Peptic Ulcers: Stress Does Matter, After All

idn't feel comfortable with psychological explanations. They were happier when they could label ulcers as an infectious disease. It's easy to fall into either-or thinking: either ulcers are caused by stress or they're caused by Helicobacter.

"The truth is much more complicated - and, I think, more exciting. Since peptic ulcer is one of the few `infectious' diseases in which stress plays an important role, it gives us a great model for understanding how psychological factors can tip the balance toward disease, in the uneasy equilibrium we all live in with a whole variety of infectious agents."

Although less frequent in recent years, peptic ulcer is still an important cause of suffering and time lost from work, and despite the great advances medical science has made against the disease - including treatment for H.pylori - many people still live with its symptoms. "Stress has an influence on the development of ulcers," adds Levenstein, "but it also strongly influences how well you do under treatment once you have an ulcer."

Panelists included Howard Spiro, M.D., of Yale, one of the most eminent gastroenterologists in the nation; Andre Dubois, M.D., of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, who studies gastric secretion and the role of H.pylori in gastro-duodenal disease; Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, of Ohio State University College of Medicine, a trailblazing researcher in psychoneuroimmunology (how the mind can influence the immune system); and Sigurd Ackerman, M.D., chair of psychiatry at St. Luke's in New York City.


Contact: Petrina Chong
Center for the Advancement of Health

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