Foods to avoid if you have a stomach ulcer

Keep an eye on your intake of these “trigger foods” if you suffer from gastritis and ulcers.

07 April 2015
by Carla Calitz

When you suffer from gastritis – an inflammation of the stomach lining – you could experience the consequent fallout: painful peptic ulcers, which are sores that develop in the lining of the small intestine and can even start bleeding. Contrary to what you may have heard though, gastritis isn’t caused by spicy foods or stress – its major causes are actually the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H.Pylori) and the over-use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

However, it is crucial that you adjust your diet so that your embattled stomach isn’t further irritated by foods and other substances that increase your stomach acid.

“Certain foods and beverages have been shown to increase gastric secretions, decrease bicarbonate secretions and decrease blood flow to the stomach lining, which worsen ulcer symptoms and impair the healing of ulcers,” explains Nicola Walters, a registered dietitian from Nutritional Solutions in Bryanston, Johannesburg (www.nutritionalsolutions.co.za).

Which foods should you avoid?

Not all foods will affect every ulcer sufferer the same way, so you will have to learn by trial and error what your “triggers” are. However, these are the food, beverages and spices that generally do cause serious aggravation when eaten in large quantities and thus should be avoided, advises Walters:

  1. Foods: All deep-fried, high-fat foods.
  2. Beverages: Concentrated forms of alcohol, coffee and caffeine-rich beverages such as energy drinks.
  3. Spices: chilli, cayenne, cloves, garlic and black pepper.

Which foods should you eat?

The cornerstone of successful management of ulcers is not about avoiding specific foods, says Walters. “More important are simple lifestyle changes that include balanced, healthy eating, weight reduction, decreased alcohol consumption and smoking cessation,” she says.

These are Walters’s top tips for ulcer management:

  1. Eat a balanced diet. Choose a variety of foods from each food group, especially fibre-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Include yoghurt too.
  2. Fill-up on fibre. Fibre may play a role in preventing the formation or recurrence of ulcers. Foods high in soluble fibre, e.g. oats, apples and legumes, seem to be the most effective. Vitamin A-rich foods such as carrots, leafy greens and butternut may also be protective.
  3. Eat small, more frequent meals. Plan for four to five small meals per day instead of two to three large meals. Plus, avoid eating just before going to sleep as this delays gastric emptying and exacerbates symptoms.
  4. Chew more. Digestion starts in your mouth. Chewing thoroughly helps with the needed breakdown of nutrients.
  5. Get moving. Even stretching and walking promote good digestive health.
  6. Make lifestyle changes. Limiting stress aids in decreasing the over-production of stomach acid, while daily exercise and drinking sufficient water (six to eight glasses) can assist with gastric emptying. And quit smoking immediately as it increases ulcer perforation!
  7. Away with alcohol. Excessive use of alcohol may cause irritation and erosion to the stomach lining, so don’t indulge.
  8. Embrace protective agents. Studies suggest that green tea, broccoli, blackcurrant oil, cranberries, ginger and kimchi (fermented cabbage) are “protective” foods which may help with the eradication of H.Pylori. Probiotics are also being studied for their beneficial effects on H.Pylori.
  9. Introduce fish oils. Supplementing your diet with omega-3 fatty acids may help too.

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