How can peptic ulcers be prevented?

Dr. Robynne K. Chutkan, MD

Find out your Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) status if you have symptoms suggestive of an ulcer, don't smoke, avoid unnecessary use of ibuprofen or aspirin, keep your caffeine and alcohol consumption to a minimum (not more than one caffeinated or alcoholic beverage daily), and try some guided meditation to keep your stress levels low. If you think you have an ulcer, have your symptoms checked out by a gastroenterologist who may recommend an examination of the stomach and small intestine (upper endoscopy) for diagnosis.

Some kinds of peptic ulcers are easier to prevent than others. Stress can make you more susceptible to some ulcers, so reducing stress in your life can help prevent ulcers. Smokers develop peptic ulcers more often than non-smokers, so quitting is a good way to reduce your risk for ulcers. Heavy alcohol use can lead to peptic ulcers and should be avoided. Medications can cause some ulcers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; if you are concerned about ulcers and take a medication that can cause them, find out if you can change meds. Unfortunately, sometimes the main source of ulcers cannot be prevented. For instance, peptic ulcers are mostly caused by an infection, H. pylori, and it is not clear how H. pylori is transmitted. Some peptic ulcers can even be caused by rare conditions, as in Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, the cause of which is unknown. In Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, tumors called gastrinomas cause far too much stomach acid to be present in the stomach.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.