Foods to Avoid With a Peptic Ulcer—and What to Reach For Instead

How you eat is as important as what you eat

If you have a peptic ulcer, one of the first things will want to do is adjust your diet, opting for foods that are gentle on the stomach and avoiding food that can make peptic ulcer symptoms worse.

Peptic ulcers are painful, open sores that develop in the lining of the digestive tract. They are most often the result of a Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. Certain foods can stimulate the production of stomach acids that inflame the open sore. This not only adds to the burning, aching pain that peptic ulcers cause but can also slow healing.

By contrast, foods that are gentle on the stomach—including those that are high in fiber or probiotic bacteria—can help ease symptoms and promote healing.

This article offers a list of foods to avoid if you have a peptic ulcer as well as foods you can eat while you are on the road to recovery.

Eating tips to reduce peptic ulcer symptoms

Verywell / JR Bee

Foods to Avoid With a Peptic Ulcer

There are several rules that govern which foods you should and should avoid if you have a peptic ulcer. Foods that are spicy or acidic are clearly those you need to avoid, but there are other lesser-known culprits to consider.

This includes dairy—once considered the go-to home remedy for peptic ulcers—which can increase the amount of stomach acids as the lactose in dairy is broken down. The same applies to caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, both which can also increase acid production.

Fatty foods are bad for ulcers in several ways. They are harder to digest and require larger amounts of digestive acids to break them down. Saturated fats also provide H. pylori an ideal environment to thrive (unlike polyunsaturated or monosaturated fats that inhibit the growth of H. pylori).

The foods to avoid if you have a peptic ulcer include:

  • Baked goods, like cupcakes and pastries, which are often high in hydrogenated fat
  • Cheese, including cheese sauces
  • Cream soups
  • Citrus fruits
  • Chocolate, which is rich in caffeine 
  • Dairy desserts, like ice cream, custard, pudding, and milkshakes
  • Fatty red meats, which are harder to digest
  • Fried or fatty foods, including french fries, fried chicken, and chips
  • Gravy and sauces, like hollandaise sauce or butter sauces
  • High-sodium condiments, like soy sauce, steak sauce, and barbecue sauce
  • Pineapple, fresh or canned
  • Processed meats, like hotdogs, sausages, and salami
  • Salad dressings, which are often fatty, spicy, or acidic
  • Spicy foods, including chili or Mexican food
  • Tomatoes, including tomato-based sauces, soups, or stews

Drinks to Avoid With a Peptic Ulcer

There are certain beverages you should avoid if you have a peptic ulcer, including:

  • Alcohol, including wine coolers and hard seltzers
  • Caffeinated drinks, like black tea, green tea, cola, and energy drinks
  • Coffee, both caffeinated and decaffeinated
  • Citrus drinks, including orange juice and citrus punch
  • Sweetened carbonated drinks, which can increase stomach acid
  • Tomato juice, including V8 and Clamato

Foods to Eat With a Peptic Ulcer

A bland diet is generally your best bet when dealing with a peptic ulcer. These foods are low in acidity, saturated fats, and spiciness.

Another rule of thumb is to choose foods that are high in dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Studies have shown that fiber-rich diets reduce the risk of peptic ulcers by lowering stomach acid. Foods that are rich in vitamin A have similar effects.

Foods containing probiotics (microorganisms beneficial to the digestive tract) can speed healing by blocking H. pylori from attaching to the lining of the stomach. Probiotic-rich foods include pickled vegetables as well as certain fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir.

Foods rich in flavonoids are also believed to inhibit the growth of H. pylori in the gut. These plant-based nutrients are found in berries and many other fruits and vegetables.

Among the foods you can eat if you have a peptic ulcer are:

  • Bean and legumes, which are good sources of fiber
  • Eggs, which are rich in vitamin A
  • Fish, including fatty fish with high levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats
  • Fiber-rich fruits, like apples, bananas, strawberries, and raspberries
  • Flavonoid-rich foods, like cranberries, kale, broccoli, celery, and all berries
  • Leafy green vegetables, which are high in vitamin A
  • Orange and yellow vegetables, like sweet potatoes and summer squash that are also rich in vitamin A
  • Pickled foods, like kimchi, sauerkraut, and dill pickles
  • Lean meats and poultry
  • Miso, which is probiotic
  • Nuts and seeds, which are high in fiber
  • Olive oil, and other healthy monounsaturated fats
  • Tofu, tempeh, and seitan, which are all probiotic
  • Vegetables, like carrots, beets, and broccoli
  • Whole grains, including brown rice, bulgur, millet, and oatmeal
  • Whole-wheat bread and pasta
  • Yogurt, which is probiotic

What to Drink With a Peptic Ulcer

Plain water is ultimately the best thing you can drink if you have a peptic ulcer. Other "safe" options include:

  • Caffeine-free herbal teas
  • Cranberry juice
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Yogurt drinks

How to Eat With a Peptic Ulcer

How you eat when you have a peptic ulcer is as important as what you eat.

