Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Can Stress Cause Stomach Ulcers

What Causes An Ulcer

What Causes Stomach Ulcers + Is Stress Ever To Blame? A Doctor Answers

Most peptic ulcers are caused by:

  • bacteria called Helicobacter pylori infecting the stomach and upper intestine. They weaken the protective coating of the stomach and upper small intestine. Acid in the stomach then gets through to the sensitive lining underneath. Acid and bacteria irritate this lining, causing ulcers.
  • using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as ibuprofen and aspirin. These medicines fight inflammation and help treat long-term, painful conditions like arthritis. If taken in high doses over a long period of time, NSAIDs can cause ulcers in some people.
  • smoking cigarettes. Smoking increases the risk of ulcers because nicotine causes the stomach to make more acid. Drinking a lot of alcohol each day for a period of time can also increase a person’s risk of ulcers. Over time, alcohol can wear down the lining of the stomach and intestines.

Sometimes stress can help cause ulcers. Usually this happens only when a person has an illness involving severe emotional or physical stress. Any illness that makes it hard for the body to heal also can make someone more likely to get an ulcer.

How Stomach Ulcers Are Thought To Develop

A stomach ulcer is correctly known as a peptic ulcer. The majority of stomach ulcers are caused by unfriendly bacteria within the stomach that penetrate the stomach lining and cause a sore to develop. Often such infections are tiny, and you may not even notice you have one. Larger infections can cause a burning sensation and abdominal pain, especially at night. Some drugs may also help cause stomach ulcers.

Most peptic ulcers will go away on their own as the body has systems designed to fight the infection, however, large and persistent ulcers may need additional treatment.

Do Stress Ulcers Go Away

The healing of a stomach ulcer is facilitated by the fact that the cells forming the stomach wall have a high turnover rate, one that is increased in those with ulcers. This makes sense because the cells in this environment are exposed to acids, large muscle movements as the food is churned, different spices, foods of various textures, etcetera. This means cells can ‘wear out’ quickly and need to be replaced. The larger danger occurs when the tissue is ulcerated for so long, that the cells begin to mutate, potentially placing you at a higher risk of developing stomach cancer.

However, if the tissue hasn’t reached a state with mutations, then given enough time and with a reduction in stress, the tissue will eventually return to its pre-ulcerated state.

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Is It True That Stress Leads To Ulcers

Dr. Liu: Actually, this is partially true.

The two big causes of ulcers are physiological stress and infection. Physiological stress can come from a previous illness or trauma, undergoing a major surgery, and extreme physical activity/exercise.

Daily psychological stressors are not clearly sole causes of ulcers, but they can make symptoms of ulcers worse.

When an ulcer occurs because of infection, antibiotics and stomach-acid-blocking medicines will treat it.

Can Stress Cause Stomach Pain

Can stress alone cause stomach ulcers?

Anxiety and stress are closely related. But they are technically different conditions. It is possible to experience a significant amount of stress without experiencing anxiety. Yet the causes of stomach pain from stress are similar. Muscle tension, digestive issues all of these are also caused by stress and may contribute to stomach pain.

Also Check: Why Your Stomach Hurts When You Eat

What Happens During Exposure To Stress

Your body activates the fight or flight response, more formally known as the sympathetic response. Following exposure to stress, this evolutionary mechanism interprets the stimulus as a threat, something that is putting you in danger. This was useful during times of a hunter-gatherer society when large predators hunted humans.

Epinephrine is released into the blood stream from the adrenal glands and causes an array of rapid changes.

Heart rate increases to circulate blood through the body at a quicker pace, delivering oxygen to the many muscles working hard to fight off or flee the beast. The blood vessels constrict, causing the blood pressure to increase while the airways dilate to allow a greater amount of air to enter the lungs. The pupils become larger to allow more light in while the perception of pain is reduced.

While all of these changes sound extreme, they help us in the moment and are balanced by the parasympathetic response that counteracts all of these processes. The real danger is when the stress becomes chronic and the body has difficulty ‘turning off’.

What Is An Ulcer And What Actually Causes It

Peptic ulcers are painful, open sores in your stomach lining or small intestine. Your body produces stomach acid to help you digest food. It also produces mucous to protect your digestive tract against the acid. When you have too much acid or too little protective mucous, the lining can get inflamed and ulcers can develop. But what causes the imbalance to begin with?

The most two most common causes of ulcers are:

  • An infection caused by a bacterium called helicobacter pylori . We dont know exactly how H. pylori is spread, but its thought to be spread through personal contact or by food and water.
  • Regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , including aspirin, ibuprofen , and naproxen sodium . Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, is not classified as an NSAID. Your chances of developing an ulcer are significantly higher if you also take other medicine like steroids, SSRIs, or anticoagulants along with NSAIDs.
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    What Are Stomach Ulcers

    There are two kinds of stomach ulcers: gastric ulcers and duodenal ulcers. Gastric ulcers are sores on the lining of your stomach. Duodenal ulcers are sores on the upper section of your small intestine.

