Peptic ulcers are sores, craters, or lesions, either in the small intestine or the stomach. The term “peptic” comes from pepsin, an enzyme which works in harmony with hydrochloric acid to digest food. Normally those digestive chemicals do not affect the lining of the stomach and intestine, but when the lining’s resistance breaks down or too much acid is consistently produced, an ulcer is likely to develop.
NOT LIFE THREATENING
Generally ulcers are not considered life threatening, though they do make the lives of millions miserable and anxious, and complications of ulcers do kill about 6,000 Americans each year.
The two main types of peptic ulcers are:
(a) Duodenal ulcers. Occur in the duodenum, the first few inches of the small intestine where digested food leaves the stomach. Most often strike people in their productive years. Much more common than gastric ulcers, especially in men.
(b) Gastric ulcers. Occur in the stomach itself. Rarely develop before age 40. The peak incidence is from age 55 to 65.
Symptoms don’t always distinguish between a duodenal or a gastric ulcer. In some cases, particularly early on, no symptoms prevail, but usually a burning, gnawing pain occurs in the area between the navel and breastbone tip. Pain may awaken the victim at night.
Victims sometimes describe their discomfort as soreness, an empty feeling, or hunger. The pain or discomfort may range from mild to severe and often starts on an empty stomach. In such cases, eating or snacking may relieve the pain, yet in some gastric ulcer cases, eating may increase it. Even when not severe, ulcer pain often makes its victims anxious and unable to focus on their work.
WHO GETS ULCERS?
While it is not always clear precisely what is causing a particular case of peptic ulcers, some of these factors are frequently present:
Smoking—Ulcers often run in families—Group O blood types at greater risk—Blacks get ulcers more often than whites— Regular aspirin takers, steroid and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug users are more susceptible—Anxiety, nervousness, and tension often precede the development of ulcers.
A complex nerve network coordinates the body’s digestive functions. This nerve network involves spinal nerves — especially those in the area between the shoulder blades — the vagus nerve, and both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
Sometimes misaligned vertebras (subluxations) pinch, impinge, compress, or irritate spinal nerves. This alters the nerves’ normal nerve function and can be the underlying cause of various digestive disorders including peptic ulcer.
A chiropractic examination will determine whether spinal nerves associated with digestion are compromised, and if so, what to do about it. Though certain ulcer cases may have multiple causes not involving pinched nerves, a substantial share of ulcer cases respond well to chiropractic care.
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