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Stomach Health

Ulcers Are More Common Than You May Think

Ulcers Are More Common Than You May Think

2 years ago

According to a 2018 CDC report, 14.8 million people in the United States were diagnosed with ulcers. That number is equivalent to the entire population of New England. Imagine those six states - Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont - filled with people experiencing red-flag symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating, and acid reflux. 

This staggering number and wide-spread prevalence of ulcers can be partly attributed to the long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). These NSAIDs turn off the inflammatory response that causes pain, but in the process, it also shuts down the mucus production necessary for a balanced stomach environment. Once the mucus production is shut down, and the stomach lining is left unprotected, it can be damaged by the acid. 

While ulcers are most often caused by long-term NSAID use, they can also be a result of stress. Stress is often blamed for increased acid production when in fact it causes decreased mucus production. This decrease leaves the stomach lining vulnerable to ulceration by the acid.