Ulcer Pain? Relief Starts With Understanding Symptoms & Causes

sUpdated: 9/22/23

Are you experiencing burning stomach pain, nausea or bloating? You might be suffering from an ulcer. Peptic ulcers are painful sores that develop in the digestive tract, and can often cause misery for those who experience them. While common symptoms like these may sound familiar to some, if left untreated, an ulcer can lead to more serious issues like infection and internal bleeding. Fortunately, there is hope for relief; by understanding your unique symptoms and monitoring potential causes of your discomfort on a regular basis – such as diet changes or lifestyle factors – you can begin healing your body naturally. Here’s what you need to know about recognizing the signs of peptic ulcers so that you can start feeling healthy again quickly!

What are Ulcers?

Simply put, ulcers are breaks in the lining of organs. As such, a break in the stomach lining causes stomach or gastric ulcers, while a break in the lining of the duodenum is referred to as duodenal ulcer. Due to the gastric acid exposure that these organs experience, ulcers usually cause a considerable amount of pain.

Most ulcers are caused by the Helicobacter pylori (HP) bacteria. Some ulcers and smaller “erosions” are a result of reactions to certain medicines — especially those taken for muscle pains and arthritis (aspirin compounds and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs]). A very large number of people who experience indigestion do not have underlying ailments like ulcers or erosions (and cancer is very rare).

Ulcers bear different names mainly based on the location where they occur. When an ulcer occurs in the stomach or duodenal lining where pepsin and hydrochloric acid can be found, this is referred to as a peptic ulcer. When an ulcer is present in the stomach, it is classifies as a gastric ulcer. Pressure ulcers are also quite common. Usual pressure ulcer sites include the back of the head and ears, the shoulders, elbows, lower back and buttocks, the hips, the inner knees and the heels.

Symptoms of an Ulcer

Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is one of the most common duodenal ulcers symptoms that many people report. While occasional pain in the stomach is normal, some people experience pain so disruptive that it can seriously impact their quality of life. For those unfortunate enough to go through this distress, finding out the cause and receiving treatment is a necessity. Gnawing stomach pain and a feeling of the stomach inflating are some of the sensations that are most common.


Indigestion (or dyspepsia) is an extremely common problem. Stress and poor eating habits often contribute to indigestion. Indigestion occurs in people of all ages and both sexes. It exacerbates by being overweight. Abdominal pain can be caused by too much food and a high body mass index. However, indigestion as a symptom of an ulcer does not depend on the amount of food consumed or body mass index. Indigestion can be a sign of more serious health problems. If you begin to lose weight, feel your appetite subside, or experience severe abdominal pain, you need to consult a physician. This could also cause pain in the middle of the stomach above the belly button.


When you feel nauseous, you may feel weak and sweaty. You may also notice more saliva in your mouth than usual. Nausea often leads to vomiting. Most of the time, you do not need to worry about nausea and vomiting, but they can frequently be signs of other illnesses. Two common causes of nausea and vomiting are stomach flu and food poisoning. Nausea and vomiting from viral stomach flu will usually start to improve within 24 hours. Nausea and vomiting from food poisoning may last from 12 to 48 hours. However, nausea from ulcers does not have a duration; some people even vomit black tar. Nausea from ulcers usually does not depend on the foods that you consume and may be experienced at any time.


Heartburn is a painful burning feeling in your chest or throat. It happens when stomach acid accumulates into your esophagus — the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. If you have heartburn more than twice a week, you may have GERD. But you can have GERD without having heartburn. Pregnancy, certain foods, alcohol and some medications can trigger heartburn. Treating heartburn is important because, over time, reflux can damage the esophagus. Heartburn resulting from ulcers is usually extremely severe and may also occur more frequently.


Bloating occurs in your abdomen (stomach). It happens when your gastrointestinal (GI) tract fills with air or gas. When you are bloated, you feel as if you have eaten a big meal and there is no room in your stomach. Your stomach feels full and tight. It can be uncomfortable or painful. Your stomach may actually look bigger. Common symptoms of bloating include stomach pain, discomfort and gas. You may also burp or belch frequently or have abdominal rumbling or gurgling. Fluttering in stomach and/or stomach palpitations may also be clear symptoms of ulcers.

Can Ulcer Cause Diarrhea?

Yes, ulcers can cause diarrhea, though it is not as common as other symptoms like abdominal pain or vomiting. When the stomach acid irritates the lining of the digestive tract, it can cause inflammation and damage. This inflammation can interfere with the absorption of fluids and nutrients from the food you eat. As a result, food moves too quickly through the digestive system, leading to loose stools or diarrhea. In some cases, diarrhea may signal a more severe ulcer complication, such as bleeding.


