Ulcer Diet: The best Nigerian Foods to eat and what to Avoid
This post was written by Margaret Ojeniyi and edited by Lani Sodunke.
Ulcer is the inflammation of the stomach, oesophagus, or intestine lining that affects both the young and old. Ulcer is caused by long-term use of non-steroidal inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) and a bacterial called Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori).
Ulcer episodes happen when acids from food eaten causes damage to the stomach walls. Some of the symptoms of ulcer include:
- Abdominal pain
- Back pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Heartburn, due to acid reflux
- Flatulence and belching
- Feeling full
- Stooling and vomiting
Untreated ulcer can lead to persistent pain, bleeding, and life-threatening stomach cancer risk. However, speaking with a medical expert and following ulcer friendly diet can go a long way to relieve the symptoms and make you feel better.
Nigerian foods to avoid if you have ulcer
Certain foods and beverages can cause stomach upset or make your ulcer symptoms worse. These foods include:
1. Spicy Food
Although spicy food seems to be the bane of almost all the delicacies in Nigeria, spicy foods should be avoided if you have an ulcer. This is because spicy food creates a lot of heat in the mouth and in the stomach. They can trigger the bacterial H. pylori, thereby aggravating ulcer symptoms. The following are a list of spicy Nigerian foods to avoid:
- Pepper soup
- Ayamase (ofada stew)
- Ewa agoyin (plain mashed beans and pepper sauce) – some people find beans as a trigger to their ulcer
- Chilli powder
2. Acidic Food
Although some food benefits the health, they might be harmful to ulcer patients because of their acidic nature. These foods can trigger acid reflux, so it is advisable to avoid them or limit their intake. Examples of these foods include:
- Tomatoes and tomato products
- Soda drinks
- Refined food, such as white bread, processed cereals
- Citrus fruits; orange, lemon, lime, and grape
- Whole milk and chocolate
3. Fried foods
Taking fried foods can upset the digestive tract and trigger ulcer.
An ulcer patient should also avoid fatty food. Fried and fatty food such as;
- Chicken skin
- Excessively oil fish such as salmon and tuna
- Fatty meats
- Fried snacks such as donuts, puff puff,
- Fried yam and potato
- fried plantain
Other foods to avoid include:
- Hot food
If you notice a particular food triggers your ulcer symptoms, make sure you avoid such foods.
The Best Nigerian Foods to Eat if you Have Ulcer
Studies have shown that anti-inflammatory food or food rich in antioxidants can help manage the symptoms of an ulcer. Whether you believe it or not, there are ulcer friendly Nigerian foods such as:
1. Vegetables and Non-acidic Fruits:
Vegetables are good for anyone with ulcer. Vegetables like spinach and kale contain Vitamin A, and they increase mucus production in your gastrointestinal tract, which is believed to help manage ulcers. Also, jute leaf, commonly known as Ewedu in Nigeria has been found to have antacid activity, which makes it effective in the management of acidity and ulcer.
Fruits like apple, watermelon, and berries (strawberry, cranberry, and cherry) have been beneficial in reducing H. pylori infection. Other vegetables for ulcer patients include: cabbage, carrot, green pepper, okra, etc.
Unripe plantain is beneficial to individuals suffering from ulcer and other gastrointestinal tract diseases. It can be boiled or made as porridge. However, if you have an ulcer, you should be mindful of fried plantain and other fried foods.
3. Probiotics (yogurt, kimchi)
Taking probiotics like yogurt or supplements can help natural balance. Clinical studies have suggested that taking probiotics with prescribed medication helps to fast-track treatment.
4. Lean Meat, Fish, and Egg
These are good proteins for ulcer patients. Lean meats are less fatty, so they are less likely to irritate the stomach lining. Also, taking boiled fish and eggs are better than fried ones.
Raw unprocessed honey is an effective healing and soothing agent for the body. Some people have reported that honey helps to soothe the pain that comes with indigestion and ulcer episodes.
Most people with ulcer complain of having acid reflux when they eat beans. However, Moi-Moi is great for ulcer patients. It’s made from pureed beans, and it takes less time to digest, unlike beans. Remember to make it less spicy as spicy foods can irritate the stomach.
Wheat is an all-purpose grain that gives nutritional and health value to everyone including ulcer patients. This is because wheat is filled with nutrients such as Vitamin E, mineral salts, Vitamin B, copper, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and so on which are not only good for the health, but can also help manage peptic ulcer.
8. Millet and Pap
Fermented foods like pap are rich sources of microbes such as fungi and yeasts. Eating such food that contains microbes can help balance the gut.
9. Plant-based oils, such as olive oil & canola oil
Using olive oil for cooking and baking also benefits people with stomach ulcers. It is moderately effective in treating H. pylori infection.
10. Natural Seasoning
Seasonings such as garlic, onions, turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties that help manage the irritation of the stomach lining.
Dietary Tips for Ulcer Patients
- Use antacids: Ensure you use your medications as prescribed by your medical doctor.
- Include supplements in your diet: You can ask your doctor for supplements like probiotics, omega-3, etc. These can help lessen the irritation of your ulcer.
- Avoid overeating. Eat little, but frequently.
- Avoid medications like NSAIDs (non-steroidal inflammatory medicines).
- Don’t go to bed until at least two hours after eating.
Although foods are not the causes of ulcers, your food choice can make a big difference in how quickly your ulcer heals. Choosing the right ulcer diet can improve your overall health and nutrition. You should also ensure to take your medications accordingly to prevent re-occurring ulcer episodes. Living with ulcers can be frustrating, so you should ask your healthcare provider about the right treatment plan.