Does ulcers cause gas

Peptic Ulcer Disease

  1. What is Peptic Ulcer Disease?
  2. Risks
  3. Symptoms
  4. Diagnosis
  5. Treatment
  6. Prevention
  7. Other names for Peptic Ulcer Disease

What is Peptic Ulcer Disease?

Peptic ulcer disease is a condition with an open sore or ulcer in the lining of the stomach or duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. The main symptom is burning pain in the upper part of the belly after meals. Other symptoms are heartburn, burping, bloating and nausea. The symptoms of a peptic ulcer usually worsen over time. Peptic ulcers can lead to bleeding, a hole in the bowel (called a perforation) and other medical emergencies. These complications may cause symptoms which start suddenly.The treatment of peptic ulcer disease depends on the cause. Once the cause is recognized and treated, the outlook is usually good.

Risks

Peptic ulcer disease is more common in older people. Many cases are caused by an infection with a bacterial called Helicobacter pylori.Other causes of peptic ulcers are the use of anti-inflammatory medications (such as aspirin), and smoking. Other conditions and medications can cause peptic ulcer disease, but these are comparatively uncommon.

Symptoms

Typical symptoms include pain at the top of the belly, heartburn, indigestion (burping and bloating), and nausea. If the ulcer is bleeding, it might be possible to see fresh, red blood or old, black blood in the bowel movements. Bleeding may also be accompanied by tiredness and a lack of energy. If the ulcer causes a hole in the bowel, this can lead to a sudden pain in the belly, fever, nausea and collapse. This is a uncommon complication of this condition.

Diagnosis

To diagnose a peptic ulcer, an endoscopy (a camera through the mouth to the stomach) is required. Other tests are done at the time of endoscopy which may determine the cause of the peptic ulcer. A Helicobacter pylori (bacteria) infection can be diagnosed by a urea breath test.

Treatment

Antibiotics are prescribed to treat ulcers caused by a bacterial infection. If the ulcer is caused by a medication, your doctor can advise you about the risks and benefits of taking this medication in the future. Some medications are also helpful in reducing symptoms by reducing the amount of acid produced by the stomach. These are usually only required while the ulcer is healing. If the ulcer bleeds, or causes a hole in the intestine, emergency surgery might be required. This is a rare complication

Prevention

Careful use of anti-inflammatory medicines (such as aspirin) is important in preventing peptic ulcers, especially in older people. Giving up or reducing smoking can be helpful in reducing symptoms and in preventing new ulcers.

Other names for Peptic Ulcer Disease

  • stomach ulcer
  • duodenal ulcer
  • gastric ulcer
  • gastroduodenal ulcer

Gas in the Digestive Tract

On this page:

  • What causes gas?
  • Which foods cause gas?
  • What are some symptoms and problems of gas?
  • What diagnostic tests are used?
  • How is gas treated?
  • Conclusion
  • Points to Remember

The digestive tract

Everyone has gas and eliminates it by burping or passing it through the rectum. However, many people think they have too much gas when they really have normal amounts. Most people produce about 1 to 3 pints a day and pass gas about 14 times a day.

Gas is made primarily of odorless vapors–carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sometimes methane. The unpleasant odor of flatulence comes from bacteria in the large intestine that release small amounts of gases that contain sulfur.

Although having gas is common, it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Understanding causes, ways to reduce symptoms, and treatment will help most people find relief.

What causes gas?

Gas in the digestive tract (that is, the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine) comes from two sources:

  • swallowed air
  • normal breakdown of certain undigested foods by harmless bacteria naturally present in the large intestine (colon)

Swallowed Air

Air swallowing (aerophagia) is a common cause of gas in the stomach. Everyone swallows small amounts of air when eating and drinking. However, eating or drinking rapidly, chewing gum, smoking, or wearing loose dentures can cause some people to take in more air.

Burping, or belching, is the way most swallowed air–which contains nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide–leaves the stomach. The remaining gas moves into the small intestine, where it is partially absorbed. A small amount travels into the large intestine for release through the rectum. (The stomach also releases carbon dioxide when stomach acid and bicarbonate mix, but most of this gas is absorbed into the bloodstream and does not enter the large intestine.)

