Diets For Stomach Ulcers: Tips On What To Eat

By Tiffany Tseng. Medically reviewed by Tom Iarocci, MD. May 7th 2016

Adjusting your diet will not cure stomach ulcers, but eating certain foods and avoiding others can help ease symptoms and may help with the healing process.

If you have peptic ulcer disease, proper treatment relies on modern medicine. But diet and stress reduction are also powerful allies.

Heavy alcohol consumption, taking NSAID pills and having inadequate nutrition, in addition to H. pylori infections, are all thought to increase ulcer development. But what foods should you eat if you're dealing with stomach ulcers?

To learn more about peptic ulcer disease, visit Peptic Ulcers.

Foods to Eat

Fiber is extremely important in maintaining your tummy's health, and peptic ulcers are no exception. Fresh fruit and vegetables provide tons of fiber, and they are also a great source of important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that could potentially help your body protect and maintain a healthy stomach.

Fruits and vegetables that have flavonoids and other compounds such as coumarins, alkaloids, terpenoids, tannins and phenolic acids are thought to have medicinal or functional properties in addition to the nutrition they offer. In strawberries, substances called polyphenols seem to help heal stomach ulcers in animal studies.

Foods that are rich in flavonoids, antioxidants and other phytochemicals include:

  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Cranberries
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Green tea

The science is continuing to expand, as well. Lab research suggests substances in black soy beans might be useful in fighting inflammation associated with H. pylori stomach infections.

And, while milk usually makes the “foods to avoid” list because it promotes stomach acidity, some types of yogurt may actually be helpful for stomach ulcers. Evidence from animal studies suggests yogurts with certain probiotic lactobacillus bacteria may help to heal gastric ulcers.

What To Avoid

Generally, foods that are high in fat, high in acidity, or foods that tend to give you heart burn should be avoided.

  • Coffee: Whether caffeinated or decaffeinated, coffee is an acidic drink that may irritate the stomach lining.
  • Carbonated beverages: Also acidic in nature, sodas and carbonated beverages should be avoided.
  • Fatty foods: Foods high in saturated fats such as fatty cuts of red meat, dished made with heavy cream, or buttery pastries, tend to promote inflammation. Trans fats are even worse for you.
  • Tomatoes, citrus fruits, and their juices: Tomatoes and the acidity of tomato sauces can set people off. Citrus fruits, such as lemons, oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, and limes are higher in acidity than other fruits. To reduce the risk of irritation, try cutting out these acidy items.
  • Spicy foods: If spicy foods set you off, by all means cut them out of your diet. There is no evidence this will help heal an ulcer, but if it provides symptom relief, this is reason enough.

Chocolate, black pepper and peppermint are also frequently including on lists of offending foods, but individuals vary in how well they tolerate these and other items.

Alcohol: Alcohol stimulates acid secretion, and excessive alcohol is definitely counterproductive. Very modest alcohol consumption may not be bad for your peptic ulcer, however, so go with the advice of your doctor on this.

Smoking: According to the National Institute of Health, cigarette smoking increases the chance of getting a stomach ulcer. It also slows down the healing process and can worsen the condition.

Healthy Alternatives

Just because you have a stomach ulcer does not mean that you can only eat bland, boring foods. Fortunately, there are many milder, low-fat alternatives to popular foods out there.

Instead of fatty cuts of red meat:

  • Poultry with the skin and fat removed
  • Fish (if canned, make sure it is packed in water instead of oil)
  • Tofu, beans and legumes as tolerated.

Instead of sodas or coffee:

  • Most fruit juices, excluding citrus juices
  • Water
  • Mild teas

Instead of buttery pastries:

  • Whole grain breads, tortillas, pita bread
  • Desserts made with whole grains and made without trans fats

Instead of creamy condiments or spicy, acidic sauces:

  • Non-fat mayonnaise
  • Low fat salad dressings
  • Honey 
  • Fresh or dried herbs
  • Moderate salt and pepper

Next Steps

Sticking to a more stomach-friendly diet can take some investment and planning. But the transition to a healthier diet to ease the symptoms of peptic ulcer disease should also start to usher in a longer list of health benefits. Find out what works, and know that a bland diet isn’t always the best diet, particularly for people who may lack interest in food to begin with.

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