Causes of Ulcers


A Anyone who is a Type A personality--always working hard is prone to ulcers. Cigarettes, caffeine, spicy foods and aspirin abuse may contribute to the development. Of these three, smoking is probably the greatest risk of ulcer disease. Nicotine affects acid secretion in the stomach by indirect mechanisms and leads to the high, intense type of lifestyle (Type A). Stopping smoking often heals ulcers better than by the use of medication.

Caffeine drinkers should also be aware that they have a big risk for ulcer. Caffeine increases acid secretion. This is due to the large amount of stress and responsibility that surrounds their lives. Less caffeine and less smoking is the needed response to this stress.


Spicy foods also contribute to ulcer formation, i.e. pepper, salt, chili powder, etc. Garlic, on the other hand, protects against ulcers. Foods that may prevent ulcers are: alkaline foods (asparagus, beans, cabbage, cauliflower and celery). Acid foods (orange or tomato juice) are very poor for ulcer patients, whereas bananas (especially plantains) are very beneficial.

The biggest cause of ulcers is the overuse of aspirin. Fish oil can replace most aspirin therapy. Non-steroidal drugs (Advil, Motrin) are extremely ulcer causing. Fish oil (5-15grams) can replace a lot of the need for these medications.

Zinc, B-carotene, vitamin E, and especially cysteine are anti-oxidants and anti-cancer vitamins, and it is not surprising that bleeding ulcers can often become cancerous.

Antacids can be used for treatment. Tagamet and Zantac (antihistamine, antacid secreting drugs) are beneficial when frequent antacids upset the stomach or are inconvenient. The disadvantage of drugs is their side-effects, which can be infertility, enlarged breasts, and more. Taking antacids alone is not any less effective than taking drugs. Any antacids that contains aluminum must be discouraged, even though its toxic effect does not show up for years. There are studies that say that gradual accumulation of aluminum can be a contributing factor in Alzheimer's disease and memory loss. The best antacids are Riopin, which has the advantage in being low in sodium, milk of magnesia or magnesium carbonate which is a laxative, or Tums (calcium carbonate) which is constipating.

Most ulcers can be prevented through a wise diet and the use of nutrients, i.e. calcium or magnesium carbonate. Always consult a physician before medicating yourself with vitamins or antacids.

By the way, having faith in yourself and faith in God will help your ulcers heal more quickly.


By Eric R. Braverman, M.D.

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