An ulcer is defined as an open sore. Peptic ulcer is one of the most common diseases in civilised countries. An ulcer may form in any part of the digestive tract, but is mainly found in the stomach. In other words, we can say that a peptic ulcer is an open sore in the stomach. The. commonest symptom of a peptic ulcer is pain or discomfort in the upper central abdomen. The pain is commonly described as burning or gnawing in character. Other symptoms that may occur are loss of weight, heartburn, acidity and vomiting.
Certain occupations appear to predispose people to ulcers. Doctors are particularly prone and so are those in responsible positions in industry, such as foremen and business executives. It has been suggested that stress and strain, and hurried and irregular meals with the consequent bolting of food and inadequate mastication might be important contributory factors. Symptoms are often relieved when a patient curtails his business and social activities. Both physical and mental rest appear to promote the healing of an ulcer.
It is usually said that a suitable diet for peptic ulcer patients should be mechanically and chemically non-irritating, and should consist of small frequent meals. However, there is little evidence to support this advice. It has been shown, for example, that hourly feeding of milk provokes more acid secretion in the stomach than does the ordinary routine of three meals a day. The reason behind this is very simple. Whenever any food is taken, be it a liquid like milk or a solid like bread, it always results in acid production by the stomach wall, which is how the digestive process functions. This implies that frequent (two hourly or six to eight in total) feeds, as suggested in the traditional ulcer regime, would result in more acid production. And if there are ulcers present, then such a feeding schedule with high acid production would certainly hamper the healing process. Thus instead of improving, the patient will become a chronic case of peptic ulcers.
There is no evidence that the rate of ulcer healing can be accelerated by the traditional bland ulcer diet. Instead, studies have shown that red chilli powder has no effect on the intensity of pain or the healing of ulcer! Persistence with frequent or bland diet or liquid diet may be harmful, since, apart from more acid production, they may also lead to sub-optimal intake of vitamin C. This vitamin is contained in all fresh fruits and vegetables, which are contra-indicated in the traditional bland ulcer regime. The reason being that these foods are mechanically irritating to the inner lining of the stomach. Many patients find that their symptoms are aggravated by certain foods or alcohol. These they learn to avoid by experience.
There are no diet restrictions for peptic ulcer patients but there is good evidence to show that stopping smoking accelerates the healing of peptic ulcers.