Symptoms of Ulcer

What Ulcer Causes

Some used to believe that lifestyle factors such as stress and diet caused ulcers. However, researchers determined that stomach acids — hydrochloric acid and pepsin — contribute to their formation. Today, research shows that most ulcers develop as a result of infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). It is H. pylori is the primary cause in most cases. The bacteria can weaken the protective mucus that covers the stomach lining, making it more prone to damage from stomach acid. H. pylori can be treated with antibiotics, but if left untreated, it can lead to complications such as stomach cancer.

Apart from H.pylori, there are some other factors to consider:

Alcohol Consumption

Excessive alcohol consumption can irritate the stomach lining and increase acid production, making the stomach more vulnerable to ulcers. Alcohol can also interact with NSAIDs, increasing the risk of NSAID-related ulcers. To reduce the risk of alcohol-related ulcers, it’s drink in moderation or avoid alcohol altogether.


Smoking can greatly slow down the healing process of ulcers and leads to a future recurrence. Also, it has been proven that smoking raises your chances of getting an ulcer as well. Smokers with ulcers are also more likely to experience complications like bleeding and perforation. Quitting smoking can help prevent ulcers and improve overall health.


Stress denotes a major determining factor in the development of ulcers. Bodily stress such as the type experienced during surgeries or injuries may increase your chances of developing an ulcer, especially a stomach ulcer. Stress can stimulate excess acid production in the stomach, which can then irritate the already-damaged lining. Chronic stress can also weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections like H. pylori. To prevent stress-related ulcers, it’s important to adopt stress management techniques like meditation, exercise, or therapy.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

These drugs (such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium) are some of the most commonly consumed drugs and expose the stomach to the harmful effects of pepsin and acids. However, prolonged use of these drugs can irritate the stomach lining and increase the risk of ulcers. NSAID-related ulcers are more common in people who take high doses of the drugs or those who have a history of ulcers. To avoid this type of ulcer, we recommend to take NSAIDs with food and in the lowest effective dose.

How Ulcer is Diagnosed

Physical Examination

Your doctor may begin by conducting a physical examination to determine if you have a stomach ulcer. During the physical examination, your doctor may feel your abdomen for tenderness or perform a rectal exam to check for blood in your stool. A physical exam can help doctors identify any other symptoms that can help in diagnosis.


If your doctor suspects you have a stomach ulcer, they may recommend an endoscopy. An endoscopy involves inserting a long, thin tube with a camera on the end through your mouth and down to your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. This procedure helps the doctor look for ulcers in your stomach lining. The doctor may also remove tissue samples or perform an ultrasound exam while conducting the endoscopy.

Upper GI Series

An Upper GI series is a diagnostic test that uses X-rays to take pictures of your upper gastrointestinal tract, including your stomach and small intestine. The test involves drinking a chalky solution barium before the X-ray takes. This solution coats your upper GI tract, making it visible on the X-ray. The pictures will show any signs of inflammation, ulcers, blockages, or other abnormalities that may be causing your symptoms.

Blood Tests

If your doctor suspects that you have an infection caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), they may recommend blood tests to verify your diagnosis. H. pylori causes ulcers and receives a diagnosis using a blood test. This bacteria is widespread and transmitted through contaminated food and water. The blood test will look for antibodies that your immune system produces in response to the bacteria.

Breath Test

A breath test is another diagnostic tool that can detect the presence of H. pylori bacteria. During this test, you drink a small amount of a solution containing labeled carbon molecules, and then the doctor will take a breath sample. If H. pylori bacteria are present, the solution will break down and release labeled carbon molecules. The breath sample will contain the molecules, and the diagnostic equipment will detect their presence.

Ulcer Treatment

There are several main treatment forms for the different ulcer types, including duodenal ulcer treatment, genital ulcer treatment, bleeding ulcer treatment and stress ulcer treatment. These treatment forms include lifestyle changes, medication and surgery. No specific diet is appropriate for consumption by ulcer patients, but if certain foods cause irritation, then you should completely avoid them. Doctors may treat stomach and duodenal ulcers with several types of medications, including the following:

  • Antibiotics — this can kill the bacteria
  • H2-blockers — these can reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces by blocking histamine, a powerful stimulant of acid secretion
  • Proton pump inhibitors — may completely block stomach acid production by stopping the stomach’s acid pump
  • Mucosal protective agents — can shield the stomach’s mucous lining from the damage of acid, but it does not inhibit the release of acid
  • Antacids — they are a popular treatment for ulcers because they help neutralize stomach acid

Ulcer Surgery

In most cases, medicines can heal ulcers quickly and effectively, and eradication of H. pylori prevents most ulcers from recurring. However, people sometimes do not respond to medication and may require surgery. The process may occur somewhere in the digestive tract, such as Pyloroplasty or narrowing part of your stomach (Vagotomy). This procedure involves cutting the vagus nerve, which controls the production of stomach acid. By cutting this nerve, the amount of acid produced decreases, which can help heal the ulcer. While this procedure was once considered risky, advances in surgical techniques have made it a safe and effective option.

