Stomach Ulcer Foods to Avoid – 9 Foods that Irritate Ulcers
While modern research has shown that diet is not a cause of ulcers, certain foods may aggravate or increase stomach ulcer symptoms. Below, you will find a list of these stomach ulcer foods to avoid.
There are three different ways foods can irritate ulcers: by increasing the production of stomach acid, by directly irritating the ulcer, and by causing inflammation (gastritis) of the stomach lining.
Foods that Increase the Production of Stomach Acid
Any food that increases the production of stomach acid is at the top of stomach ulcer foods to avoid. There are certain foods which do actually increase stomach acid production and these can irritate an existing ulcer. Here is a list:
Milk – While milk initially buffers acid in the stomach, the stomach may start producing acid to compensate for this, especially with full-fat milk.
Peppermint and Spearmint – Mints of all sorts seem to increase the production of stomach acid. Despite the soothing flavor, mint flavored foods can make your stomach turn.
Caffeine – Like most stimulants, caffeine can increase the production of stomach acid. Common sources of caffeine in the modern diet are coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks.
Coffee – Even decaffeinated coffee seems to increase stomach acid production, so coffee of all types may irritate your ulcer.
Nicotine – Nicotine is the active ingredient in all tobacco products and as a stimulant, it is thought to stimulate the production of stomach acid.
Foods that Irritate Ulcers Directly
An ulcer is not unlike an open wound in the skin. Think of an ulcer like you would a canker sore (mouth ulcer) or even an open wound on the skin; anything which would irritate these wounds is likely to irritate an ulcer. These include:
Spicy food: Food is spicy because it activates nociceptors (nerve receptors that detect “noxious” or unpleasant stimuli). Nociceptors also report pain. This is why spicy food or sauces sting if you have a cut on your hand or in your mouth. Spicy food will not cause ulcers, but may be painful for an ulcer that already exists.
Citrus and other acidic foods: Very acidic juices, such as orange juice or lemon juice may irritate ulcers.
Alcohol: Alcohol may also irritate ulcers, especially hard liquor. Again, think of the open wound example: if you have a cut on your hand and spill beer on it, it will not hurt; but if you clean out a wound with alcohol, it will sting. Regardless, alcohol can lead to gastritis (see next section) and as a result should be avoided if you have an ulcer.
Note that the irritation these foods cause to ulcers will not mimic the exact pain of a similar irritation for a mouth ulcer or cut on the skin. Ulcer pains are less specific and usually more mild simply because the nerve endings in the stomach are not nearly as fine or sensitive as the nerve endings in the mouth or skin.
Foods that Cause Gastritis
There are not many foods that cause gastritis, but the few things we may eat that lead to inflammation may significantly worsen ulcer symptoms and even slow healing times. As a result, you want to make an effort to avoid everything on this list:
Alcohol – Alcohol can lead to inflammation of the stomach, especially if consumed in large quantities.
Nicotine and tobacco products – Nicotine also may lead to inflammation of the stomach, exacerbating symptoms and slowing healing time.
Food allergies – If you have certain food allergies, you want to make a concerted effort to avoid these foods. Consuming foods which you are allergic to may irritate the stomach and your ulcer as well.
Stomach Ulcer Foods to Avoid Conclusion
By avoiding these foods, you can avoid inadvertently increasing your peptic ulcer symptoms. However, avoiding these foods is not enough for stomach ulcer treatment; proper medical channels still should be followed.
You should know that modern research has shown us that while these foods may irritate and aggravate ulcers, foods that increase the production of stomach acid do not cause ulcers in their own right.
Nearly all ulcers are caused by H pylori infection or as a side-effect of certain medications, such as NSAIDs. However, there are some foods that may benefit ulcers. Read our article on the best H pylori diet for tips on diets that may fight the ulcer-causing H pylori bacteria and our article on millet for information on the shocking discovery that remote cultures around the world who consume millet have much lower rates of stomach ulcers than anywhere else in the world.