Certain protective factors line the stomach and small intestine to keep them healthy. Ulcers occur when these factors become injured or damaged. A peptic ulcer (stomach ulcer) develops when the protective factors in the stomach or small intestine become damaged.
The rates of gastro-duodenal diseases including, peptic ulcers in sub-Saharan Africa are very high. Peptic ulcers affect up 24.5% of people in developing countries, and they are one of the leading causes of upper gastrointestinal (UGI) diseases in Nigeria. The exact rates of peptic ulcers in Nigeria are unknown because of the lack of proper diagnostic equipment.
Symptoms of peptic ulcer
- Stomach distress within an hour of eating
- Stomach tenderness
- Burning pain in the stomach
- A feel of fullness, bloating or frequent burping
- Bloody stools, vomitting and weight loss in severe cases
Causes of peptic ulcer
The stomach normally produces acidic gastric juices to digest food. Gastric juice is toxic, so the lining of the stomach and small intestine (specifically the duodenum) contain a slippery mucus (mucin) to protect them from damage. Problems arise if the:
- stomach starts to produce more gastric juice than usual or;
- if the stomach starts to produce less mucin.
Either of the two factors can create a painful open sore in either the stomach or duodenum, leading to a peptic ulcer.
Infections with Helicobacter pylori
Helicobacter pylori is a type of bacteria that is found in the mouth and stomach. Up t0 80% of the population in developing countries are infected with this bacteria, in contrast to 50% in developed countries. Infections with Helicobacter pylori do not usually cause symptoms, but in some cases it can increase the production of gastric acid, which can lead to stomach ulcers.
It is not very clear how Helicobacter pylori spreads, but a person carrying the bacteria can pass it on to another person through close contact e.g. kissing. A person can also contract it through food and water, and through poor hygiene.
Abuse of pain killers
The overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) painkillers increases the risk of developing peptic ulcers. Ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen are the most commonly abused NSAID pain killers. These painkillers can inflame the stomach lining if taken frequently. People who suffer with arthritis or conditions that require frequent use of NSAIDs are at risk of developing ulcers.
Bile helps with food digestion, but it is very irritating to the stomach. Smoking can increase the risk of peptic ulcers by increasing the amount of bile that enters the stomach. Smoking can also increase the amount of neutralising compounds (bicarbonate) that are released into the stomach. This is also very irritating to the stomach.
Natural remedies for peptic ulcers
Honey: Honey kills Helicobacter pylori bacteria. Patients with peptic ulcers who take honey at least once a week have lower amounts of this bacteria in their stomach. Manuka and oak tree honey are the most effective against Helicobacter pylori. You can get Manuka honey here.
Essential oils and fatty acids: The essential fatty acids are omega-3 and omega-6. These fatty acids are capable of killing Helicobacter pylori, according to scientific studies. Fish oil, carrot seed oil, grapefruit seed oil and olive oil are rich in these fatty acids.
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