Breakdown of Undigested Foods

The body does not digest and absorb some carbohydrates (the sugar, starches, and fiber found in many foods) in the small intestine because of a shortage or absence of certain enzymes.

This undigested food then passes from the small intestine into the large intestine, where normal, harmless bacteria break down the food, producing hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and, in about one-third of all people, methane. Eventually these gases exit through the rectum.

People who make methane do not necessarily pass more gas or have unique symptoms. A person who produces methane will have stools that consistently float in water. Research has not shown why some people produce methane and others do not.

Foods that produce gas in one person may not cause gas in another. Some common bacteria in the large intestine can destroy the hydrogen that other bacteria produce. The balance of the two types of bacteria may explain why some people have more gas than others.

Which foods cause gas?

Most foods that contain carbohydrates can cause gas. By contrast, fats and proteins cause little gas.

Sugars

The sugars that cause gas are raffinose, lactose, fructose, and sorbitol.

Raffinose
Beans contain large amounts of this complex sugar. Smaller amounts are found in cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, other vegetables, and whole grains.

Lactose
Lactose is the natural sugar in milk. It is also found in milk products, such as cheese and ice cream, and processed foods, such as bread, cereal, and salad dressing. Many people, particularly those of African, Native American, or Asian background, normally have low levels of the enzyme lactase needed to digest lactose after childhood. Also, as people age, their enzyme levels decrease. As a result, over time people may experience increasing amounts of gas after eating food containing lactose.

Fructose
Fructose is naturally present in onions, artichokes, pears, and wheat. It is also used as a sweetener in some soft drinks and fruit drinks.

Sorbitol
Sorbitol is a sugar found naturally in fruits, including apples, pears, peaches, and prunes. It is also used as an artificial sweetener in many dietetic foods and sugarfree candies and gums.

Starches

Most starches, including potatoes, corn, noodles, and wheat, produce gas as they are broken down in the large intestine. Rice is the only starch that does not cause gas.

Fiber

Many foods contain soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves easily in water and takes on a soft, gel-like texture in the intestines. Found in oat bran, beans, peas, and most fruits, soluble fiber is not broken down until it reaches the large intestine, where digestion causes gas.

Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, passes essentially unchanged through the intestines and produces little gas. Wheat bran and some vegetables contain this kind of fiber.

What are some symptoms and problems of gas?

The most common symptoms of gas are flatulence, abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, and belching. However, not everyone experiences these symptoms. The determining factors probably are how much gas the body produces, how many fatty acids the body absorbs, and a person’s sensitivity to gas in the large intestine.

Belching

An occasional belch during or after meals is normal and releases gas when the stomach is full of food. However, people who belch frequently may be swallowing too much air and releasing it before the air enters the stomach.

Sometimes a person with chronic belching may have an upper GI disorder, such as peptic ulcer disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or gastroparesis.

Occasionally, some people believe that swallowing air and releasing it will relieve the discomfort of these disorders, and this person may intentionally or unintentionally develop a habit of belching to relieve discomfort.

Gas-bloat syndrome may occur after fundoplication surgery to correct GERD. The surgery creates a one-way valve between the esophagus and stomach that allows food and gas to enter the stomach but often prevents normal belching and the ability to vomit. It occurs in about 10 percent of people who have this surgery but may improve with time.

Flatulence

Another common complaint is passage of too much gas through the rectum (flatulence). However, most people do not realize that passing gas 14 to 23 times a day is normal. Too much gas may be the result of carbohydrate malabsorption.

Abdominal bloating

Many people believe that too much gas causes abdominal bloating. However, people who complain of bloating from gas often have normal amounts and distribution of gas. They actually may be unusually aware of gas in the digestive tract.

Doctors believe that bloating is usually the result of an intestinal disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The cause of IBS is unknown, but may involve abnormal movements and contractions of intestinal muscles and increased pain sensitivity in the intestine. These disorders may give a sensation of bloating because of increased sensitivity to gas.

Any disease that causes intestinal inflammation or obstruction, such as Crohn’s disease or colon cancer, may also cause abdominal bloating. In addition, people who have had many operations, adhesions (scar tissue), or internal hernias may experience bloating or pain. Finally, eating a lot of fatty food can delay stomach emptying and cause bloating and discomfort, but not necessarily too much gas.

