Our stomach is the gateway to our gastrointestinal system. Unlike the esophagus or mouth, our stomach holds food for hours and is the first site at which extensive digestion occurs. Stomach ulcers are one of the commonest stomach complaints and are considered a serious health risk. Many patients can remain undiagnosed for years, making complications more likely. Its symptoms also resemble a number of other conditions, making its diagnosis quite challenging. Understanding the causes and symptoms of stomach ulcers is essential due to their public health burden, and also to help you prevent their occurrence. In this article, we will also discuss the home remedies of such ulcers, when to seek medical care and how stomach ulcers are diagnosed and treated.
Why is our stomach important?
Contrary to what you might think, humans can live without their stomachs and still eat most types of food. The stomach is reduced in size or completely removed in many types of operations and patients continue to live normally afterward for decades. The importance of our stomach, therefore, is not as vital, so what is the big deal with stomach ulcers?
Our stomach secretes a strong acid called hydrochloric acid and a potent enzyme called pepsinogen. The acid activates the enzyme into its functioning form, also called pepsin. Pepsin can digest complex proteins into simpler forms and therefore aids in their absorption. The acid is so corrosive that the stomach has a thick, regenerating layer of mucus protecting it from the effect of such acid. This layer can become thinner or completely absent in a wide variety of medical conditions, exposing the stomach wall to the corrosive acid it produces. Acid can also be produced in excess, overcoming the protective effect of such mucus layer.
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Stomach ulcers due to their acid are called peptic ulcers, and they can usually heal within days on their own, but if acid production stays high, more erosion can occur, and severe bleeding can result. Bleeding can be fatal in some conditions and other complications may develop. You should know that the stomach isn’t the common site for peptic ulcers, however, and that it comes second to the duodenum -the first portion of the small intestines-.