Another example of surgical treatment is gastric bypass surgery. This procedure uses to treat obesity, but it can also treat ulcers. During the surgery, a small pouch opens up at the top of the stomach, and the remaining portion of the stomach and small intestine reroutes. This can help reduce the amount of acid in the stomach and promote healing of the ulcer.

If you’re considering surgical treatment for your ulcer, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks and complications. All surgeries carry some risk, and surgical treatment for ulcers is no exception. Possible complications include bleeding, infection, and even death. However, with proper preparation and monitoring, the risk of complications can be minimized.

Living with Ulcers

If you have an ulcer, avoid the things that make your pain worse. Refrain from spicy foods, alcohol and smoking. If you have to take aspirin or ibuprofen for chronic pain, talk to your doctor. He or she may suggest an alternative. Keep your diet balanced. Try eating small, frequent meals when you are having pain. A ruptured ulcer usually requires immediate surgery.

Supplements for Digestive Health

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a succulent plant that has been used for centuries for various medical purposes. It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, making it useful in treating ulcers. Aloe vera soothes irritation, promotes healing, and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. However, it’s essential to use pure aloe vera juice or gel to prevent unwanted additives which can worsen digestive problems.

Pure Slippery Elm Bark Extract Powder

Slippery elm can be used for a variety of purposes, but it may be especially effective in heartburn and GERD cases. Slippery elm has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for digestive issues. It contains a mucilage that can help protect the stomach lining and reduce inflammation. You can drink slippery elm tea or take supplements to promote gut health. Use slippery elm bark extract as directed.

Pure Vitamin B3 Niacinamide Capsules

The niacin form of vitamin B3 is used by doctors to lower cholesterol levels, but niacin also lowers TG levels. The amount of niacin needed to achieve worthwhile reductions in cholesterol and TG levels is several grams per day. Vitamin B3 may help prevent and treat skin ulcers caused by peripheral vascular disease.

L-Methionine Powder

L-Methionine is used to prevent liver damage in acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning. It may also be used for increasing the acidity of urine, treating liver disorders and improving wound healing. L-Methionine is an essential amino acid that plays a crucial role in the body’s detoxification process. It can help protect the liver from damage caused by toxins, including those that can cause ulcers. L-methionine can also help improve wound healing and promote the growth of healthy cells. Use L-methionine powder as directed.

L-Glutamine Powder

L-glutamine powder is an amino acid that is considered to be an essential building block of protein. This powder is in the body and requiresfor several functions such as muscle growth, brain function, and immune system support. Recently, it has been discovered that L-Glutamine Powder plays a vital role in stomach and intestinal health since it may also relieve inflammation, as well as soothe intestinal tissues. L-glutamine converts into glutamate to boost the production of mucus in the stomach and intestinal lining. This mucus is a protective layer that prevents the digestive juices in the stomach from damaging the walls of the stomach and the intestinal lining.

Powder is an amino acid that is an essential building block of protein. This powder is in the body and requires for several functions such as muscle growth, brain function, and immune system support. L-glutamine converts into glutamate which boosts the production of mucus in the stomach and intestinal lining. This mucus is a protective layer that prevents the digestive juices in the stomach from damaging the walls of the stomach and the intestinal lining. Use L-glutamine as directed.

Licorice Root

Licorice root is an herb often used in traditional medicine. It contains compounds that can help soothe stomach pain and inflammation. Licorice can also help fight Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that can cause ulcers. Licorice root has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-ulcerogenic effects can help reduce the symptoms of ulcers, including pain and discomfort. Licorice root contains compounds that stimulate the production of mucus, which can protect the stomach lining from acid damage. It can also help improve digestion and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut. Licorice supplements are available at health food stores.

The Bottom Line

Ulcers can be a painful and uncomfortable condition, but thankfully there are many treatment options available. From over-the-counter antacids to more potent proton pump inhibitors and antibiotics, there are a range of medications that can help alleviate the symptoms of ulcers. Making lifestyle changes like avoiding trigger foods and reducing stress can also be helpful in managing symptoms. If you’re struggling with ulcers, talk to your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for you. With the right treatment plan, you can get back to feeling like yourself again.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Author: Ryan Quigley
Graduate of Longwood University in Virginia. Part-time sports journalist covering the Vegas Golden Knights.