Stomach Ulcer Diet
If you have a peptic ulcer, no doubt you have heard that you will have to go on a special stomach ulcer diet. However, modern research is showing that this may not be the case.
A Bland Diet for Stomach Ulcers?
It is “common knowledge” that someone with a stomach ulcer is doomed to a life of a bland diet. Plain carbohydrates like rice and lean meats like chicken breast have been popular prescriptions in the past.
However, as we understand more and more about the effect of stomach ulcer diet on the recovery process, scientists are beginning to think that the initial view of a bland diet being key to recovery from ulcers as completely wrong.
The Implication a Stomach Ulcer Diet
After centuries of humans suffering through stomach ulcer symptoms, we now know that peptic ulcers are caused primarily by the bacteria H pylori, and fighting this infection is key to recovery.
Previous to this discovery, it was thought that diet and lifestyle was the primary cause of ulcers. However, the knowledge of the public has been very slow to catch on to this notion.
As a result, many still recommend sticking to “bland” diets and avoiding fruits and vegetables. This is a major mistake.
Best Foods for a Stomach Ulcer Diet
As an example, of the changing view on peptic ulcer diets, in the past broccoli was always listed as a food to avoid when recovering from an ulcer.
However, several studies have reported that regular broccoli consumption can actually inhibit the H pylori bacteria. In other words, some of the healthy foods we may have avoided in the past may actually be beneficial for stomach ulcers.
Things to Avoid
With that said, when planning out your stomach ulcer diet there are definitely some things you want to avoid at all costs:
- Alcohol – irritates the stomach lining
- Smoking – promotes inflammation and slows the healing process
- Caffeine and other stimulants – thought to stimulate the secretion of stomach acid
- NSAIDs, Aspirin (unless recommended by a doctor for another condition, such as due to a heart condition), and other over-the-counter remedies (unless recommended by your doctor)
While most of these are not technically food, these are still items that people consume that can cause serious irritation to an existing ulcers. Rarely would one of these factors be sufficient enough to cause an ulcer, except for excessive use of NSAIDs and aspirin.
In reality, there are only a few foods which routinely present a problem for a variety of people:
- Very fatty foods (oils, cheese, etc)
- Spicy food
- Citrus (lemons, oranges)
- Coffee, Sodas, Alcoholic Beverages
On the other hand, there are many people who can get away with eating this. The big thing to remember is that this is primarily for your personal comfort. What bothers you may not bother someone else.
Peptic Ulcer Diet – A Research Review
The most comprehensive review of the research on the link between diet and stomach ulcers offered a few new insights (1):
- The goal of a stomach ulcer diet should be to minimize the production of stomach acid and irritation to the ulcer; diet should be used to relieve symptoms and should not interfere with ulcer recovery;
- Many spices have no effect on ulcer healing and may even be beneficial;
- Caffeine should be wholly avoided if possible;
- Decaffeinated coffee also stimulates the production of stomach acid, so it should be avoided as well;
- There is no significant evidence favoring eating frequent small meals over eating 3 times a day;
- Avoid very large meals, as stretching the stomach may irritate the ulcer;
- The primary benefit of an ‘ulcer diet’ appears to be psychological rather than physical.
I think perhaps the most interesting insight on this page is that something in coffee other than caffeine stimulates the production of stomach acid, as decaffeinated coffee still increases stomach acid production.
Stomach Ulcer Diet Conclusion
I would offer the simple advice to use your body as judgment when not sure about a food. Most people with an ulcer feel better after eating. If you feel worse after eating something or are in pain, it is a good idea to remove that food from your stomach ulcer diet plan.
Your peptic ulcer diet should be individualized. For example, fish oil or a piece of wild, fatty fish like Salmon could potentially benefit someone suffering from a stomach ulcer due to the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids.
However, some might thrive on such a diet whereas others might not “do well” consuming even healthy fats and find that it causes them discomfort. Use your judgment, and if something gives you discomfort, do not eat it.
1. Marotta, RB., & Floch. MH. Diet and nutrition in ulcer disease. Med Clin North Am. 1991 Jul;75(4):967-79.