    Your body creates a protective layer of mucus to shield the linings of your stomach and small intestine from the harsh stomach acid required to break down food. When the mucus layer is worn away or doesnt function properly, the acid begins to damage the lining of the stomach or small intestine, creating an ulcer. Many people believe spicy foods or stress cause ulcers, but while these can exacerbate existing ulcers, they dont actually cause them.

    Ulcers are usually caused by an infection from a common bacteria called helicobacter pylori or from the habitual use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin. Other factors, such as being older than age 50, smoking, genetics, steroid use, and frequent alcohol use, can increase your risk of developing an ulcer.

    Treatment For A Stomach Ulcer

    Real Question: Does Stress Really Cause Ulcers?

    Special diets are now known to have very little impact on the prevention or treatment of stomach ulcers. Treatment options can include:

    • medication including antibiotics, to destroy the H. pylori colony, and drugs to help speed the healing process. Different drugs need to be used in combination some of the side effects can include diarrhoea and rashes. Resistance to some of these antibiotics is becoming more common
    • subsequent breath tests used to make sure the H. pylori infection has been treated successfully
    • changes to existing medication the doses of arthritis medication, aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medication can be altered slightly to reduce their contributing effects on the stomach ulcer.
    • reducing acid tablets are available to reduce the acid content in the gastric juices
    • lifestyle modifications including quitting cigarettes, since smoking reduces the natural defences in the stomach and impairs the healing process.

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    How Do I Know If Its Anxiety And Not An Ulcer

    Its not uncommon to find yourself concerned that your struggle with stomach pain is not from anxiety or stress at all. For example, you may find yourself concerned that instead of anxiety, what you are really struggling with is an ulcer.

    Only a doctor can diagnose whether or not your pain is from an ulcer, but there are some clues. The clearest signal is if you have any blood in your stool or acid burps . Thats often a clear sign of an ulcer. Also, if the pain or discomfort tends to occur after eating and isnt related to a similar condition, GERD , its possible you may have an ulcer.

    However, this is complicated by the fact that ulcers can be caused by long-term stress and anxiety, as they stimulate the production of extra stomach acid. This excess acid in the stomach breaks down the gastric or intestinal lining and cause open wounds that may harm your health.

    What Triggers Stomach Ulcers

    Stomach ulcers can be caused by a wide variety of triggers. Though your stomach is a naturally acidic environment, the continuous use of NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen, chronic psychological stress, and other factors can upset the chemical balance in your stomach and cause an increase in the amount of stomach acid your body produces.

    This increase in acidity can cause holes to form in the mucosal lining of your stomach and the upper portion of your small intestine known as the duodenum. One of the most common causes of stomach ulcers is an infection of the H. pylori bacterium, which can cause your stomach to secrete too much acid, eventually wearing holes in the lining of the stomach.

    One bit of good news for lovers of spice is that recent research has shown that eating spicy food is not a significant contributor to the formation of ulcers. This is not to say, however, that eating certain foods wont irritate an ulcer that already exists. If you have an ulcer and find that eating hot, spicy foods makes your symptoms worse, it is best to stick to a bland diet.

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    When Is Stomach Pain Most Likely To Occur

    If you have anxiety, stomach pain can occur at any time even when no anxiety is present. However, many people experience stomach pain during panic attacks.

    The exact link between an anxiety attack and stomach pain is not clear, other than the fact that during a panic attack, your body is under a considerable amount of stress, and your hormones are often on overdrive. Also, those with anxiety attacks are prone to hyperventilation, which may lead to symptoms that create stomach pain.

    What Causes Stomach Ulcers Dont Assume Spicy Foods Are To Blame

    Peptic ulcer

    For decades, spicy foods were blamed for painful stomach ulcers. People doubled over in pain were advised to cut back on fiery foods.

    In the 1980s, however, that theory was debunked, as was the thought that stress causes ulcers. Matthew Bechtold, MD, a gastroenterologist at MU Health Care, said the primary causes of ulcers are a bacterium known as Helicobacter pylori and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs .

    H. pylori spreads through contaminated food and water or unsanitary conditions. It can cause ulcers by growing in the lining of the stomach, producing inflammation and causing the stomach and intestinal lining to be more easily damaged by stomach acid.

    NSAIDs that can lead to ulcers include popular over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. They can irritate the stomachs lining and may interfere with chemicals that help regulate the protective lining.

    Ulcers caused by NSAIDs can be prevented by reducing or eliminating use of the drugs. Your doctor may also prescribe a daily medicine, such as Prilosec, Pepcid or Cytotec.

    Even though the beliefs about what caused ulcers were disabused more than 30 years ago, Bechtold said to this day many patients dont know that spicy foods are not harmful.

    They tend to blame the spicy foods for their issues, he said.

    A study on capsaicin the ingredient responsible for spiciness in peppers showed it might even be good for the stomach.

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    How Are Ulcers Treated

    Treatment for stress ulcers is similar to that for other stomach and duodenal ulcers. Similar to the use of over-the-counter antacids to help treat occasional heartburn, the first goal of treatment is to lower the acidity of your stomach to allow inflamed tissues to begin healing.

    One of the first lines of treatment for stress ulcers are drugs such as proton pump inhibitors or histamine blockers designed to reduce the secretion of stomach acid. These drugs work on different chemical pathways, but both can help reduce the elevated amount of acid in your digestive tract that contributes to the development of ulcers.