Abdominal Pain and Discomfort

Some people have pain when gas is present in the intestine. When pain is on the left side of the colon, it can be confused with heart disease. When the pain is on the right side of the colon, it may mimic gallstones or appendicitis.

What diagnostic tests are used?

Because gas symptoms may be caused by a serious disorder, those causes should be ruled out. The doctor usually begins with a review of dietary habits and symptoms. The doctor may ask the patient to keep a diary of foods and beverages consumed for a specific time period.

If lactase deficiency is the suspected cause of gas, the doctor may suggest avoiding milk products for a period of time. A blood or breath test may be used to diagnose lactose intolerance.

In addition, to determine if someone produces too much gas in the colon or is unusually sensitive to the passage of normal gas volumes, the doctor may ask patients to count the number of times they pass gas during the day and include this information in a diary.

Careful review of diet and the amount of gas passed may help relate specific foods to symptoms and determine the severity of the problem.

Because the symptoms that people may have are so variable, the physician may order other types of diagnostic tests in addition to a physical exam, depending on the patient’s symptoms and other factors.

How is gas treated?

Experience has shown that the most common ways to reduce the discomfort of gas are changing diet, taking medicines, and reducing the amount of air swallowed.

Diet

Doctors may tell people to eat fewer foods that cause gas. However, for some people this may mean cutting out healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and milk products.

Doctors may also suggest limiting high-fat foods to reduce bloating and discomfort. This helps the stomach empty faster, allowing gases to move into the small intestine.

Unfortunately, the amount of gas caused by certain foods varies from person to person. Effective dietary changes depend on learning through trial and error how much of the offending foods one can handle.

Nonprescription Medicines

Many nonprescription, over-the-counter medicines are available to help reduce symptoms, including antacids with simethicone. Digestive enzymes, such as lactase supplements, actually help digest carbohydrates and may allow people to eat foods that normally cause gas.

Antacids, such as Mylanta II, Maalox II, and Di-Gel, contain simethicone, a foaming agent that joins gas bubbles in the stomach so that gas is more easily belched away. However, these medicines have no effect on intestinal gas. Dosage varies depending on the form of medication and the patient’s age.

Activated charcoal tablets (Charcocaps) may provide relief from gas in the colon. Studies have shown that when these tablets are taken before and after a meal, intestinal gas is greatly reduced. The usual dose is 2 to 4 tablets taken just before eating and 1 hour after meals.

The enzyme lactase, which aids with lactose digestion, is available in liquid and tablet form without a prescription (Lactaid, Lactrase, and Dairy Ease). Adding a few drops of liquid lactase to milk before drinking it or chewing lactase tablets just before eating helps digest foods that contain lactose. Also, lactose-reduced milk and other products are available at many grocery stores (Lactaid and Dairy Ease).

Beano, a newer over-the-counter digestive aid, contains the sugar-digesting enzyme that the body lacks to digest the sugar in beans and many vegetables. The enzyme comes in liquid form. Three to 10 drops are added per serving just before eating to break down the gas-producing sugars. Beano has no effect on gas caused by lactose or fiber.

Prescription Medicines

Doctors may prescribe medicines to help reduce symptoms, especially for people with a disorder such as IBS.

Reducing Swallowed Air

For those who have chronic belching, doctors may suggest ways to reduce the amount of air swallowed. Recommendations are to avoid chewing gum and to avoid eating hard candy. Eating at a slow pace and checking with a dentist to make sure dentures fit properly should also help.

Conclusion

Although gas may be uncomfortable and embarrassing, it is not life-threatening. Understanding causes, ways to reduce symptoms, and treatment will help most people find some relief.

