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Can stress-induced ulcers be fatal?

Can Stress-Induced Ulcers Be Fatal?

Gastrointestinal ulcers are usually thought of as more uncomfortable than life-threatening. They are often unrecognized, ignored, or untreated for years. Eventually, ulcers can erode the stomach or intestinal wall and cause bleeding, then death.

Gastric ulcers seem to develop when the protective mucinoid lining in an area is destroyed by digestive juices containing hydrochloric acid, to the point that the lining does not regenerate.

How does stress result in "the gastrointestinal tract digesting itself?" Scientists hypothesize that many or all of the following factors may be interacting:

1. During stress, gastrointestinal peristalsis (rhythmic movement) becomes disturbed and the gastrointestinal lining may become abraded, "buckled," or even "broken." Once this happens, the hydrochloric acid can erode the wall behind the lining.

2. During stress, there can be an increase in gastric acidity; this may ulcerate even a normal, intact mucinoid lining.

3. During stress, the stomach lining may become engorged with blood, possibly making it more vulnerable to bleeding.

4. During stress, the immune system seems to be suppressed and healing slowed while the opportunities for infection increase.

In women showing the same high-risk factors, however, ulcers are not likely to develop until after menopause. It is possible that the hormones responsible for premenstrual symptoms, post-partum depression, and menopausal problems are protecting women from ulcers and many types of cardiovascular problems. (Extracted from The Male Stress Syndrome by Georgia WitkinLanoil, Ph.D. Published by Newmarket Press.)
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Sep 22, 1989
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