    Though allowing your body to begin healing itself is part of the course of treatment, it is not the entire picture. Since stress ulcers are typically present in patients who are suffering from other serious illnesses, treating the underlying condition that caused your stress ulcers to appear will be necessary for your body to fully heal.

    Stomach Pain And Long

    Because of the extra acid in your stomach and the changes to the way your body processes nutrients, the stomach pain from anxiety can be a problem if left untreated. Ulcers are just one example. Some people experience heartburn from anxiety, and others eat less often, giving their body fewer nutrients.

    The stomach pain from anxiety and stress is rarely dangerous, but it is still important to treat it, because the effects on your long-term health when it is left untreated may be harder to manage.

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    Diagnosis Of Gastric Ulcers

    Gastric ulcers can be difficult to diagnose in horses because of subtle, inconsistent signs. Indirect, non-invasive tests such as measuring sucrose permeability have been proposed but are currently unreliable.

    Gastroscopy which visually inspects all areas of the stomach and proximal intestine is the only reliable method to definitively identify ulcers.

    Gastroscopy also provides information about the severity and number of lesions to further inform treatment.

    However, severity and clinical signs dont always match. In some cases, horses with minor lesions may show more clinical signs than horses with severe lesions or vise versa.

    Gastroscopy is also not accessible to all horse owners due to the high cost. Given the very high prevalence of ulcers in performance horses and even pleasure horses, it may be prudent to assume that your horse is at risk of ulcers and to take steps to mitigate the risk in the future.

    Common Causes Of Gastric Ulcers In Horses

    Can STRESS cause stomach ulcers?

    Have you noticed changes in your horse such as weight loss, a dull coat, disinterest in feeding or crib chewing that have resulted in poor performance? Your horse might be experiencing stomach pain, most likely due to gastric ulcers.

    Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome occurs when sores develop on the lining of the horses stomach. The physiochemical barrier that usually protects stomach tissue is worn down and digestive acids cause painful lesions in the stomachs lining.

    In addition to causing discomfort in your horse, gastric ulcers can present with hindgut ulcers which can impair nutrient absorption leading to a wide range of health and behavioural problems.

    This condition is known to affect 60-90% of performance horses particularly when travel, high-intensity exercise and long periods without feeding occur. It also occurs at high rates in pleasure horses and young foals.

    Research shows that any horse that undergoes stall confinement, has inconsistent access to feed, is fed grain or concentrates, or is trailered is at risk of developing ulcers.

    This article will guide you through the different types of gastric ulcers, their causes, symptoms and how to treat and prevent ulcers in horses.

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    Are There Foods That Reduce Stomach Pain

    Anxiety-related stomach pain is not usually the result of your diet , so there arent necessarily any dietary changes that can help reduce stomach pain.

    That said, those with panic attacks are more prone to experiencing more severe stomach discomfort, even when no anxiety is present. In other words, when you have panic attacks, its possible to have stomach pain even without a panic attack.

    Also, those with anxiety attacks and severe anxiety are prone to whats known as over-sensitization. That means that they are more likely to notice and feel smaller, normal changes in the body, and these can trigger an anxiety attack. So if your diet does contain foods that cause you gas, stomach discomfort, or mild indigestion, it may be best to avoid them because the slight amount of discomfort could feel worse than it should and may trigger a panic attack.

    Thats why healthy eating is important in those that get stomach pain with anxiety. Make sure youre getting:

    • Fruits
    • Water/Hydration
    • Whole-Grain Carbohydrates

    Also, if you suffer from stress-induced hyperacidity, then it is recommended that you consume dairy products and non-spicy foods. In moderate amounts, over-the-counter antacids may be needed as well.

    In addition, if possible, try to avoid eating until youre too full. Those with severe anxiety sometimes interpret the full feeling as pain, and this could trigger a panic attack and further pain.

    When & Why Do These Anxious Feelings Occur

    Then you eat something. Perhaps a bowl of salad followed by a spicy corn tortilla. Soon, your meal passes over this open wound. The roughage in the salad and corn scrapes the mucus clean off the ulcer as it passess through your GI tract. Then, the spices irritate the wound. Can you imagine rubbing cayenne pepper into a cut on your arm? Or rubbing some tortilla chips over a scraped knee?

    Your body is not accustomed to wounds deep in your gut, and struggles to interpret this painful irritation. The vagus nerve, also known as the wandering nerve, is the nerve responsible for correctly transmitting the pain signals from your gut to your brain. But your brain cant make sense of it. Is it hunger? Am I in distress? What is wrong!? So your nervous system goes haywire, and lashes out at any possible cause.

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    Intermittent Access To Water

    During training and competition there can be long periods of time without access to water, particularly during transport.

    Intermittent access to water increases the chances of developing gastric ulcers in all parts of the stomach.

    Turnout without constant access to water, or frozen water in the winter, might also increase the risk of ulcers.

    Giving oral electrolyte solutions repeatedly to horses in competition has also been shown to increase the number of ulcers and the severity of the lesions.

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