Do I Have an Ulcer?

| June 11, 2017 | 0 Comments

QUESTION: How do I know if I have an ulcer?

DR. FITT: Peptic ulcers are basically like a skinned knee in your gut. Part of the lining has been “skinned”. Normally, this lining is bulletproof to the hydrochloric acid humans produce each meal. If an ulcer is present, the acid becomes like pouring salt on a wound.

Symptoms can be mild to severe. You may simply experience bloating, nausea, or mild pain in your gut. Symptoms are usually worse on waking. Severe symptoms can mimic a heart attack. Ulcers can sometimes bleed and cause stool to turn black. Bleeding can be silent and not noticed until you get evaluated for being “tired all the time” and you’re found to be anemic from blood loss.

Peptic ulcers are caused by a critter “H. pylori“. This critter lives in all humans, all the time. However, as we age and are not able to produce enough critter killing hydrochloric acid, the critter grows out of control.

In the past, it was thought that the cause was producing too much stomach acid. The opposite is true. When patients with heartburn/GERD are actually tested using the Heidelberg machine (tests stomach acid levels), stomach acid levels are low.

What to do? I used to test everyone with the Heidelberg machine. The test is costly, time consuming and uncomfortable for the patient. Since the test ALWAYS showed stomach acid levels were low, I simply began giving patients a trial of hydrochloric acid. If it made symptoms better, that confirmed inadequate production. If it made symptoms worse, it suggested an ulcer may be present.

Two options if you think you have an ulcer. One, is to see a gastroenterologist for a procedure called “endoscopy”. The doctor guides a camera fitted tube down your throat, into your pocketbook to look for the ulcer. Second option is to take Fire Fighters for two weeks to see if symptoms improve. Get blood tested for MCV (mean corpuscular volume). If above,85, this confirms low acid production and the need to supplement.

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Category: Digestive Health, Frequently Asked Questions, General Health

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