Points to remember

  • Everyone has gas in the digestive tract.
  • People often believe normal passage of gas to be excessive.
  • Gas comes from two main sources: swallowed air and normal breakdown of certain foods by harmless bacteria naturally present in the large intestine.
  • Many foods with carbohydrates can cause gas. Fats and proteins cause little gas.
  • Foods that may cause gas include
    • beans
    • vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, onions, artichokes, and asparagus
    • fruits, such as pears, apples, and peaches
    • whole grains, such as whole wheat and bran
    • soft drinks and fruit drinks
    • milk and milk products, such as cheese and ice cream, and packaged foods prepared with lactose, such as bread, cereal, and salad dressing
    • foods containing sorbitol, such as dietetic foods and sugarfree candies and gums
  • The most common symptoms of gas are belching, flatulence, bloating, and abdominal pain. However, some of these symptoms are often caused by an intestinal disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome, rather than too much gas.
  • The most common ways to reduce the discomfort of gas are changing diet, taking nonprescription medicines, and reducing the amount of air swallowed.
  • Digestive enzymes, such as lactase supplements, actually help digest carbohydrates and may allow people to eat foods that normally cause gas.

The U.S. Government does not endorse or favor any specific commercial product or company. Trade, proprietary, or company names appearing in this document are used only because they are considered necessary in the context of the information provided. If a product is not mentioned, this does not mean or imply that the product is unsatisfactory.

Stomach and Duodenal Ulcers (Peptic Ulcers)

What is a peptic ulcer?

A peptic ulcer is a sore on the lining of your stomach or the first part of your small intestine (duodenum). If the ulcer is in your stomach, it is called a gastric ulcer. If the ulcer is in your duodenum, it is called a duodenal ulcer.

Ulcers are fairly common.

What causes peptic ulcers?

In the past, experts thought lifestyle factors such as stress and diet caused ulcers. Today we know that stomach acids and other digestive juices help create ulcers. These fluids burn the linings of your organs.

Causes of peptic ulcers include:

  • H. pylori bacteria (Helicobacter pylori). Most ulcers are caused by an infection from a bacteria or germ called H. pylori. This bacteria hurts the mucus that protects the lining of your stomach and the first part of your small intestine (the duodenum). Stomach acid then gets through to the lining.
  • NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These are over-the-counter pain and fever medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Over time they can damage the mucus that protects the lining of your stomach.

What are the symptoms of peptic ulcers?

Each person’s symptoms may vary. In some cases ulcers don’t cause any symptoms.

The most common ulcer symptom is a dull or burning pain in your belly between your breastbone and your belly button (navel). This pain often occurs around meal times and may wake you up at night. It can last from a few minutes to a few hours.

Less common ulcer symptoms may include:

  • Feeling full after eating a small amount of food
  • Burping
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Not feeling hungry
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Bloody or black stool
  • Vomiting blood

Peptic ulcer symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.

How are peptic ulcers diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will look at your past health and give you a physical exam. You may also have some tests.

Imaging tests used to diagnose ulcers include:

  • Upper GI (gastrointestinal) series or barium swallow. This test looks at the organs of the top part of your digestive system. It checks your food pipe (esophagus), stomach, and the first part of the small intestine (the duodenum). You will swallow a metallic fluid called barium. Barium coats the organs so that they can be seen on an X-ray.
  • Upper endoscopy or EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy). This test looks at the lining of your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. It uses a thin lighted tube called an endoscope. The tube has a camera at one end. The tube is put into your mouth and throat. Then it goes into your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Your health care provider can see the inside of these organs. A small tissue sample (biopsy) can be taken. This can be checked for H. pylori.

You may also have the following lab tests to see if you have an H. pylori infection:

  • Blood tests. These check for infection-fighting cells (antibodies) that mean you have H. pylori.
  • Stool culture. A small sample of your stool is collected and sent to a lab. In 2 or 3 days, the test will show if you have H. pylori.
  • Urea breath test. This checks to see how much carbon dioxide is in your breath when you exhale. You will swallow a urea pill that has carbon molecules. If you have H. pylori, the urea will break down and become carbon dioxide. You will have a sample taken of your breath by breathing into a bag. It will be sent to a lab. If your sample shows higher than normal amounts of carbon dioxide, you have H. pylori.

How are peptic ulcers treated?

Treatment will depend on the type of ulcer you have. Your healthcare provider will create a care plan for you based on what is causing your ulcer.

Treatment can include making lifestyle changes, taking medicines, or in some cases having surgery.

Lifestyle changes may include:

  • Not eating certain foods. Avoid any foods that make your symptoms worse.
  • Quitting smoking. Smoking can keep your ulcer from healing. It is also linked to ulcers coming back after treatment.
  • Limiting alcohol and caffeine. They can make your symptoms worse.
  • Not using NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines). These include aspirin and ibuprofen.

