Neither certain foods nor stress trigger the formation of stomach ulcers despite popular belief, according to University of Maryland Medical Center. However, spicy foods sometimes exacerbate the symptoms of an already-present ulcer. Acidic drinks, such as coffee and soda, can also irritate stomach ulcers by increasing the concentration of stomach acid.
The bacteria Helicobacter pylori, smoking cigarettes and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are three proven causes of stomach ulcers, with Helicobacter pylori being the most common, notes University of Maryland Medical Center. The bacteria eats away at the stomach's protective coating, making the stomach lining more vulnerable to damage from stomach acid. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, increase the risk of stomach ulcers by preventing the production of prostaglandins, a substance that promotes healthy blood flow in the stomach. The risk is highest with long-term use of these medications, some of which include ibuprofen, ketoprofen and naproxen. Additionally, some research suggests another class of medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may contribute to ulcer formation.
Although stress, cigarette smoking and coffee do not cause ulcers to form, they can make people who take NSAIDs or have Helicobater pylori in their stomachs more likely to develop stomach damage, which in turn, makes them susceptible to ulcers, states University of Maryland Medical Center. Other risk factors include old age, alcohol abuse and diabetes.