Are Ulcers Caused by Stress ? Expert Says No

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“Stop it, you’re giving me an ulcer!”

Have you ever heard such word directed to you?

Maybe from your mom when you caused her trouble?

Maybe from your boss when he is especially annoyed with you?

Maybe from your spouse when both of you are arguing over something?

It is basically a word people say to you when they think you’re giving them stress.

It originated from a long time ago.

People believe that being stressed out can increase acid in your stomach.

And too much of acid will cause a wound or soreness in your pectoral.

That wound hurts. Very much so.

In fact, you may feel like someone is trying to bore a hole in your stomach.

And, that wound is what we call ulcer.

But, are ulcers caused by stress?

Is this true fact or just a myth?


According to American Gastroenterological Association, approximately 4 million of Americans suffer from peptic ulcer disease (PUD) or stomach ulcer.

This is… well… ulcer that happens in your stomach.

Your stomach wall has several layer – one of them is called lining – to protect itself from digestive enzyme and acid that is released there to digest your food.

When you get ulcer, this lining is striped off, leaving your stomach cells exposed to the enzyme and stomach acid. And this stomach acid will attempt to digest your stomach.

Your stomach will be torn and you get a wound inside.

This is what makes you feel a sharp pain there. Sometimes, it is accompanied with burning feeling in your chest, bloated stomach, and burping that taste acidic.

So… what cause ulcer to happen?

Many people back then believe that stress causes ulcer.

When you get stressed, your stomach acid production increased and it will attack your lining and proceed to wound your stomach.

But, is it really true? Are ulcers caused by stress?

We’re just as curious as you, that’s why we wrote this article.

We’ve compiled information from various sources to answer this big question: are ulcers caused by stress?

Curious? Do check out the answer below !

Are ulcers caused by stress?

Actually, the answer isn’t clear yet because there are mixed opinion regarding this statement.

Before 1980s, people believe that stress is the main culprit for ulcer. They believe that being stressed out increase the level of acid in their peptic. As a result, this acid erase the mucus that protect their peptic tissue and then the acid proceed to destroy that peptic tissue, causing it to tear and wounded.

But, in 1980s, a research found out that the main cause of ulcer is bacteria called Heliobacter pylori. This bacteria remove the lining from peptic wall, causing acid to destroy the wall.

That’s why, some scientist believe that ulcer isn’t caused by stress.

Research have been conducted many times with inconclusive result. This study, for example, doesn’t get any indication that stress and ulcer are related.

Yet, several other researches has been conducted and while they found out that stress alone cannot cause ulcer, but a connection or relationship between stress and ulcer is actually exist.

In fact, stress does cause your digestive system to produce more acid.

And if your stomach is exposed to this acid for a long period, the acid could worn away your stomach and develop ulcer in your peptic or gut.

Some scientist even think that H. pylori alone isn’t enough to cause stress – because it is actually a pretty common bacteria that most people have in their stomach. But, not everybody suffer from ulcer.

So, they propose that H. pylori is one factor that cause ulcer, but stress can be another factor that together with H. pylori really trigger ulcer in someone. Or at least, stress is definitely aggravating ulcer.

In conclusion, the answer for the question of ‘are ulcers caused by stress’ is not yet clear.

So, what to do if the cause of ulcer still aren’t clear?

Well, we just have to take extra precaution!

Below, we’ve listed the prevention method to ulcer in both condition – whether stress causes ulcer or wheter H. pilory causes ulcer!


You don’t get ulcers from what you eat. You get them from what’s eating you. (Vicki Baum)

Fight the nasty H. pylori!

Are ulcers caused by stress? No, it’s caused by H. pilory, a bacteria.

If you’re inclined to believe that this is the answer, then follow our tips below.

Live a clean lifestyle

Alright, it’s time to get to know our main culprit for ulcer: the infamous H. pylori!

pylori is a bacteria, and it is not a rare one. In fact, around 2/3 of world population carry them in their bodies.

It is the one that attack the lining of your stomach.

pylori, like any other bacteria, live in dirty places. It is prominent in country or areas that have limited access to clear water and sanitation.

It can transfer from one person to other via food, water, or utensils. It also can trasfer via bodily fluids.

So, to limit your chance from getting the nasty Mr. H. pylori taking up a residence, in your stomach, make sure you are living a clean lifestyle.

Keep your house clean, especially the water system. Always using sanitary utensils, either cooking utensils, eating utensils, or other thing that you often have contact with.

After going out and meeting many people, make sure to wash your hand with soaps. It is even better if you carry hand sanitizer wherever you go, so you can quickly sanitize your hand whenever you touch things that has been shared by many people – like bus handle, door knob, or lift button.


Many people believe that a bacteria causes peptic ulcers. Fewer ask, why some people harbor this bacteria. (Dr. Sundardas Annamalay)


Eat ulcer friendly diet

Since ulcer is a digestive illness, it only makes sense to take prevention with the right diet.

Polyunsaturated fatty acid (which from now on we’ll call it PUFA for easier pronunciation) is knows to combat the nasty H. pylori. When H. pylori absorbs PUFA, its membranes will be more permeable and the stomach acids will destroy them instead of your peptic wall. PUFA can be found in nuts, seeds, cereal, and oily fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines).

