How Are Ulcers Treated?

6 Lifestyle Changes and Ulcer Treatment Options You Should Know

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An ulcer is a sore or lesion that forms in the lining of the stomach or duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine. It is one of the most common gastrointestinal tract disorders seen by doctors. It is thought that 5 to 10 percent of all people will experience one in their lifetime. Which means, if you find yourself with one, your doctor may discuss the following treatment options with you.

Quit Smoking

Smoking has been shown to delay ulcer healing and has been linked to ulcer recurrence. Therefore, if you smoke, you should try to quit.

Modify Your Diet

Doctors in the past had advised people with ulcers to avoid spicy, fatty, and acidic foods. However, it has been shown that a bland diet is ineffective for treating or avoiding ulcers. This doesn't mean a bland diet is bad for ulcer sufferers. In fact, it may make you feel better.

Eating a diet of bananas, bread, and rice, isn't going to help your condition in the long term. Instead, fill your diet with foods that may help improve your condition. For instance, foods that have compounds like flavonoids or polyphenols may be protective of the GI tract.

According to a scientific review published in the Journal of Pharmacy & Bioallied Sciences, foods that contain the polyphenolic compounds such as quercetin—found in olive oil, grapes, dark cherries, and dark berries such as blueberries, blackberries, and bilberries—and cinnamic acid—found in olive oil, strawberries, and cranberries—can prevent and reduce some ulcers.

Adding yogurt, kefir, and other fermented foods that contain live bacteria organisms called probiotics can help make the gut environment conducive to healing your ulcer by fighting Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). This bacteria is a major cause of ulcers.

In general, a diet rich in vitamins and minerals will help your body. However, because of your ulcer, some foods may give you more trouble than others. Some common foods that exacerbate ulcer symptoms are coffee, milk, alcoholic beverages, and fried foods.


These are acid-suppressing drugs that most doctors treat ulcers with. They reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces by blocking histamine, a powerful stimulant of acid secretion. They reduce pain significantly after several weeks.

For the first few days of treatment, doctors often recommend also taking an antacid to relieve pain. The treatment initially lasts six to eight weeks. Most ulcers caused by H. pylori do not recur following successful eradication. However, for some patients, their ulcers return, and they must continue maintenance therapy for years. H2-blockers are used to treat both stomach and duodenal ulcers. These are Tagamet (cimetidine), Zantac (ranitidine), and Pepcid (famotidine).

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

Proton pump inhibitors change the stomach's production of acid by more completely blocking it by stopping the stomach's acid pump—the final step of acid secretion. Prilosec (omeprazole) and has been used for short-term treatment of ulcer disease. Similar drugs, including Prevacid (Iansoprazole), may also be used.

Mucosal Protective Medications

Mucosal protective medications protect the stomach's mucous lining from acid, but these protective medications do not inhibit the release of stomach acid. Instead, they shield the stomach's mucous lining from the damage of the acid.

Two commonly prescribed protective agents are:

  • Carafate (Sucralfate): This medication adheres to the ulcer, producing a protective barrier that allows the ulcer to heal and inhibits further damage by stomach acid. Sucralfate is approved for short-term treatment of duodenal ulcers and for maintenance treatment.
  • Cytotec (Misoprostol): This synthetic prostaglandin, a substance naturally produced by the body, protects the stomach lining by increasing mucus and bicarbonate production and by enhancing blood flow to the stomach. It is approved only for the prevention of NSAID-induced ulcers.

Two common non-prescription protective medications are:

  • Antacids: These over-the-counter meds can offer temporary relief from ulcer pain by neutralizing stomach acid. They may also have a mucosal protective role. Many brands of antacids are available without prescription.
  • Bismuth Subsalicylate: Bismuth subsalicylate has both a protective effect and an antibacterial effect against H. pylori.


The discovery of the link between ulcers and H. pylori has resulted in a new treatment option. Now, in addition to treatment aimed at decreasing the production of stomach acid, doctors may prescribe antibiotics for patients with H. pylori. By eliminating H. pylori means the ulcer may now heal and most likely will not come back.

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Article Sources
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  • Safavi M, Sabourian R, Foroumadi A. Treatment of Helicobacter pylori infection: Current and future insights. World J Clin Cases. 2016 Jan 16;4(1):5-19. doi: 10.12998/wjcc.v4.i1.5