Harvard Men's Health Watch

Peptic ulcers and bacterial infections

Here's a quick test. Answer true or false: (a) the New York Yankees play baseball; (b) the Dow Jones average measures stock prices; and (c) peptic ulcers are caused by stomach acid, spicy foods, alcohol, or coffee.

If you answered true to all three statements, you're in for a surprise. Baseball and Wall Street are what you expected "" but food and drink have nothing to do with ulcers. That doesn't mean you have to force down a second helping of your mother-in-law's spaghetti sauce, but it does mean you should take a new look at what doctors have learned about ulcers.

A bit of history

Peptic ulcers have plagued men throughout the centuries, but the exact cause of the condition was uncertain. In 1940, Dr. A. Stone Freedberg of Harvard Medical School identified unusual curved bacteria in the stomachs of ulcer victims; he suspected that they might be responsible for ulcers but abandoned the research when his team was unable to grow the bacteria in the lab.

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