Suffering from Stress & Ulcers - What Can You Do?
It is generally accepted that stress plays a major role in the development of practically all disease, including the problem of peptic ulcer.
Science shows that stress produces the “fear, flight, or fight” response, which leads to an increased production in adrenaline and cortisol. It is when stress becomes chronic and long-term that this hormonal production becomes problematic.
If these hormones are over-produced on an ongoing basis, they lead to the development of inflammation in the system, and other bodily malfunctions such as a decrease in the mucosal stomach lining. The stomach lining then becomes irritated by hydrochloric acid, which is normally present in the stomach, and a peptic ulcer can ensue.
The symptoms of a peptic ulcer range from none at all to stomach aches, indigestion, weight loss, loss of appetite, difficulty swallowing food or keeping it down. In severe cases, a person may experience nausea and vomiting, blood in the stools or vomiting blood. Severe cases should be treated as a medical emergency.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen or aspirin have been identified as one possible cause of peptic ulcers.
How Doctors Treat Ulcers
Peptic ulcer is typically treated either by PPI medications, which are designed to reduce the amount of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, or, by antibiotics since there is some evidence to suggest that H pylori bacteria may play a causative role in the development of stomach ulcers.
In the case where NSAIDs are the cause, these must be replaced with other painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol, Paracetamol), whenever possible.
Reducing Stress Levels
Here is what you can do to help alleviate the symptoms of stress, which will in turn have a positive impact on the severity of the ulcer.
Meditation. There are studies to suggest that meditation calms the nervous system and reduces stress. There are many different ways to meditate. Mindfulness is a good place to start.
Relaxation. Calming the autonomic nervous system is the aim of relaxation, with the goal being once again to reduce the levels of cortisol in the body. This allows the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in, do its job of calming the body, and induce feelings of peace and serenity. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is just one way to teach the body how to let go and relax.
Breathing techniques. Similarly, deep breathing and other specialized breathing techniques are effective in alleviating the symptoms of stress and therefore giving your ulcer more of a chance to heal. A simple tool is to learn deep belly breathing. Here is how to deep belly breathe:
Place your hands on your belly just below your navel.
Breathe into your belly and imagine there is a big balloon under your hands, inflating as you inhale.
Breathe out and as you do so, gently press all the air out of your tummy with your hands.
Repeat these steps until you feel yourself becoming calmer.
Exercise. Regular exercise helps to burn off excess stress and promotes deeper, more relaxing sleep.
Eat a nutritious diet. Our health, including our mental and emotional health depends on a good diet. Balance is key, choosing high quality and preferably organic food from each of the main food groups: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, dairy, fruits, and vegetables.
Being certain to eat a large variety of colorful fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and especially, dark leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach and chard all help provide the nutrients necessary for the body to achieve optimum health.
Avoid coffee, alcohol, and stimulants. These can all exacerbate stress and therefore have a negative impact on an ulcer.