Both stomach (gastric) ulcers and duodenal ulcers are referred to as peptic ulcers. Whereas duodenal ulcers affect four times as many men as women, stomach ulcers are more or less equal distributed; for women, however, the risk of ulcers increases after the Menopause, perhaps because high levels of oestrogen have a protective effect.
Coin-sized raw areas on the walls of the stomach where the protective mucus coating has been eroded by acidic gastric juice after infection has damaged the lining. A bacterium (Helicobacter pylori) is nearly always found in those with gastric ulcers, it is present in only 40 per cent of healthy stomachs. It can be diagnosed by a breath test. It is also more common in people in poor social and economic groups and with a poor diet. May be due to over-production of acid (see Acid Secretion Problems), failure to produce enough mucus, or regurgitation of bile from the duodenum, which may in turn be due to heavy smoking or drinking, irregular eating habits, Allergy to foods such as wheat and mild Stress, recurrent Gastritis, or drugs, especially aspirin, steroids, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
The symptoms of a stomach ulcer are a gnawing or burning pain in the chest or upper abdomen, sometimes lasting for 2-3 hours, Indigestion, and Nausea and Vomiting; pain may or may not coincide with eating. Groups most at risk are older people, people on low incomes, and blood group A. With time, if ulcers are left untreated, there maybe loss of appetite (see Appetite Changes) and Weight Loss. Peritonitis (if ulcer perforates stomach wall), pyloric stenosis (if ulcer blocks exit from stomach), and cancer of the stomach, see Cancer, (if ulcer turns malignant) are also slight risks. A bleeding stomach ulcer is fairly rare, but can cause rapid blood loss and Shock, especially in an elderly person, or Anaemia.
Raw spots in the lining of the duodenum eroded by acid from the stomach; somewhat smaller than stomach ulcers, they usually cause gnawing upper abdominal pain 3-4 hours after eating. As with stomach ulcers, heavy smoking, aspirin, steroids, and anti-inflammatory drugs, and over-production of stomach acid (see Acid Secretion Problems) are the culprits; condition is more common in blood group O and among people with emphysema or alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver. Possible complications include bleeding, leading to Anaemia, pyloric stenosis (narrowing of exit from stomach), and Peritonitis (infection of abdominal cavity if ulcers perforate duodenal wall).
Conventional treatment of stomach and duodenal ulcers includes bed rest, antacids, H2 receptor antagonists (such as ranitidine and cimetidine), and proton pump inhibitors such as omeprezole; also antibiotics and bismuth to eliminate Helicobacter.
An ulcer which has eroded through the wall of the stomach or duodenum; symptoms are severe abdominal pain lasting for 1 hour or more, with or without vomiting, and sometimes blood in vomit; appropriate action is to contact Emergency Medical Services.
See Indigestion and Nausea and Vomiting for specific homeopathic remedies; many of these include 'peptic ulcer' as one of their symptoms.
Self-help: Ulcers can be helped to heal by eating only small quantities of food at a time; Slippery Elm Food, taken every 2 hours, is especially recommended. Rich fatty foods, acid foods, highly concentrated carbohydrates, tea, coffee, and alcohol should all be avoided. Cut out smoking. If you are particularly prone to stomach ulcers, try the Liver Diet. Make sure your diet contains plenty of Vitamins A, C, and E, and zinc. There are reports that Helicobacter pylori can be treated with a combination of Acidophilus and certain oils, bismuth preparations and Aloe Vera. See your homeopath for advice.