It hardly needs to be said, but the world is experiencing a unique and stressful time at the moment, due largely to COVID-19. No matter your chances of catching this dreadful virus, many aspects of daily life have been closed down including for many, their employment. These are indeed stressful times.
The pandemic has reopened the debate about stress, its causes, and what stress can do to the human body. Stress has long been associated with stomach ulcers, but can stress cause a stomach ulcer?
Here at Great Lakes Gastroenterology, we take a look at the facts behind ulcers, stress, and any link between them.
What is an ulcer?
Many people talk about ulcers as if they were experts, but very few seem to understand what an ulcer actually is.
You’ve had countless ulcers throughout your life, but most develop externally. If you graze yourself, for example, you may lose layers of skin, your dermis (the area beneath your skin) and even the subcutaneous fat beneath this. The body reacts to this ‘breach’ by creating an ulcer, or open sore. Eventually – as long as the sore is not too big and does not get infected – the sore or ulcer will heal itself.
Stomach ulcers are simply internal sores upon the lining of your stomach. This begs the question – as you cannot ‘scrape’ your stomach lining, how do stomach ulcers occur?
How stomach ulcers are thought to develop
A stomach ulcer is correctly known as a peptic ulcer. The majority of stomach ulcers are caused by unfriendly bacteria within the stomach that penetrate the stomach lining and cause a sore to develop. Often such infections are tiny, and you may not even notice you have one. Larger infections can cause a burning sensation and abdominal pain, especially at night. Some drugs may also help cause stomach ulcers.
Most peptic ulcers will go away on their own as the body has systems designed to fight the infection, however, large and persistent ulcers may need additional treatment.
Does stress cause stomach ulcers?
There is little to suggest that stress can cause stomach ulcers, but it seems that stress can limit the ability of the human body to deal with an infection of the stomach lining. It is therefore important that during stressful times you take greater care of your gastric health.
This can be achieved by adopting healthy eating habits, losing weight if you are overweight and exercising. Making sure you get a decent night’s sleep is important too, as this is your body’s ‘downtime’ where it can attend to such matters as your physical well-being. Mental health during stressful times is important too – if you are feeling under pressure why not try meditation or other mindfulness exercises?