Does Stress Cause Duodenal and Stomach Ulcers?

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It’s clear that stress can cause both emotional and physical problems, but does it also have a role to cause peptic ulcers (duodenal and stomach ulcers)? The answer is still debatable, but some experts believe that an uncontrolled stress might have a role on this.

Gastric and duodenal ulcers – what actually are they?

They belong into a group of digestive problems called as peptic ulcers. They are open sores in the lining of the stomach and duodenum. While duodenal ulcer affects the duodenum (the first part of small intestine), gastric ulcer develops in the lining of the stomach – as the name implies.

There are several symptoms of these open sores, but it seems abdominal pain is the most common one. Other signs and symptoms may include nausea & vomiting, changes of weight, loss of appetite, and other abdominal discomforts.

The treatment is dependent on the cause of the inflammation. If it has to do with certain bacteria, antibiotics are used to kill the bacteria and cure the infection.

Peptic ulcers are curable. Nevertheless, they may reoccur if not treated completely. See also the prognosis and outlook of the disease on this section!

The link between stress and digestive problems

There are a lot of nerves (million nerves) called the enteric nervous system that control the way of how your digestive system works. Stress may affect many parts of the digestive system, including these nerves.

Hormones of stress trigger the body to activate the fight-response in the nervous system. This may also affect the contractions of muscles that control the digestive system, making digestive problems (e.g. abdominal cramp and bloating) more likely.

Stress may also provoke infection in the digestive system. People with certain health conditions affecting their digestive system (e.g. spastic colon /IBS, peptic ulcers, ulcerative colitis, diarrhea, etc) often find that stress worsens the symptoms!

Moreover, this emotional problem may trigger the excessive production of stomach acid. Sometimes it may also affect the gut. For instance, some students who are going to take a test for graduation are likely to experience diarrhea with unknown reason.

Does stress cause ulcers?

Most cases of peptic ulcers have to do with the infection of bacteria called H-Pylori (Helicobacter Pylori). However, there are also a few cases that occur due to other factors. In other words, not all people with H-pylori infection develop ulcers.

The use of certain pain killers may also factor into the disease. In fact, the disease is quite common in elderly people. And as well we know, the use of pain killers is more common in older adults.

Furthermore, certain medications to treat osteoporosis such as bisphosphonates, may also increase the risk.

It seems that peptic ulcers develop in several ways. How about stress?

So, does uncontrolled stress cause an ulcer? Several years ago – spicy foods, excessive consumption of caffeine, and lifestyle stress were thought to have a role to cause the disease.

While it’s clear that stress can worsen the symptoms of the disease, unfortunately there is still no scientific evidence to confirm the role of stress in causing ulcers.

In other words, the link between stress and its role to cause ulcers is not fully understood yet. What’s more?


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