenty of water. Water makes up at least two-thirds of the human body. For normal functions, such as lubricating joints and eyes, keeping skin healthy, eliminating toxins, and facilitating proper digestion, a person needs to drink plenty of water every day. This need becomes even more vital when you have any kind of digestive disorder, including ulcers of the stomach or intestines.