Cooking and Ulcer Care

Having an ulcer is painful and quite honestly a ticking time bomb for rupture and stomach/intestinal perforation. Ulcers can be of different types with peptic stomach ulcers divided into gastric and duodenal ulcers. Bradly speaking, healthy, non-aggravating foods are a go-to for people with ulcers. This generally means excluding oils, spices, and acidic foods that can irritate and worsen the ulcer.

As research has progressed, however, doctors have figured out that a blanket rule cannot be applied to foods. Some food groups tend to be irritating for certain ulcer patients, while they do not cause any problems for others. To be on the safe side, however, it is always best to stick to non-sensitizing, non-greasy, and comparatively blander foods, to avoid issues like acid reflux, GERD - gastroesophageal reflux disease, heartburn, and stomach cramps.

A diet rich in protein can help your body to health ulcers faster, just as eating lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables will correct deficiencies that are contributing to or worsening the ulcer. Nutrient-dense foods can also help battle any infections like those stemming from Helicobacter pylori bacteria. Your diet should supplement the antacid and possible antibiotic treatment you receive. You may also receive proton-pump inhibitors -drugs that reduce acid secretion by the stomach glands.

Let’s take let’s look at some foods to avoid completely, due to their potential to cause gastritis flare-ups −

Foods and Drinks to Avoid

Fried Foods

Wave goodbye to French fries, battered chicken tenders, doughnuts, crisps, and onion rings. Deep-frying is a complete no-no. Fat is very hard for the digestive system to break down, so eating a lot of fatty foods exerts strain on the stomach walls and the ulcer. So, butter and coconut oils which are high in saturated fats should be skipped. Instead, use canola or olive oils which are higher in monounsaturated fats and thus healthier. Better yet, is to use all oils sparingly and try to opt for cooking spray wherever possible.

Acidic foods

Avoid citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, lime, and lemons. This means citrus fruit juices, and tomato sauces/ketchup should also take a backseat. The medication used to treat ulcers attempts to reduce the acidity in the stomach that erodes the lining and eating these foods will not help this purpose.

Stay away from carbonated drinks and sodas, as well as highly refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, rice, and cereal. The same goes for highly processed meats like cold cuts, lunch meats, and sausages.


Drinks that can cause an increase in acidity include milk and alcohol. Whole milk, milkshakes, and cocoa can increase acid production. Alcohol exacerbates ulcers by increasing the damage by eroding the stomach’s, mucus lining, and slowing down the healing process. Alcohol is inclusive of wine, beer, liqueurs, and spirits. Caffeinated beverages like tea, coffee, colas, and energy drinks will make things worse. The jury is still out on herbal tea- Some like peppermint or spearmint teas may not suit you.


Just as with citrus fruits and some beverages like teas, the impact of condiments isn’t fully understood. Conventionally, patients were told to avoid too much salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder, garlic, and horseradish pastes.

However, this varies from person to person. There are some helpful condiments like miso and honey which speed up healing.

Foods and Drinks to Aid Healing

Fruits and Vegetables

A diet that contains lots of high-fiber fruits and vegetables will help the digestive system function smoothly and reduce stress. Think berries, apples, pears, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower broccoli, and Bok choy which contain sulforaphane which helps in healing, bell peppers, and carrots. opt for fat-free or low-fat salad dressings and marinades.


You can choose lean meats of your preferences or lean cuts which don’t have too much fat. You can also go for fatty fish whose omega-3 content can bring down inflammation, tofu, poultry without the skin, and eggs as a protein source. You should eat about 3-4 ounces or 1.2 grams of protein. You can also get this from lentils, beans, and Greek yogurt which also provides much-needed probiotics that are excellent for the gut.


Carbohydrates are essential to keep your energy up but those with ulcers need to choose whole-grain carbohydrate options like whole wheat bread, oatmeal, millet, red rice, barley, and quinoa.

Condiments and Drinks

Stick to plain water or non-citrus fruit juices which don’t irritate your stomach, as far as beverages are concerned. Use licorice, cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric as additives in your food, as they reduce inflammation and also have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. You can also try decaffeinated green tea, but stop consuming it if it causes discomfort. Cranberry juice and cabbage juice alongside aloe vera can soothe the stomach and the latter also has antibacterial qualities. Kefir and buttermilk are also great sources of probiotics.

Cooking Style

Whatever you cook try to avoid frying especially deep frying, but also pan frying. It is best to roast, grill, boil, and bake vegetables and meat, although sometimes sautéing is the only option left.

Size and Timings of Meals

It is always better to have 5-6 smaller meals a day, to minimize the acid produced by the stomach. Very large, heavy meals require rigorous stomach activity as compared to smaller portions divided u during the day.

Apart from the spacing of meals, try to have your last meal 2-3 hours before bedtime so that your stomach has enough time to digest the food. Going to bed full can exacerbate acid reflux and associated problems


Ulcers can be caused not just by H. pylori, but overuse of NSAIDs for pain relief can also erode the stomach lining. A stressful lifestyle can make ulcers worse. So, ensure a healthy, balanced diet and light aerobic exercise for 15-20 minutes a day to keep your body fighting fit.

Food does not cause or prevent ulcers from occurring, but they can certainly help or hurt depending on the foods you choose.

Updated on: 15-Feb-2023


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