What kind of food should I eat if I have an ulcer?

If you have been diagnosed with an ulcer, it is important to follow a diet that will help reduce pain and promote healing. The foods you eat can have a significant impact on your ulcer symptoms. There are certain foods that you will want to emphasize in your diet, while there are others that you will want to avoid as they can aggravate your ulcer.

What is an Ulcer?

An ulcer is an open sore that develops on the lining of the stomach, esophagus, or small intestine. Ulcers form when there is an imbalance between digestive fluids in the stomach and duodenum and the defenses that protect the lining of the stomach and duodenum. The most common causes of ulcers are infection with the bacteria H. pylori and long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin.

There are two main types of ulcers:

  • Gastric ulcers – ulcers that form in the lining of the stomach
  • Duodenal ulcers – ulcers that develop in the lining of the upper portion of the small intestine called the duodenum

The most common symptoms of ulcers include:

  • Burning abdominal pain that can range from mild to severe
  • Pain that is often described as gnawing or hunger-like
  • Pain that may get worse with an empty stomach
  • Pain that can last from a few minutes to several hours
  • Pain that may lessen after eating certain foods
  • Feeling of abdominal fullness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss

How Does Diet Affect Ulcers?

Diet plays an important role in ulcer healing and prevention. Certain foods can aggravate your ulcer symptoms by increasing stomach acid production and Delaying healing. Other foods can help protect the lining of your stomach and small intestine while also reducing inflammation.

Some key dietary tips for managing ulcers include:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals – This helps buffer stomach acid and prevents irritation of an ulcer on an empty stomach.
  • Limit foods that stimulate acid production – Things like caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, and high-fat foods can stimulate stomach acid.
  • Avoid trigger foods – Spicy, acidic, and fatty foods may worsen ulcer pain.
  • Choose anti-inflammatory foods – Fruits and vegetables high in flavonoids and carotenoids have anti-inflammatory properties.

Foods to Eat If You Have an Ulcer

When selecting foods to eat if you have an ulcer, focus on options that are nutrient-dense, easy to digest, and low in acid. Here are some of the best foods to emphasize:

Non-Acidic Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables provide important vitamins, minerals, fiber, and plant compounds that can help heal an ulcer. Stick to options that are less acidic:

  • Bananas
  • Melons – Honeydew, cantaloupe
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Boiled or baked potatoes
  • Cooked carrots, yams, squash
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Leafy greens – Spinach, kale, lettuce


Grains provide easy-to-digest complex carbs. Some healthy options include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice or wild rice
  • Whole grain or sprouted bread
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Millet

Lean Protein

Protein promotes tissue repair and healing. Focus on low-fat, tender options like:

  • Skinless chicken or turkey
  • Fish and seafood
  • Lean cuts of beef or pork
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts and nut butters

Low-Fat Dairy

Dairy products provide protein and bone-building calcium, but low-fat options are best:

  • Low-fat milk
  • Low-fat plain yogurt
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Low-fat cheese

Healthy Fats

While fried and fatty foods should be limited, healthy fats provide calories, aid nutrient absorption, and reduce inflammation. Choose options like:

  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocados
  • Nuts and seeds

Herbs, Spices, and Natural Flavorings

To add flavor without irritation, opt for:

  • Garlic and onions
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Black pepper

Foods to Avoid if You Have an Ulcer

While certain foods can support your ulcer healing, there are other foods that may worsen symptoms and delay healing. Foods to limit or avoid altogether include:

Spicy Foods

Spicy foods containing hot peppers or other pungent spices can irritate an ulcer. Avoid foods like:

  • Hot sauce
  • Chili peppers
  • Horseradish
  • Black pepper

High-Fat Foods

Greasy, fried, and fatty foods may worsen ulcer symptoms. Limit intake of:

  • Fatty red meats
  • Fried chicken
  • French fries
  • Pizza
  • Burgers and hot dogs
  • Bacon
  • Whole milk dairy
  • Ice cream
  • Butter

Acidic Foods

High-acid foods can irritate an ulcer. Avoid:

  • Citrus fruits – oranges, grapefruits, lemons
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Vinegar
  • Pickles
  • Ketchup

Caffeinated Beverages

Caffeine may increase stomach acid production, worsening ulcer pain. Limit intake of:

  • Coffee
  • Black tea
  • Soda
  • Energy drinks


Alcohol can irritate the stomach lining and should be avoided. This includes:

  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Liquor
  • Mixed drinks

Refined Carbs

Sweets and refined flour products may exacerbate ulcer symptoms. Reduce intake of:

  • Cookies
  • Cakes
  • Chips
  • Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • White bread
  • Pasta

Sample Menu for an Ulcer Diet

Here is a sample one-day menu that incorporates the recommended foods for an ulcer diet:


  • Oatmeal topped with walnuts and cinnamon
  • Sliced banana
  • Glass of low-fat milk


  • Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, and avocado
  • Bowl of vegetable soup
  • Melon slices


  • Baked salmon
  • Brown rice
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Garden salad with vinaigrette dressing


  • Low-fat yogurt with blueberries
  • Apple slices with natural peanut butter
  • Celery sticks with hummus

Tips for Following an Ulcer Diet

Making dietary changes to manage ulcer symptoms may take some adjustment. Here are some tips for following an ulcer diet:

  • Work with a dietitian or doctor who can give personalized diet advice
  • Keep a food diary to identify triggers then try eliminating them
  • Read food labels and choose low-fat, low-sugar options
  • Cook homemade meals and limit restaurant/take-out food
  • Introduce new foods slowly to see how they affect symptoms
  • Drink aloe vera juice to help coat and soothe ulcers
  • Choose low-acid fruit juices like apple, pear, or grape
  • Season foods with healing herbs and spices for flavor
  • Avoid lying down right after eating
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals 5-6 times per day

The Importance of Lifestyle Changes

In addition to diet, other lifestyle factors can support ulcer healing including:

  • Quit smoking – Smoking impairs ulcer healing. Quitting can greatly improve outcomes.
  • Limit NSAID pain relievers – Reduce use of NSAIDs like ibuprofen which can cause ulcers.
  • Manage stress – Chronic stress can increase stomach acid and delay healing.
  • Supplements – Certain supplements like zinc, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin C may support ulcer healing.
  • Probiotics – Probiotic supplements may help inhibit H. pylori growth and support digestive health.

When to See Your Doctor

Be sure to consult your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe abdominal pain that persists or worsens
  • Black, tarry stools or blood in vomit
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever, chills, or nausea/vomiting
  • Ulcer symptoms that persist after 4-6 weeks of treatment

Seeking prompt medical care is crucial, especially if you have symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding, as this can be life-threatening.

The Bottom Line

Eating the right diet is one of the most effective natural ways to treat an ulcer. Focus on eating smaller, frequent meals and limiting acidic, spicy, fatty, and caffeinated foods which may worsen symptoms. Emphasize healing foods like vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, probiotics, herbs, and spices. With the right lifestyle changes and medical care, most ulcers can be managed effectively.

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