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We can all agree that there's nothing good about stress. But could it actually cause a stomach ulcer?
One of our viewers named Emma wrote in asking that very question because her mom always warns her that it could — but what's the truth? We enlisted board-certified gastroenterologist and internist Dr. Roshini Raj to give us the lowdown.
Now, Dr. Raj admits that many people, doctors included, believed this to be true for years. But, "now we know this is not actually the case in most types of ulcers," the doc explains.
So, what's to blame? Let's start with the basics.
WHAT IS A STOMACH ULCER?
It's almost like a tear or a defect in the lining of your stomach, Dr. Raj explains. "It looks like a little crater."
See what she means?
WHAT CAUSES A STOMACH ULCER?
"It's actually a pretty complicated, multi-step process most of the time," the doc says.
The first step is something disrupting that protective layer that's guarding the lining of your stomach, she explains. And what's usually the culprit?
"A bacterial infection — something called H. pylori — accounts for the majority of ulcers," Dr. Raj tells us.
According to her, H. pylori is a common bacterial infection that many people contract in childhood from shared utensils, saliva, etc. — but most people don't experience any symptoms until later in life.
So, after that protective layer is initially disrupted, the doctor goes on to explain, enzymes and acid in your stomach begin to eat away at the lining of your stomach.
"That's what's causing an ulcer," she says.
Another common cause? Anti-inflammatory medicines in excess, like ibuprofen and aspirin, according to the doc.
So, while stress could cause an overproduction of acid for some people and could cause them to feel more pain from an ulcer, Dr. Raj concludes, it's usually not what causes the actual ulcer to form.
Okay, so at least we can stop stressing about THAT.