The first instinct you may have when you get a peptic ulcer is to stop eating and let the stomach rest. Not only would this deprive you of much-needed nutrition, but it can also make matters worse.

Eating the right food buffers the ulcer from stomach acids. By contrast, having an empty stomach can worsen symptoms because the stomach will keep churning out acids even if there is no food in it.

To end, you need to choose foods wisely rather than cutting back on nutrition.

There are other tips that can reduce symptoms of a peptic ulcer while you are eating:

  • Eat five or six smaller meals throughout the day rather than three large ones.
  • Sit upright in a chair while eating to avoid compressing the stomach.
  • Eat slowly and chew each bite thoroughly.
  • Relax a few minutes before and after each meal.
  • Have your last meal or snack at least three hours before bedtime.

Beyond Diet: More Ways to Help a Peptic Ulcer

In the past, people with peptic ulcers were often sent home to care for themselves until the sore healed itself. Today, eliminating H. pylori is usually the goal of treatment. This is the only way to fully prevent a recurrence.

While other things can cause peptic ulcers, such as the overuse of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), H. pylori accounts for 85% to 95% of all cases.

In addition to changes in diet, the treatment of peptic ulcers will typically involve one or more of the following:

  • Antibiotics: Prescription antibacterial drugs are used in combination to kill H. pylori. Options include Flagyl (metronidazole), Amoxil (amoxicillin), clarithromycin, and tetracycline.
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): These are over-the-counter and prescription drugs used to reduce stomach acids. Options include Prilosec (omeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole), Nexium (esomeprazole), and Protonix (pantoprazole).
  • Histamine-2 receptor (H2) blockers: These are over-the-counter and prescription drugs also used to reduce stomach acids. Options include Pepcid AC (famotidine), Tagamet HB (cimetidine), and Axid AR (nizatidine).
  • Antacids: These are over-the-counter agents used to neutralize stomach acids. These include Tums (calcium carbonate), Milk of Magnesia (magnesium hydroxide), and Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate).
  • Cytoprotective agents; Carafate (sucralfate) is a prescription drugs used to protect the lining of your stomach and small intestine.

The treatment of peptic ulcers should also involve the smoking cessation. Smoking not only aggravates ulcers but is one of the contributing risk factors for peptic ulcers.

Summary

There are foods you should and should not eat if you have a peptic ulcer.

Foods to avoid are those that are fried, greasy, acidic, or spicy. Dairy, caffeine, fast foods, processed food, and alcohol are also on the do-not-eat list.

Foods that are safe to eat include those that are high in fiber and low in saturated fats. Foods that are rich in flavonoids, vitamin A, and probiotics are also good as they can inhibit H. pylori, the bacteria that account for the majority of peptic ulcers.

A Word From Verywell

It can be frustrating to live with a peptic ulcer, particularly since the stomach pain can rob you of your desire to eat. Even so, it is important to maintain optimal nutrition to promote healing.

If you have trouble building a balanced diet from the foods you can tolerate, speak with a nutritionist or dietitian who can help. If you're still having problems eating, speak with a specialist known as a gastroenterologist who can prescribe medications to ease your discomfort.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the fastest way to cure a stomach ulcer?

    Medications, including H2-blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), are the fastest way to heal a stomach ulcer. Both reduce stomach acid production so the ulcer can heal. Antibiotics are also prescribed to kill the bacteria that cause most ulcers.

  • How long does it take to heal a peptic ulcer?

    Peptic ulcers usually heal in about eight weeks. However, it is common for ulcers to recur. You can reduce the risk of recurrence by eating bland, low-fat diet and avoiding spicy, acidic, and fatty foods.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Sharon Gillson
 Sharon Gillson is a writer living with and covering GERD and other digestive issues.