Medicines to treat ulcers may include:

  • Antibiotics. These bacteria-fighting medicines are used to kill the H. pylori bacteria. Often a mix of antibiotics and other medicines is used to cure the ulcer and get rid of the infection.
  • H2-blockers (histamine receptor blockers). These reduce the amount of acid your stomach makes by blocking the hormone histamine. Histamine helps to make acid.
  • Proton pump inhibitors or PPIs. These lower stomach acid levels and protect the lining of your stomach and duodenum.
  • Mucosal protective agents. These medicines protect the stomach’s mucus lining from acid damage so that it can heal.
  • Antacids. These quickly weaken or neutralize stomach acid to ease your symptoms.

In most cases, medicines can heal ulcers quickly. Once the H. pylori bacteria is removed, most ulcers do not come back.

In rare cases, surgery may be needed if medicines don’t help. You may also need surgery if your ulcer causes other medical problems.

What are the complications of peptic ulcers?

Ulcers can cause serious problems if you don’t get treatment.

The most common problems include:

  • Bleeding. As an ulcer wears away the muscles of the stomach or duodenal wall, blood vessels may be hurt. This causes bleeding.
  • Hole (perforation). Sometimes an ulcer makes a hole in the wall of your stomach or duodenum. When this happens, bacteria and partly digested food can get in. This causes infection and redness or swelling (inflammation).
  • Narrowing and blockage (obstruction). Ulcers that are found where the duodenum joins the stomach can cause swelling and scarring. This can narrow or even block the opening to the duodenum. Food can’t leave your stomach and go into your small intestine. This causes vomiting. You can’t eat properly.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

See your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Vomiting blood or dark material that looks like coffee grounds
  • Extreme weakness or dizziness
  • Blood in your stools (your stools may look black or like tar)
  • Nausea or vomiting that doesn’t get better, or gets worse
  • A sudden, severe pain that may spread to your back
  • Losing weight without even trying

Untreated peptic ulcers may cause other health problems. Sometimes they bleed. If they become too deep, they can break through your stomach.

Ulcers can also keep food from going through your stomach.

Key points

  • These ulcers are sores on the lining of your stomach or the first part of your small intestine (the duodenum).
  • Stomach acids and other digestive juices help to make ulcers by burning the linings of these organs.
  • Most ulcers are caused by infection from a bacteria or germ called H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) or from using pain killers called NSAIDs.
  • The most common symptom is a dull or burning pain in the belly between the breastbone and the belly button.
  • Ulcers can be treated with a mix of lifestyle changes and medicines. In rare cases, surgery is needed.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.

5 Common Warning Signs of Ulcers

Ulcers are a common medical issue that affects about one in ten people in America. They occur when acid in the digestive tract eats away at the inner surface of the esophagus, stomach or small intestine. The acid can create a painful open sore that may bleed. You can get them anywhere on your body for any reason, but the most common form of ulcers occur in your stomach.

Although there is no single cause for an ulcer, many factors can increase your risk of stomach ulcers including painkillers, excessive drinking of alcohol and smoking tobacco. Luckily, ulcers are easy to treat once you recognize the symptoms of them. Here are five common signs of a stomach ulcer:

Abdominal Pain: A burning sensation may occur in your stomach. The pain will come and go in waves and is often accompanied by bloating. Many may confuse this feeling with acid reflux or other similar diseases. If the abdominal pain starts after you eat, keeps you up at night, and lasts a prolonged period it might be an ulcer.

Nausea: Due to the imbalance in your digestive system, mild to severe nausea may occur, either first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, or after eating. Because of nausea that will occur, rapid weight loss also comes in conjunction with it as well.

Bloating: A feeling of heaviness and fullness can occur in the stomach, usually the same feeling you get after drinking a full glass of water.

General discomfort: With a stomach ulcer, it can be hard to do things such as eating or any other day to day to activities without the burning pain in your stomach. Instead of feeling better after a meal, many people may be uncomfortable after a meal because of irritation to the ulcer.

Increased Indigestion: Ulcers can cause gas pain and hiccupping following meals. Burning in the throat can be a symptom of an ulcer as well.

