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Ulcers: Steve learns to trust his gut

man with stomachache
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Ulcers: Steve learns to trust his gut

Steve learnt that ulcers can come out of the blue and can often have sneaky symptoms that some people may ignore. So Steve is passing on his lesson that when it comes to your health, you may need to trust in your gut … so you can save it.

Taking care of business

After starting his own architectural firm three years ago, Steve suffered his first bout of ulcers in his mouth.

Starting his own business may have added some extra stress to Steve’s life and possibly exacerbated his condition or possibly even triggered it, but the truth is that when it comes to some types of ulcers, no one really knows.

“There weren’t really any symptoms to precede the mouth ulcers, either,” Steve says.

“They sort of just came out of the blue, and so it was a bit mysterious why I got them.”

Although Barry Marshall won the Nobel Prize for discovering that some stomach ulcers are caused by a type of bacteria, Steve’s, unfortunately, were more difficult to diagnose.

He was initially put on antibiotics for about two weeks. They didn’t heal the ulcers, so it is thought that he had a type of ulcer that was not caused by the bacteria.

“They were so painful I couldn’t even eat. I lost a lot of weight in just two weeks – I could only really have soup, and even that was painful,” Steve says.

Patient experience: stomach ulcers“I took some painkillers, but the effects were minimal. I even had to take some time off work.”

So Steve had to wait out the ulcers and they eventually healed on their own. He learnt that stress could have been a factor, so he now makes sure that his work doesn’t get on top of him.

Sometimes taking care of business also means taking care of your health.

When the going gets tough

Our bodies respond in a range of different ways when things get tough. For Steve’s initial bout of mouth ulcers, he was given the common treatment of pain-relieving NSAIDs. While this can be very effective, Steve had a bad reaction and the medicine damaged the lining of his stomach.

However, this was unbeknownst to Steve, who just kept on trucking, none the wiser.

“I went on holiday, but I was quite stressed because I had unfinished work, and this actually preceded the second episode,” Steve says.

He did get the mouth ulcers as a warning this time. He also noticed another symptom that he was almost ready to ignore. Apparently, monitoring your health may mean monitoring … your poo!

“I started to pass black stools,” he says.

While he didn’t give it enough thought at the time, he warns others to watch for this symptom and go to their GP immediately.

“I had lost so much blood in my stools that I passed out at the mechanic.”

Steve then saw a gastroenterologist, who explained what was going on in his stomach. He says he is lucky he went to the doctor when he did, as the black stools were much more serious than he was aware.

He monitored his stress levels and when the gastroenterologist took a peek down his throat during an endoscopy, the ulcers were continuing to heal. He also ensured Steve was not given any more of the pain meds.

Nutrition-wise: Can you stomach it?

Patient experience: stomach ulcersAfter his second bout of ulcers, Steve was a bit low in iron, so the doctor advised him to get stuck into some steaks. He started to feel better immediately after having a ball at The Hog’s Breath Café.

Steve says people with ulcers aren’t confined to any special diets, but it’s important to be healthy for your entire body.

“It’s believed my stomach ulcers weren’t caused by anything nutritional, but I still lay off the booze,” he says.

“I only really have one or two beers a week. I just drink sensibly.”

Steve says he also takes more care of his diet and is conscious about what he puts in his body. However, you can’t ever really predict a future episode of mouth or stomach ulcers.

“If it happens again, I’ll probably just zone out for a week,” he laughs.

“I am slightly fearful of having another episode, but you can’t live your life scared of what you can’t control. That will just make it worse as stress may be a factor.

“I try and minimise my stress, largely just by ensuring all my work is done so I don’t worry about it.”

Wise guys

Steve learnt that knowing your own body is important and noticing any quirks can be an early warning to a serious health condition. While we still don’t really know what causes Steve’s ulcer condition, we do know that being wise about nutrition, drinking and, well, ‘poo-monitoring’ can certainly go a long way to saving your guts.

More information

Peptic ulcer diseaseFor more information on stomach ulcers, including risk factors, statistics, progression, diagnosis and treatment, see Peptic Ulcer Disease.
Gastrointestinal systemFor more information about the gastrointestinal system, see Anatomy – Gastrointestinal System.

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Posted On: 27 October, 2010
Modified On: 24 October, 2018

Created by: myVMC