Stomach ulcers, or gastric ulcers, are sores that develop in the stomach, usually as a result of an infection caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria. In the past, it was thought that diet and stress played a role. Common symptoms of gastric ulcers include abdominal pain, heartburn, nausea and weight loss. Ulcers are fairly common, affecting about 10 percent of Americans at some point in their lives, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although foods generally do not cause ulcers, they can irritate the condition and slow healing, so if you have an ulcer, it's best to know what you can eat.
People with stomach ulcers can eat many foods without experiencing any problems or worsening of symptoms. Because there are relatively few restrictions, it's easy to follow the Food Guide Pyramid's recommendations for a healthy diet.
Some foods, especially milk and other dairy products such as yogurt and cheese, can help ease the discomfort an ulcer can cause.
Lean meats are preferable to fatty ones.
If you experience symptoms and don't have antacids handy, try drinking a glass of milk to see if it helps ease the discomfort.
Some foods can irritate ulcers, causing a worsening of symptoms and slowing down the healing process.
Avoid spicy foods, fatty or fried foods, acidic and citrus foods and juices, black pepper, red pepper, chocolate and peppermint.
Alcoholic, caffeinated and carbonated beverages can also irritate ulcers and should be avoided.
You may find that you experience discomfort from other foods as well. If you notice a worsening of symptoms, try to remember the foods you most recently ate and avoid those too.
The way you eat your food can also affect your ulcers. Chew your food well before swallowing. Eat in a relaxed and unhurried manner. Eating too fast can cause symptoms to worsen.
Also, because ulcer symptoms tend to flare at night, while you are sleeping, avoid eating for two or three hours before going to bed.
You can use antacids to help control symptoms. Keep in mind, however, that antacids containing magnesium can cause diarrhea.
In addition to some foods, there are other factors that can contribute to and worsen ulcers.
Avoid certain pain relievers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can cause ulcers and worsen symptoms in people who already have them. They can also cause stomach bleeding. NSAIDs such as Advil and Aleve should never be taken by people with ulcers. If you need a pain reliever, use acetaminophen products such as Tylenol.
Don't smoke. Smoking can aggravate ulcers because it interferes with the function of the lining of the stomach, where ulcers develop, and causes the body to produce more stomach acid, which can irritate ulcers.