how to relieve ulcer pain
Stomach ulcers are often very painful. Learn about which home remedies and medications can help relieve ulcer pain

Ulcer pain is caused by irritation of the stomach and duodenal lining, sometimes due to Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) infection or long-term use of certain medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (ibuprofen or aspirin), or steroids. Ulcers can develop in the stomach and intestinal lining (usually the first part of the intestine, called duodenum), as well as other parts of the body. 

Home remedies and over-the-counter medications can help relieve the pain and other symptoms associated with ulcers, but they may not work for everyone, especially in severe cases. If natural treatments don’t improve your symptoms, it’s important to seek medical help since your condition may be more serious.

6 home remedies for ulcer pain

  1. Probiotics: Probiotics don’t kill the bacteria causing ulcers, but they help treat ulcers by restoring the balance of good gut bacteria in the digestive tract. They can be found in yogurt and fermented foods as well as supplements. Probiotic supplements may be especially effective in relieving ulcer pain because they have a higher concentration of probiotic microorganisms.
  2. Fruits rich in flavonoids: Flavonoids have rich antioxidant properties that protect the stomach lining by increasing stomach mucus, which can inhibit the growth of H pylori, the bacteria commonly associated with stomach ulcers. Colorful fruits are rich in flavonoids and include cherries, apples, blueberries, plantains, etc.
  3. Honey: Honey has antibacterial properties and helps heal wounds and ulcers faster.
  4. Turmeric: Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and can help prevent stomach ulcers or relieve ulcer symptoms.
  5. Chamomile: Chamomile tea can help treat intestinal spasms, reduce inflammation and pain, and promote healing.
  6. Garlic: Garlic helps fight infections and prevent the growth of H pylori. Garlic has been found to be helping in both the treatment and prevention of ulcers. 

What treatments can relieve ulcer pain?

While over-the-counter medications can treat an upset stomach, they are generally not effective in treating ulcers. And taking over-the-counter painkillers could worsen the problem. That is why it’s better to see a doctor, who may combine several medications and therapies to relieve pain, cure the infection, and prevent it from worsening. Medications usually include:

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics such as amoxicillin, clarithromycin, metronidazole, and tinidazole may be prescribed for 2 weeks along with other medications to kill H pylori bacteria.
  • Antacids: These neutralize stomach acid and provide quick pain relief but generally are not used to heal ulcers.
  • Medications to block acid production and promote healing: Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) block the production of stomach acid. PPIs are available by prescription and over the counter (lower dose). Common PPIs include omeprazole, rabeprazole, esomeprazole, and pantoprazole. Long-term use of PPIs, especially at high doses, can have risks, such as the increased risk of hip, wrist, and spine fracture.
  • Medications to reduce acid production: These are acid blockers called histamine (H-2) blockers. H-2 blockers reduce stomach acid, relieving and promoting healing. They are available by prescription or over the counter. Common H-2 blockers are ranitidine, famotidine, cimetidine, etc.
  • Medications to protect the lining of the stomach and small intestine: Prescription medications, such as sucralfate, coat the lining of the stomach and small intestine, protecting the lining, relieving pain, and allowing the ulcers to heal.

Your doctor may also recommend making lifestyle modifications, including:

  • Avoiding spicy and oily food
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Avoiding skipping meals
  • Avoiding binge eating
  • Avoiding taking painkillers (unless recommended by your doctor)
  • Stress management
  • Having fixed mealtimes and a good sleep routine

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Pancreatitis is inflammation of an organ in the abdomen called the pancreas. See Answer

When stomach pain is and is not an emergency

There are many causes of stomach pain and some are mild and some more serious.
Stomach pain causes can be mild or more serious. Learn when stomach pain is and is not an emergency

Most stomach pains are harmless. They may be caused by overeating, gas or indigestion. If your pain is short-term, goes away after passing gases or stools and with over-the-counter products (laxative and antacids) or home remedies, there is nothing to worry about.

If your belly pain is severe, doesn't go away or it keeps coming back, talk to your doctor.

You may have belly pain because of some problem that needs to be treated immediately. You should contact your doctor in an emergency rather than use self-care if you have the following:

  • Pain accompanied by a fever over 38.3 C or 101 F
  • Severe pain, fainting or inability to move
  • Pain that starts all over the belly but settles into one area, especially the lower right  part of the belly
  • Extremely tender-to-the-touch and swollen belly
  • Pain lasting for more than a few hours
  • Extreme discomfort/pain in the belly
  • Unable to keep food down for more than two days
  • Continuous nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Signs of dehydration, including not passing urine or passing frequent dark-coloured urine and being very thirsty
  • Vomiting blood or a black material
  • Black or bloody bowel movements
  • No bowel movement, especially if you're also vomiting
  • Unable to pass gas
  • Pain when you pee or need to urinate often
  • Pain that seems to come from the testicles
  • Continuing symptoms despite a full course of prescription or over-the-counter medications
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pregnancy

Stomach pain may be dangerous if you have the following:

  • Unintentional progressive weight loss
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation 
  • Age over 50 at onset of belly pain
  • Blood in the stool
  • Yellow skin and eyes
  • Breathlessness
  • Family history of abdominal cancer
  • Abnormal test results such as anemia (very low red blood cells) or abnormal liver function test results
  • New onset of symptoms without an obvious trigger(s)
  • Symptoms that increase over time and interfere with daily activities

How do doctors determine the cause of stomach pain?

Your doctor may ask you about your symptom history and examine your abdomen thoroughly. They doctor may make a diagnosis of the possible diseases by the location, origin, cause of symptoms and severity.

Your doctor may also assess your psychological status such as psychosocial abuse or stress, family relationships, anxiety, depression, or any trauma that may manifest as a digestive disorder. To confirm a diagnosis, your doctor may order:

  • Blood work-up to screen the blood cells (anemia) and look for infection
  • Serum electrolytes and glucose tests to screen metabolic causes
  • Liver function tests, if you have upper right-sided belly pain
  • Inflammatory markers
  • Urine test to check the urinary tract or for bladder infection
  • Stool examination with/without culture to check for worms or parasites and blood in the stool if you are over the age of 50
  • Pregnancy test
  • Ultrasonography
  • X-ray (with or without intravenous dye)
  • Helicobacter pylori infection test to rule out stomach ulcers
  • Vaginal swab/PAP smear, prostate-specific antigen, etc. in case of pain in the genitals/lower belly
  • Endoscopy (a technique to look inside the body) if you are over the age of 50 years old and have weight loss, low blood cell counts, blood in stool and vomiting.

How is stomach pain treated?

Your doctor may give you drugs to relieve pain and advise changes in your diet and lifestyle.

  • Dietary changes: Your doctor may suggest eliminating wheat, beans, dairy, and fruit sugar. The doctor may suggest eating a high-fiber diet.
  • Medications:
    • You may get antispasmodics, pain relievers, inflammation-relieving medicines or laxatives, antacids, antidiarrheals, and/or drugs that inhibit digestive acids (proton pump inhibitors [PPIs]).
    • Sometimes, you may get antidepressants or narcotic agents if you have nonorganic abdominal pain.
  • Follow-up: Your doctor may follow up with you to:
    • Reassess treatment after 3-6 weeks
    • Assess your psychosocial status that may be connected to your gut illness
    • Examine additional laboratory and radiological tests
    • Refer you to a specialist or a pain clinic

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Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2022
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https://www.worldgastroenterology.org/guidelines/global-guidelines/common-gi-symptoms/common-gi-symptoms-english