Stomach ulcers are open sores that develop within the lining of your stomach.
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, an organization of doctors who specialize in the digestive tract, there is no specific Stomach ulcer diet a person with ulcers needs to follow. Food choices don’t cause ulcers or make them worse.
Current Stomach ulcer diet recommendations are now based on research that certain foods may have ingredients that fight against the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, a main cause of ulcers.
Ulcers may also be caused by overuse of painkillers, such as aspirin (Bayer), and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Naprosyn).
Stomach ulcers are treated with antibiotics and medications to reduce and block stomach acid.
Stomach ulcers usually require a combination of medications, including antibiotics. However, there is growing evidence to suggest that eating certain foods can also help get rid of stomach ulcers or, at least, reduce the symptoms they cause.
In addition to this well-proven treatment plan, research has shown that there are also some natural home remedies that may be useful in managing a stomach ulcer.
A Stomach ulcer diet is intended to help reduce the pain and irritation that comes from a peptic ulcer—a painful sore that develops on the lining of your stomach, esophagus, or small intestine. Your doctor may put you on medication for your condition, but following a Stomach ulcer diet is an essential part of your overall care plan to manage symptoms and help your ulcer heal.
Foods or beverages don’t cause ulcers, nor can they cure them. However, certain foods (e.g., fermented dairy foods) can help repair damaged tissue, and those that perpetuate acid build-up and inflammation (e.g., fried choices) may further aggravate your ulcer and threaten your digestive tract’s natural layer of protection.
The foods you eat can impact how you feel with an ulcer, and eating the right foods can help you control symptoms and possibly may even promote healing. Dr. Alaa Abousaif, a gastroenterologist and internal medicine specialist with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California, says that because “an ulcer is an open sore in the stomach, you need to avoid anything that will irritate this.”
Spicy and acidic foods have long been on the list of foods to avoid if you have a stomach ulcer, also called a peptic ulcer. While limiting these foods in your diet may help reduce stomach acid, doctors recommend increasing the amount of fiber you eat when deciding what foods to eat with a stomach ulcer. Find out what to add to your stomach ulcer diet menu—and which foods to avoid—while your peptic ulcer heals.
Physicians often recommend lifestyle and dietary changes for persons with ulcers in addition to medications until complete healing occurs. Although in the past patients were encouraged to follow a bland diet, current research does not support this dietary modification to be beneficial. Although spicy foods are an irritant for some people with ulcers, medical professionals now place more emphasis on a high fibre diet rich in vegetables and fruits.
Stomach Ulcer Diet: What to Eat and What to Avoid
What To Eat If You Have a Stomach Ulcer
Research suggests that flavonoids, also known as bioflavonoids, may be an effective additional treatment for stomach ulcers.
Flavonoids are compounds that occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Foods and drinks rich in flavonoids include:
- red grapes
- teas, especially green tea
These foods may also help the body fight against the H. pylori bacteria.
Flavonoids are referred to as “gastroprotectiveTrusted Source,” which means they defend the lining of the stomach and could allow ulcers to heal.
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, there are no side effects of consuming flavonoids in the amount found in a typical diet, but higher amounts of flavonoids may interfere with blood clotting.
You can get flavonoids in your diet or take them as supplements.
H. pylori infection can upset the balance of bacteria in the gut. Taking probiotics such as Lactobacillus, which is naturally present in the gut, could help restore the natural balance of bacteria.
A 2014 revie of clinical studies concludes that taking probiotics alongside prescribed medications can make treatment more effective. The side effects of taking medications also decreased.
Some research also suggests that taking certain strains of probiotics may help reduce antibiotic treatment-related side effects, improve the balance of gut bacteria, and help make treatment more effective.
People can take probiotics as a supplement or consume them in fermented foods. However, it is worth keeping in mind that most studies have focused on supplemental probiotics, not on diets rich in probiotics.
High-Fiber Foods & Vitamin A
A stomach ulcer diet should include lots of high-fiber foods. Research has found that people whose diet is high in fiber, particularly soluble fiber, have a lower risk of developing a peptic ulcer. Stomach ulcer foods to eat with high amounts of soluble fiber include oatmeal, apples, peas, carrots, beans and pears. For insoluble fiber, try whole grains, nuts, green beans, potatoes and cauliflower. Other fruits and veggies also have high fiber content.
Note: If you haven’t been eating many high-fiber foods in the past, add them to your diet gradually to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal upset.
Foods that are high in soluble fibre include oats, psyllium husk, legumes, flax seeds, barley, nuts, and certain vegetables and fruits, such as oranges, apples, and carrots.
Findings from a prospective cohort study that included 47,806 men, showed that a diet rich in vitamin A from all sources might reduce the development of duodenal ulcer, as might diets high in fruits and vegetables, possibly due to their fibre content. A prospective cohort study follows, over time, a group of similar individuals (cohort) who differ with respect to certain factors under study, to determine how these factors affect rates of a certain outcome; however, more research is necessary to verify results because there are so many other factors involved with this type of study that could confound the data.
Animal studies demonstrate that vitamin A increases the production of mucus in the gastrointestinal tract. Impaired mucosal defense can allow ulcers to develop. Therefore, vitamin A may have a protective effect against the development of ulcer disease.
Good sources of vitamin A include liver, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, and collard greens.
Honey is far from simply sweet.
