What Causes a Stomach Ulcer?

A stomach ulcer is a very painful and potentially fatal affection. Stomach ulcers are in fact holes in the stomach lining, causing severe pain and internal bleeding. If untreated, the hole can pass through the stomach lining and allow its corrosive contents to escape into the surrounding tissue. For a long time it was thought that spicy food, stress and alcohol are the main factors leading to a stomach ulcers. However, along with the great progress in medicine and technology, today we know that contrary to popular belief, ulcer is not caused by spicy foods.

The treatment for an ulcer in the past century was not exactly rocket science: bed rest, a bland diet and antacids. However, these treatments merely reduced the discomfort, but the results were generally not permanent. Once the treatment stopped, the pain returned. Recent research proved that spicy foods, stress and alcohol can worsen the symptoms of a stomach ulcer, but do not cause it.

Most stomach ulcers are actually caused by a bacterial infection in the stomach lining. And while bed rest, a bland diet and antacids might ease the symptoms, antibiotics cure ulcer by killing the bacteria within month or two of treatment.

The bacterium that causes ulcer is called Helio-bacter pylori, and the Australian researchers who discovered it in 1982 won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for this. Before this discovery, it was thought impossible for a bacteria to survive the acid conditions of the human stomach. Still, not everyone with the bacteria develops ulcers, but only 10 to 15%. Scientists discovered that about half of the people in developed countries, and almost everyone in some parts of the world have the bacteria in their stomachs, however it is still unknown why some people develop these symptoms of infection and others don’t. Apparently, this infection with Helio bacter pylori starts in childhood and continues for life.