Without treatment, ulcers can get worse and cause more serious problems such as internal bleeding and tears in your stomach or intestines. It’s best to learn and recognize the symptoms of an ulcer as soon as you start to feel discomfort in your abdomen. Scheduling an appointment through one of our doctors can lead you down the road to recovery.

Even though more than 25 million Americans will suffer from a stomach ulcer at some point during their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you don’t need to put down the jalapeño poppers just yet. Contrary to popular belief, spicy foods don’t cause stomach ulcers. Neither does stress. (If you already have an ulcer, however, both can make your symptoms worse.)

“The two main causes of ulcers in the U.S. are a bacterial infection called H. pylori, and long-term use of aspirin and NSAID painkillers (ibuprofen and naproxen),” says Shipla Ravella, M.D., gastroenterologist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center.

Basically, there’s a thick layer of mucus that protects your stomach from digestive juices, which are hella acidic. And anytime there’s a mucosal drought, the juices eat away at the tissues that line the stomach, causing an ulcer. Gah.

Think you might have one? The primary symptoms to look out for are pretty non-specific (translation: they can be caused by a variety of conditions besides ulcers), says Ravella, so it’s important to check in with your doc if you ever experience any of the following five issues:

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The most common stomach ulcer symptom is, not surprisingly, stomach pain—typically, a dull, burning sensation in the mid-abdominal area. “Because ulcers are literally sores in the lining of the stomach or small bowel, pain classically presents in relation to acid secretion in the intestines,” says Rusha Modi, M.D., gastroenterologist and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Keck Medical Center in California. The pain usually peaks between meals and at night, when acid has been secreted into the stomach but there’s no food to act as a buffer. Taking antacids can temporarily relieve the pain, but odds are it will keep coming back until the ulcer is treated by a professional.

(Kick-start your new, healthy routine with Women’s Health’s 12-Week Total-Body Transformation!)

Christine Frapech

Because the ulcer is being perpetually doused in acid, stomach pain can often be paired with chronic heartburn and regurgitation (that icky feeling of acid backing up into your throat). Other symptoms, such as bloating, burping, or feeling perma-full, may not be far behind, says Ravella. If taking an OTC antacid only relieves symptoms temporarily, or they seem to strike no matter what you eat, you may want to discuss this with your physician.

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“Nausea and vomiting are also due to the inflammatory cascade that occurs as a result of the ulcer’s development,” says Modi. The inflammation of the stomach lining itself causes intermittent contractions (cue nausea)—and if the muscles of the abdominal wall contract with enough force, it can cause full-on vomiting, says Rudolph Bedford, M.D., gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.

In some cases, these symptoms strike because the ulcer is causing a blockage in the stomach and food isn’t able to pass easily into the small intestine. Your doctor can determine the exact cause of the ulcer and, most likely, treat it with antacid medications—but, if there’s evidence of a blockage, you’ll be admitted to the hospital for further treatment, says Modi.

Find out what you MUST do the next time you go to the doctor:

​ Christine Frapech

Ulcers can bleed and cause vomiting—particularly, vomiting of blood or material that looks like coffee grounds (which is digested blood that’s been sitting in the stomach), says Sophie Balzora, M.D., gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. Your poop may also become black in color, which, again, can be indicative of digested blood. “Both are signs that require urgent and emergent medical attention,” she says.

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Pain from a stomach ulcer can travel, radiating to the back or chest. “If the ulcer has penetrated through the bowel wall, the pain can become more intense, longer in duration, and harder to alleviate,” says Ravella. Ulcers can also cause perforation (where the lining of the stomach splits open), in which case you may experience sudden and severe stomach pain that continually gets worse—and should head to the ER, stat.

If you’re not experiencing symptoms that require urgent medical attention, set up a time to chat with your doctor about the best course of action is. “If there’s a high suspicion for an ulcer, you may be advised to undergo an upper endoscopy to formally diagnose and treat it accordingly,” says Balzora. Ulcers are primarily treated with acid-lowering medications—and, if H. pylori is detected, a round of antibiotics.

Krissy Brady Krissy is a regular contributor to Prevention, and she also writes for Cosmopolitan, Weight Watchers, Women’s Health, FitnessMagazine.com, Self.com, and Shape.com.

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