Is Milk Good for an Ulcer?

Drinking milk definitely won't heal your ulcer, although it may temporarily ease some of the pain if the ulcer hurts worse on an empty stomach. Unfortunately, though, it won't work for long.

Girl Drinking Milk
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What Are Peptic Ulcers?

A peptic ulcer is an open sore in the lining of either the stomach or the duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine. Ulcers can hurt a lot, especially when the stomach is empty.

Other symptoms of an ulcer include bloating, heartburn, belching, vomiting, and weight loss. If an ulcer gets bad enough that it bleeds, a person might have black tarry stools.

People used to think ulcers were caused by stress, but as it turns out, stress doesn't seem to matter. The most common cause of an ulcer is an imbalance of certain gastric juices called pepsin that is caused by an infection with bacteria called Helicobacter pylori.

Long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen, which are over-the-counter medications, can also lead to an ulcer. Some prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs might cause ulcers as well.

A condition called Zollinger-Ellison syndrome can also cause ulcers. Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is a rare condition in which tumors form in the pancreas or upper gastrointestinal tract and over-secrete gastrin, a hormone that causes the stomach to produce too much acid.

The imbalance between the pepsin and stomach acids damages the thick mucosal lining of the stomach or the duodenum, and the result is the sore we call an ulcer.

Since food goes into the stomach, it's tempting to believe there's a connection between certain foods or beverages and having an ulcer. Specific foods don't cause ulcers, but caffeine and alcohol can make the symptoms much worse.

Why You Might Be Told to Drink Milk

For many years, people with peptic ulcers were told to drink lots of milk, with the belief that it would soothe the stomach and help heal the ulcers. But that's not always true. It might help for a few minutes, but milk also stimulates your stomach to produce hydrochloric acid, which can make ulcers hurt more.

You don't have to avoid milk (a serving or two a day is fine), but drinking more milk won't help an ulcer heal.

Eating and Drinking With an Ulcer

There don't appear to be specific foods that speed the healing of ulcers; that takes time and medication. But it's always possible that some foods irritate the ulcer more than others, so it's a good idea to give up coffee, tea, cola, chocolate, alcohol, and fruit juices until the ulcer is healed.

In some cases, ulcer patients may have less discomfort by reducing the amounts of black pepper, garlic, and chili powder used in their meals or at the table.

Meal timing might also make a difference. Some patients have reported a reduction in pain if they skip between-meal snacks because eating less often reduces the amount of stomach acid produced throughout the day. Less stomach acid means less irritation.

Beyond that, it depends on the individual. If particular foods not listed seem to upset your stomach, you should probably avoid them until the ulcer has healed.

Many years ago, people with ulcers were put on bland diets until their ulcers healed, but that's not necessary.

Otherwise, there aren't any specific dietary recommendations. The best advice is to talk to your health care provider about any questions you may have about foods and diet during the treatment.

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  1. Cleveland Clinic. Peptic ulcer disease: Management and treatment. Updated January 29, 2016.

  2. American College of Gastroenterology. Peptic ulcer disease. Updated December 2012.

  3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms & causes of peptic ulcers (stomach ulcers). Updated November 2014.

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Peptic ulcer disease. Updated January 13, 2016.