[FOODIES CORNER] Ulcer Diet: What to eat and what to avoid in Nigeria


Ulcer is the inflammations of the stomach, oesophagus, or intestine lining that can affect both children and adults.

Long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and a bacterial named Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori) also causes it.

Its episodes occur when stomach acids cause damage to the stomach walls. Ulcer symptoms include the following:

  • Indigestion
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Heartburn, due to acid reflux
  • Bloating 
  • Flatulence and belching
  • Feeling full
  • Stooling and vomiting

Untreated ulcers can cause chronic pain, bleeding, and a life-threatening risk of stomach cancer. However, speaking with a medical professional and following an ulcer-friendly diet can help ease symptoms and make you feel better.

Nigerian foods to avoid if you have an ulcer
Certain meals and beverages can irritate your stomach or aggravate your ulcer symptoms. Among these foods are:

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
  • Suya/kilishi
  • 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
  • Beans
  • 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
  • Alcohol
  • Cigarette

If you observe that a particular food triggers your ulcer symptoms, avoid it.

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 its symptoms. 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.

2. Plantain

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.

5. Honey

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 its episodes.

6. Moi-Moi

 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.

7. Wheat

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.