Depending on the plant it’s derived from, honey can contain up to 200 elements, including polyphenols and other antioxidants. Honey is a powerful antibacterial and has been shown to inhibit H. pylori growth.
As long as you have normal blood sugar levels, you can enjoy honey as you would any sweetener, with the bonus of perhaps soothing your ulcers.
Several factors may affect the balance of microbes in the gut. These include unhealthful diets and certain illnesses or medications.
Fermented foods are rich sources of microbes, such as bacteria, yeasts, and fungi. Eating foods that contain these microbes can restore the balance of the gut microbiome.
Some fermented foods include:
Foods High In Antioxidants
Antioxidants can help eliminate H. pylori. Some studies have shown that people who took small doses of vitamin C over a period of time saw an improvement. While oranges are known for having lots of vitamin C, they are acidic and might upset your stomach. Try strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and potatoes for vitamin C.
It may surprise you to know that the antioxidant capsaicin, found in many kinds of chili peppers, has been found to have healing effects for GI ulcers. (Capsaicin is what makes these peppers spicy.) However, capsaicin may be beneficial only for ulcers caused by aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. For other ulcer causes, capsaicin can make symptoms worse.
Cranberry has been shown in some studies to help decrease urinary tract infections by preventing bacteria from settling on the walls of the bladder. Cranberry and cranberry extract also may help fight H. pylori.
You can drink cranberry juice, eat cranberries, or take cranberry supplements.
No specific amount of consumption is associated with relief. Too much cranberry in any form may cause stomach and intestinal discomfort due to its high sugar content, so start with small amounts and increase gradually.
Many commercial cranberry juices are heavily sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, which can also add empty calories. Avoid those juices by buying juice sweetened only by other juices.
Broccoli and broccoli sprouts contain sulforaphane, which is a phytochemical that inhibits the growth of H. pylori.
In a 2017 study involving people with H. pylori infection, eating 70 grams of broccoli sprouts per day reduced stomach inflammation and significantly reduced infection markers compared with baseline levels.
Sulforaphane is also present in other cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. To optimize consumption levels of this substance, it is best to eat the vegetables raw or to steam them lightly for up to 3 minutes.
Some research has shown that green tea, along with white, oolong and black teas, can also help prevent the overgrowth of H. pylori in your stomach. Even better, these teas didn’t harm the types of bacteria that are beneficial for your gut. These findings come from lab research, but scientists are optimistic that future studies will show these effects will also occur in the body.
Fruits, Vegetables and Whole Grains
A diet centered on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is not only good for your overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic, a vitamin-rich diet can help your body heal your ulcer.
Foods containing the antioxidant polyphenolsTrusted Source may protect you from ulcers and help ulcers heal. Polyphenol-rich foods and seasonings include:
- dried rosemary
- Mexican oregano
- dark chocolate
- blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, elderberries, and blackberries
- black olives
Foods to Avoid With Ulcers and Acid Reflux
In some people, certain foods can affect the lower part of the esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing acid and stomach contents to back up into the esophagus. This can cause injury to the esophagus, as well as heartburn, indigestion, and other discomfort.
To reduce acid reflux pain, you may want to limit:
- coffee and other caffeinated beverages
- carbonated beverages
- chilies and hot peppers
- processed foods
- foods with a high amount of salt
- deep-fried foods
- acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes
Alcohol and Coffee
Having more than one drink a day for women and more than two for men is considered excessive drinkingTrusted Source.
If a couple of drinks after work is how you unwind, you might want to consider a healthier alternative. Regular alcohol use causes significant stomach inflammation.
Also, alcohol is another substance that can relax the lower part of the esophagus, increasing your risk for acid reflux.
Alcohol erodes the mucus layer that protects the stomach and gastrointestinal tract, which can cause even more inflammation and bleeding of your stomach ulcer. Coffee (even decaf) can increase the production of stomach acid. It’s best to eliminate these drinks from your stomach ulcer diet.
Fried Foods or Fatty Foods
Foods fried in oil at high temperatures can aggravate stomach ulcers and upset the digestive tract’s natural layer of protection.
They can also be high in fat and salt and, if cooked away from the home, might be fried in oil that a kitchen has used several times over.
Fried foods include potato chips, fries, onion rings, fried chicken, and donuts.
You may notice eating a big meal of fried chicken makes your stomach ulcer symptoms worse. That’s because your body digests fatty foods more slowly, making them feel heavy in your stomach. Plus, slow digestion gives food more time to ferment, which can lead to excess gas and bloating. Fried and fatty foods are definitely on the list of stomach ulcer foods to avoid.
Some foods are naturally acidic, and, even though they have some health benefits, they are best avoided on a stomach ulcer diet.
Other foods have a high dietary acid load, which means that they contribute to an acidic environment in the body.
Some people with stomach ulcers may need to avoid or limit the following foods:
- citrus fruits, such as lemons, oranges, and grapefruits
- refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, and processed cereals
Highly Processed Foods
Avoiding high fat, salty, and sugary processed foods may help relieve symptoms in people with stomach ulcers.
People with stomach ulcers often have diets low in fiber and antioxidants. However, choosing high fiber, unprocessed foods can help slow digestion and reduce bile acid concentration, which may help reduce symptoms such as bloating and pain.
You may want to skip anything that is “hot” such as chili peppers, horseradish, black pepper, and sauces and condiments that contain them, especially if they bother you or cause any pain or reflux.