Is Milk Good for an Ulcer?

Nutrition Q&A

Drinking milk will not help heal an ulcer.
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Question: My husband has a peptic ulcer, and our neighbor told him he should drink lots of milk, but the doctor said that it won't help and might even hurt. Who's right? Are there any specific diet changes he should make?"

Answer: A peptic ulcer is an open sore in the lining of the stomach or in the duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine. Ulcers can hurt, especially when the stomach is empty.

Other symptoms include bloating, heartburn and vomiting. If an ulcer gets bad enough to bleed, a person may have black tarry stools.

Since food goes into the digestive system, it's tempting to think there's a connection. But that doesn't appear to be the case. The most common cause of an ulcer in an imbalance of certain gastric juices caused by infection with bacteria called H. pylori, or the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen. Specific foods don't cause ulcers, but drinking alcohol regularly increases your risk of developing ulcers.

Drinking Milk Doesn't Help

For many years, people were told to drink lots of milk and that it would soothe the stomach and help heal the ulcers. But, that's not true. In fact, drinking milk will stimulate stomach acid production that can make the ulcers worse. Your husband doesn't have to avoid milk (a serving or two a day is fine), but drinking more milk won't help the ulcer heal.

There don't appear to be specific foods that speed the healing of ulcers; that takes time and medication. There are some things that your husband may want to avoid because they can irritate the ulcer:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Cola
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Fruit juice

In some cases, ulcer patients may have less discomfort by reducing the amounts of black pepper, garlic and chili powder in meals or at the table.

Meal timing might also make a difference. Some patients have reported a reduction in pain if they skip between-meal snacks because eating less often reduces the amount of stomach acid produced throughout the day. 

Beyond that, it depends on the individual. If particular foods regularly upset your husband's stomach, they should be avoided until the ulcer has healed. The best advice is to talk to your health care provider about any dietary restrictions during the treatment.


Maher AK. "Simplified Diet Menu." Eleventh Edition, Hoboken NJ, USA: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, October 2011. Accessed February 19, 2016.

United States Department of Health and Human Services, National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. "H. Pylori and Peptic Ulcers." Accessed February 19, 2016.

Cleveland Clinic Diseases and Conditions. "Peptic Ulcer Disease." Accessed February 19, 2016.

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