The gastroduodenal ulcer is a fairly frequent entity and, also, a high rate of recurrence of the disorder is observed among patients. Therefore, being able to prevent gastric ulcers is an opportunity to be seized.
A low percentage of patients suffering from the disease can present bleeding and perforation as complications, with the consequent risk of life. It is not a minor issue.
What are gastric ulcers?
Gastric ulcers are defects or sores in the inner layer of the stomach or duodenum (the portion of the small intestine that follows the stomach). They are also often called peptic ulcers.
They develop and persist thanks to the acidic activity of gastric juice. The disease is associated with two main factors: bacterial infection by Helicobacter pylori and consumption of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( NSAIDs ).
Most people with a gastric ulcer will either be asymptomatic or will only manifest dyspepsia :
- Pain in the pit of the stomach.
- Burning or heartburn.
- Food intolerance with belching and bloating.
- Nausea and vomiting
Gastric ulcer complications include bleeding, penetration, perforation, and obstruction of the gastric outlet. They have decreased compared to previous decades, thanks to the identification and treatment of H. pylori.
What factors make gastric ulcers more likely?
One of the determining factors in gastric infection by Helicobacter pylori. Between 85% and 100% of patients with gastroduodenal ulcers are positive for the presence of the bacteria in the stomach or duodenum.
Similarly, the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, indomethacin, diclofenac, piroxicam, and naproxen, along with other drugs such as cigarette and alcohol, are risky practices. The problem increases progressively with more years of employment.
It is also known that there is a family predisposition to the presentation of ulcers. This genetics must be strengthened with the habits to end in disease, as happens with the intake of certain foods and drinks that can cause stomach upset. Eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and fibre can lower your risk of them.
The role of stress in the formation of ulcers is controversial. There is some evidence that it may contribute to its development, as well as partial healing and increased recurrence.
How to prevent gastric ulcers?
To prevent gastric ulcers, we leave you here some recommendations that you can follow, and that is framed in the context of healthy habits and medical therapies with scientific evidence:
- Avoid using aspirin whenever possible. In particular, its indication should be carefully evaluated in patients with a history of gastric ulcer. Similarly, the lowest possible doses should be used, accompanied by meals. If the use of analgesics is required, paracetamol is preferable.
- For patients who have a history of ulcer and should continue aspirin or another NSAID, co-treatment with a proton pump inhibitor (e.g. omeprazole) is generally recommended for as long as they are used.
- Eradicate H. pylori infection with antibiotics. Multiple antibiotics have been evaluated, and many of them failed to clear the infection. The selected treatment regimen must consider the local resistance patterns of the bacteria. One of the schemes used is the combination of clarithromycin and amoxicillin for 14 days.
- Avoid smoking and limit the amount of alcohol.
- Change diet: avoid chocolate, fatty foods, fried foods, coffee, citrus and highly spicy foods. Although it is known that they are not a direct cause of the gastric ulcer, they can worsen it, so it is always suggested to reduce their consumption.
- Avoid being overweight.
Preventive measures are important to prevent a recurrence
Those patients who have had gastric ulcers before will benefit from most of the prevention measures already recommended. Above all, emphasis should be placed on avoiding the use of NSAIDs and smoking.
Also, H. pylori eradication will be evaluated on many occasions with a doctor. This is not something that the patient can decide on his own. Complementary methods must be carried out to corroborate the existence of the bacteria, as well as its antibiotic resistance. Once this process has been completed, the action protocol will be established.
Healthy habits, stress reduction, and dietary measures, while not causal factors, can improve symptoms or prevent worsening dyspepsia. There are no magic formulas for this prevention, although it does require commitment and persistence in the changes that are applied.