Peptic Ulcer Diet Recommendations

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Few topics have had as much chance as the diet recommended if you have a peptic ulcer. While a bland diet used to be standard, now the basic recommendation is to get good nutrition from a variety of food. There is no need to eat a bland diet. However, there is diet advice that can help relieve symptoms and support your body nutritionally for healing during treatment.

Why Did Diet Advice Change for Peptic Ulcers?

For most of the past century, health authorities thought peptic ulcers were caused by stress and dietary factors. The treatment was based on prescribing a bland food diet. Gastric acid was also blamed for ulcers and treatment was with antacids and other medications that block stomach acid. However, these were often ineffective.

Australian physicians Robin Warren and Barry Marshall identified the link between the bacteria Helicobacter pylori and ulcers in 1982, and this led to the antibiotic treatment of the disease becoming the standard in the late 1990s. Another cause of peptic ulcers is the long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen. A third cause is the rare Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, which results in stomach tumors.

None of the now-recognized causes of peptic ulcers are due to diet. A bland diet and drinking milk are not effective ways to treat ulcers.

Today, ulcers are treated by antibiotics or stopping NSAIDs. To protect your stomach lining as it heals, you may be prescribed a proton pump inhibitor, a histamine receptor blocker, and protectants such as Carafate. You can also use Pepto-Bismol and antacids.

Diet Tips for Peptic Ulcers

While your peptic ulcer is active, there is diet advice that can help with some of the symptoms and your recovery. No diet will cure peptic ulcer disease.

Eat a Healthy Diet Rich in Vitamins A and C for Healing

Your body needs a full range of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains packed with vitamins A and C while you are healing. Gone are the days of a bland diet. You want a vibrant diet of vitamin-rich food.

  • The top foods for vitamin A include carrots, dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, etc.), broccoli, sweet potatoes, winter squash (butternut, acorn, etc.), red bell peppers, mangoes, and apricots.
  • The top foods for vitamin C include citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, tomato juice, and potatoes.
  • Don't settle for vitamin supplements. You get a full range of phytonutrients, minerals, and micronutrients when you eat whole grains, vegetables, and fruit that cannot be duplicated in a pill.

Try Foods Containing Probiotics

When you take antibiotics for H. pylori, you will need to restore a normal balance of bacteria in your intestinal tract. There are also some studies that show that using probiotics along with standard therapy can help eradicate H. pylori. Probiotic foods can reintroduce these friendly bacteria that are instrumental in digesting the food you eat.

The foods that contain probiotics include yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, and aged cheeses. Probiotic supplements are also available.

Limit or Avoid Alcohol and Quit Smoking

Too much alcohol will irritate the tender lining of your stomach and intestines, which can delay healing and even lead to inflammation and bleeding. It's best to cease using alcohol until you are healed and to limit it going forward. You should not smoke as that delays the healing of ulcers.

You Might Eliminate Milk

Not everyone needs to stop drinking milk while healing from a peptic ulcer. But some find that milk will temporarily relieve their ulcer pain, but then stimulate excess acid production and result in increased pain. You can discuss this choice with your doctor. This is a complete change from the old advice to drink milk to coat your stomach.

Take Pain Relievers With a Meal

Whether your peptic ulcer was caused by an NSAID or not, you can help protect your stomach lining by taking any needed NSAID with a meal. Talk to your doctor about all of your medications and how timing them with food or drink might affect them.

Identify Symptom-Triggering Foods

Many people with peptic ulcers can eat whatever they want with no problems. There are other people who find that eating certain foods can cause irritation, excessive acid production, and heartburn. It is best to keep a food diary and note your symptoms and what food might have contributed to it. You may see no pattern, but you might find that foods that are common heartburn triggers affect you.

While a bland diet is no longer recommended, you might find that limiting specific foods while you heal helps with your symptoms. Remember that this is only done to make you feel better, it doesn't treat peptic ulcer disease.

A Word From Verywell

You are likely to run into older advice about using a bland diet for peptic ulcers. This is outdated information. Check with your doctor about any guidelines specific to your condition and medications. A typically healthy diet that is high in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains should help nourish your body as you heal.

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