Prebiotic fibre is other good food for ulcer and can be found in onions, oats, bananas, and leeks.

When you have ulcer, never forget your meal time because if you do, your stomach acid will snack onto your peptic instead of digesting your meal. To keep them pleased, eat healthy snacks between your meal. If you’re afraid your stomach can’t take them, keep your main meal small portioned but always have snacks in arm lengths.

There are food you should eat, and there are also food you must avoid.

Food that is rich in cheese, cream, and butter is no-no because they tend to prompt your stomach acid to go out. Indian, Thai, Mexican, or other food with lots of spiciness is definitely out of the question. They’re basically stomach acid attractor. Also, for time being, avoid raw veggies and sour fruits (like citrus fruits) as they also can trigger ulcer pain.

Don’t even think about alcohol. Alcohol does the exact same thing that H. pilory does: eroding the lining of your stomach and small intestine.

Coffee and other caffeine-laded drink is off limit either. According to a study in 1991, caffeine stimulate acid production. Same goes with carbonated beverages.

Don’t Smoke

A study from University of Minnesota found that smokers are almost twice as likely to develop various ailments, including ulcer, later in their life. I’ll tell you why.

Your body actually have natural ability to protect yourself from stomach acid. That ability comes in the form of sodium bicarbonate, an antacid (which is, like the name suggests, an anti-acid). It is made in pancreas.

But, when you smoke, pancreas reduce sodium bicarbonate production and increase stomach acid instead. So, yeah, that’s not the best thing to have when you get an ulcer.

As if that’s not enough, smoking can also disrupt ulcer medicine in work.

More fun fact: smokers can develop ulcer not only in peptic or small intestine, but also in esophagus! Wow, imagine the pain.

But, don’t worry. Above condition can be healed if you ditch your cigarettes! Actually, the rate of sodium bicarbonate can go back to normal only after 30 minutes after your last smoking.


Nobody should smoke cigarettes – and smoking with an ulcer is like pouring gasoline on a burning house. (Sara Murray Jordan)


Fight the stress!

Are ulcers caused by stress?

If you believe that the answer is yes, then it’s only appropriate to follow this with a right stress management methods.

Michael Brown, MD, gastroenterologist from Rush University Medical Center said that stress reduction help a lot in many gastroenterological illness.

Of course, there are many ways to relax yourself from stress. Which one is the best for you? Well, it’s really depend on your time, your hobbies, and your preference.

Have no time between work, housework, and childcare? No worry! Squeeze these activities during your commuting hour, the moment after you wake up (and before everybody else), or before you go to sleep:

Listen to favorite music

You may not believe this one. You always listen to music – when you’re driving or all through your morning routine or even when you’re typing your email – but you’re still stressed out.

But, this time, don’t listen to music just as background music. Plug your earphones, close your eyes, and just focus to the music your listen and the lyric you hear. Focus your attention to the music only. Don’t think about your life during this time.

This will help you refocusing your overwhelmed mind. It may even be counted as meditation in one kind.


Tapping basically is tapping your finger into pressure points in your body. Jessica Ortner (author of The Tapping Solution for Weight Loss and Body Confidence) said that there are n  ine pressure points you should tap gently: the side of your hand, your eyebrow, your side of the eye, under your eye, under your nose, your chin, your collarbone, under your armpit, and the top of your head.

Simply apply gentle pressure to  those spots and repeat as you take a deep breath and tell yourself that everything’s under control.

Did you know?

There are three types of ulcers:

  • Gastric ulcer or stomach ulcer. This is the one that most people have. The ulcer develop inside stomach.
  • Esophageal ulcers: this is less common. The ulcer develop inside esophagus
  • Duodenal ulcers: this ulcers develop in the upper section of your small intestion.

Write a journal

Maybe you’ll hesitate. Writing seems difficult and you don’t know how to start.

Well, it’s really easy to start. Prepare a paper and a pen (or whatever writing stationery you prefer). Or a notebook. Or a smartphone. Whatever works for you.

Star with writing your name. Then proceed to list your problems. Then, for each problem, pour your feeling about it. For example, your problem is you hate your work.

Write your feeling about your work. Maybe you hate that the hours aren’t flexible? Maybe you hate the boss? Or maybe the job description doesn’t match your academic background? Pour everything.

At this point, you don’t have to write the solution for your problem. You are simply letting out your pent up emotion. Journaling have the same effect like cleaning your room – but this time you clean up your mind.

Sometimes you’re stressed out not because you don’t know the answer, but because you don’t even know the problem.

Well, journaling will help you finding your problem. After you do, then you will feel less overwhelmed because now you understand your problem and your position.


Have you find the answer?

So, are ulcers caused by stress?

We conclude that the answer is still not clear. What’s really clear is that stress may cause ulcer, but it definitely makes ulcer worse.

So, whichever the answer is, the borderline is that you will still need to manage your stress. So the answer for ‘are ulcers caused by stress’ doesn’t really matter.

We’ve listed the preventive method for ulcer and stress above.

What do you think about them? Tell us more about your ulcer or stress experience in the comment section below!

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