In the past, it was common practice to tell people with peptic ulcers to consume small amounts of bland foods frequently throughout the day. Research conducted since that time has shown that a bland diet is not effective at reducing the incidence or recurrence of ulcers, and that eating numerous small meals throughout the day is no more effective than eating three meals a day. Large amounts of food should still be avoided, however, because stretching the stomach can result in painful symptoms.
Fruits and Vegetables. A diet that is rich in fiber may cut the risk of developing ulcers in half and speed the healing of existing ulcers. Fiber found in fruits and vegetables is particularly protective. Vitamin A contained in many of these foods may increase the benefit.
Milk. Milk encourages the production of acid in the stomach, although moderate amounts (2 - 3 cups a day) appear to do no harm. Certain probiotics, which are "good" bacteria added to yogurt and other fermented milk drinks, may protect the gastrointestinal system.
Coffee and Carbonated Beverages. Coffee (both caffeinated and decaffeinated), soft drinks, and fruit juices with citric acid increase stomach acid production. Although no studies have proven that any of these drinks contribute to ulcers, consuming more than 3 cups of coffee per day may increase susceptibility to H. pylori infection.
Spices and Peppers. Studies conducted on spices and peppers have yielded conflicting results. The rule of thumb is to use these substances moderately, and to avoid them if they irritate the stomach.
Garlic. Some studies suggest that large amounts of garlic may have some protective properties against stomach cancer, although one study concluded that garlic offered no benefits against H. pylori and, in large amounts, can cause considerable GI distress.
Olive Oil. Studies from Spain have shown that phenolic compounds in virgin olive oil may be effective against eight strains of H. pylori, three of which are antibiotic-resistant.
Vitamins. Although no vitamins have been shown to protect against ulcers, H. pylori appear to impair the absorption of vitamin C, which may play a role in the higher risk of stomach cancer.
Some evidence suggests that exercise may help reduce the risk for ulcers in some people.
Stress relief programs have not been shown to promote ulcer healing, but they may have other health benefits.
Review Date: 07/18/2011
Reviewed By: Reviewed by: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.