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Gastrointestinal ulcer: complaints and treatment

A gastrointestinal ulcer is a small inflammation of the lining of the stomach or at the beginning of the duodenum. This condition falls under gastrointestinal diseases and it can cause unpleasant symptoms such as pain in the upper abdomen, nausea, heartburn or bloating. The cause can be a bacteria, but also irritating substances such as smoke, alcohol or medicines. What exactly does a gastrointestinal ulcer mean, what are the symptoms and how should it be treated?

Gastrointestinal ulcer

A gastrointestinal ulcer is a small inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the stomach or duodenum. If the inflammation is in the stomach, it is called a peptic ulcer. Sometimes the ulcer is located at the beginning of the duodenum and then it is called a duodenal ulcer. The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine where food enters as it leaves the stomach. The name peptic ulcer is usually used for both an ulcer in the stomach and duodenum. The ulcer has caused a hole in the protective layer of the mucous membrane lining the stomach or duodenum. As a result, the nerves in the underlying connective tissue layer are open and exposed in the mucous membrane layer. If it comes into contact with the stomach acid, it causes severe pain.


Men are twice as likely to suffer from stomach ulcers as women. Today, stomach ulcers are less common than decades ago because of better treatments. With a stomach ulcer, the symptoms occur after eating. If the ulcer is located on the inside of the duodenum, the symptoms occur when the stomach is empty. A stomach ulcer causes pain in the upper abdomen. The pain is more severe at night and the pain subsides after eating.The main symptoms of a stomach ulcer are:

  • Heartburn
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Bloated feeling
  • No appetite

In some cases, a stomach ulcer can bleed. If this enters the intestines, the stool will become black and tarry in color. With stomach bleeding, blood can sometimes be vomited. There are also people who have a stomach ulcer without any complaints. They only find out when the first indication is stomach bleeding.


A stomach ulcer can be caused by the bacteria: Helicobacter pylori . In addition, the mucous membrane of the stomach or duodenum can be damaged by the effects of stomach acid, smoking, alcohol or the use of painkillers. The use of paracetamol does not affect the mucous membrane.


It is important to treat the gastrointestinal ulcer. If this is not done, the action of stomach acid can cause an ulcer that breaks through into the abdominal cavity. This can cause severe abdominal complaints that can arise very suddenly. This is a serious complication that requires urgent intervention.


The diagnosis of a peptic ulcer can be made by means of a visual examination of the stomach. The doctor will use an endoscope that enters the stomach through the mouth to view the inside of the stomach. A breath test or blood test can be used to determine whether the Helicobacter pylori bacteria are present.


If you have a gastrointestinal ulcer, you should see which meal distribution suits you best. It is often better to eat 6 small meals a day instead of 3 large meals with small snacks in between. In the past, advice was given that drinking milk eased the pain. It can ease the pain, but that is usually only for a short time. If the stomach ulcer is caused by the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, treatment can be done with antibiotics and an antacid. If this bacteria is not present, only an antacid is often given so that the mucous membrane has the chance to recover.Here are some tips on what you can do yourself if you have a gastrointestinal ulcer:

  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid drinking alcohol
  • Avoid highly spicy and fatty foods
  • Eat at regular times
  • Be careful with coffee and soft drinks
  • Replace aspirin with paracetamol
  • Avoid stress because this can promote the complaints
  • Do not eat anything 3 hours before going to sleep
  • Get plenty of exercise


To the doctor

If you suspect that you have a gastrointestinal ulcer because you have the above-mentioned complaints, go to the doctor. Some medications can also cause symptoms. Consult with your doctor if you suspect that your stomach complaints are due to the medication.

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