Stomach ulcers, also known as gastric ulcers, are fairly common. The majority of people with stomach ulcers do not experience any symptoms, but some may experience pain, nausea, diarrhea, or bloating.
Current research into stomach ulcer diets is based on evidence that suggests that Helicobacter pylori infection plays a role in the formation of stomach ulcers.
Stomach ulcers usually require a combination of medications, including antibiotics. However, there is growing evidence to suggest that eating certain foods can also help get rid of stomach ulcers or, at least, reduce the symptoms they cause.
Keep reading to learn more about the best diet for stomach ulcers, including which foods to eat and avoid.
As well as taking any prescription medications, a person could try including the following food types in their diet:
H. pylori infection can upset the balance of bacteria in the gut. Taking probiotics such as Lactobacillus, which is naturally present in the gut, could help restore the natural balance of bacteria.
A 2014 review of clinical studies concludes that taking probiotics alongside prescribed medications can make treatment more effective. The side effects of taking medications also decreased.
Some research also suggests that taking certain strains of probiotics may help reduce antibiotic treatment-related side effects, improve the balance of gut bacteria, and help make treatment more effective.
People can take probiotics as a supplement or consume them in fermented foods. However, it is worth keeping in mind that most studies have focused on supplemental probiotics, not on diets rich in probiotics.
Several factors may affect the balance of microbes in the gut. These include unhealthful diets and certain illnesses or medications.
Fermented foods are rich sources of microbes, such as bacteria, yeasts, and fungi. Eating foods that contain these microbes can restore the balance of the gut microbiome.
Some fermented foods include:
Broccoli and broccoli sprouts contain sulforaphane, which is a phytochemical that inhibits the growth of H. pylori.
In a 2017 study involving people with H. pylori infection, eating 70 grams of broccoli sprouts per day reduced stomach inflammation and significantly reduced infection markers compared with baseline levels.
Sulforaphane is also present in other cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. To optimize consumption levels of this substance, it is best to eat the vegetables raw or to steam them lightly for up to 3 minutes.
Fruits have many health benefits, but berries might be particularly helpful in reducing H. pylori infection.
In one older laboratory study, extracts of various berries inhibited the growth of H. pylori in a petri dish.
There is also some evidence to suggest that cranberry juice may be useful in treating H. pylori infection.
Although these results are promising, research must continue into the effects of berry intake on stomach ulcers.
The following berries might be useful to include in a stomach ulcer diet:
People have used honey since ancient times as both a food ingredient and a medicine. It is naturally antimicrobial, and some types — including manuka and oak tree honey — are particularly potent.
Olive oil has inhibited H. pylori growth in laboratory studies, but it has not proven as potent in human study participants.
In one study from 2012, people with H. pylori infection took various doses of olive oil every day for 14 days. The results were mixed, but the researchers conclude that olive oil might be moderately effective in treating H. pylori infection.
Using olive oil to cook and bake with, and in salad dressings and dips, could have some benefits for people with stomach ulcers.
Stomach ulcers are associated with a buildup of acid in the gut. Certain foods and beverages increase acid production and can make stomach ulcers more likely.
For this reason, it may be best to avoid the following items:
Drinking alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, and liquor can inflame and irritate the lining of the stomach. Excessive alcohol use is associated with experiencing symptoms of stomach ulcers.
Foods fried in oil at high temperatures can aggravate stomach ulcers and upset the digestive tract’s natural layer of protection.
They can also be high in fat and salt and, if cooked away from the home, might be fried in oil that a kitchen has used several times over.
Fried foods include potato chips, fries, onion rings, fried chicken, and donuts.
Some foods are naturally acidic, and, even though they have some health benefits, they are best avoided on a stomach ulcer diet.
Other foods have a high dietary acid load, which means that they contribute to an acidic environment in the body.
Some people with stomach ulcers may need to avoid or limit the following foods:
- citrus fruits, such as lemons, oranges, and grapefruits
- refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, and processed cereals
Highly processed foods
Avoiding high fat, salty, and sugary processed foods may help relieve symptoms in people with stomach ulcers.
People with stomach ulcers often have diets low in fiber and antioxidants. However, choosing high fiber, unprocessed foods can help slow digestion and reduce bile acid concentration, which may help reduce symptoms such as bloating and pain.
Medical experts once believed that stomach ulcers developed due to factors such as stress and eating spicy foods.
However, scientists and doctors now agree that these factors are not responsible. The main causes of stomach ulcers include:
- H. pylori infection
- prolonged use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, and diclofenac
- certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking, excessive alcohol use, and eating an unhealthful diet
Some people with stomach ulcers do not experience any symptoms at all.
If there are symptoms, they can range in severity. The most common symptom is an indigestion-like pain that occurs anywhere from the belly button to the breastbone.
Some other common symptoms may include:
- difficulty swallowing food
- feeling unwell or uncomfortable after eating
- weight loss
- appetite loss
A person needs immediate medical treatment if they experience any of the following symptoms:
- vomiting blood
- passing black, tarry, or bloody stools
- persistent nausea and vomiting
The best treatment for stomach ulcers depends on what caused them in the first place.
If prolonged use of NSAIDs is responsible, a person should consult their doctor for advice on how to cut back on their use. The doctor can also suggest alternative treatments.
If an excess of stomach acid is responsible, taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) can help reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces.
If H. pylori infection is responsible, a person may need to take PPIs and antibiotics. This combination is effective for most people, but follow-up treatment might be necessary.
Preventing stomach ulcers may be possible by following a balanced, nutritious diet and cutting back on processed foods, smoking, and alcohol consumption.
Some evidence suggests that certain dietary interventions may help prevent and treat stomach ulcers.
Following a balanced and nutritious diet is essential for those with stomach ulcers. Making certain dietary changes can help alleviate symptoms, help keep the body healthy, and help reduce the risk of developing stomach ulcers.
One of the best ways to prevent stomach ulcers is by maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet.