Peptic Ulcer and GERD

The digestive acids of your stomach, while quite helpful in breaking down your food, can also have negative effects on your body. Two common illnesses caused by these acids are gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and peptic ulcers.

A peptic ulcer occurs when an open sore or a hole forms in the mucous layer that protects the lining of your stomach, intestines, or esophagus. It’s believed that 70 to 90% of ulcers can be attributed to the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, typically acquired from contaminated food or utensils or from mouth-to-mouth contact with someone who is infected. Additionally, certain medications that contain ibuprofen can damage the mucous layer, allowing ulcers to occur. If you have an ulcer, you should avoid spicy foods, caffeine, acidic beverages, alcohol, and smoking. While milk and antacids are effective for temporary relief, antibiotics are typically prescribed to treat the original bacterial infection. In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove the ulcer.

GERD occurs when the juices in your stomach flow back (or reflux) into your esophagus. This fluid contains acids and enzymes that both inflame and damage the lining of your esophagus. As a result of this damage, you may experience heartburn, chest pain, difficulty breathing, a chronic cough, or, in extreme situations, esophageal cancer. You can treat the symptoms of GERD with some over-the-counter medications such as magnesium hydroxide, aluminum hydroxide, or calcium carbonate, but a low-fat diet and managing your weight may be a better long-term plan.

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