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Peptic Ulcer : Definition
Western Medicine Chinese Medicine
Peptic ulcer disease (PUD) is a mixed group of disorders that involve the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The stomach and duodenum (upper part of the intestine) are the most common locations where ulceration occurs. The rate of occurrence of PUD is variable and depends on ulcer type, age, gender and geographic location. For example, in Japan, stomach ulcers occur at five to ten times the rate of duodenal ulcers, while in the United States and most European countries duodenal ulcers are about two times as common as stomach ulcers.

Individuals with chronic peptic ulcer disease will experience periods of remission and recurrence of the disease, while acute peptic ulcers are limited to a specific patient population and clinical scenario. When left untreated, PUD may result in serious complications such as gastrointestinal bleeding and cancer. Stomach ulcers are much more likely to result in death or disability due to a greater likelihood of causing hemorrhage, perforation, or obstruction. In addition, while duodenal ulcers are almost never cancerous, approximately 55% of stomach ulcers are cancerous.

The western digestive tract
Peptic ulcer is a terminology that belongs to modern medicine; there is no mention of it in the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Instead, because of the nature of its symptoms, it is categorized as "stomach ache" or "epigastric pain." It is associated with the spleen, liver and gall-bladder because these organs play an important role in the development of the disease.

According to the five elements theory, the spleen and stomach belong to earth, and the spleen has an interior-exterior relationship with the stomach. Both of these organs are responsible for the digestion, absorption and transportation of food, and control blood production and its circulation.

The liver and gall-bladder belong to wood and they jointly regulate qi (vital energy) and the emotions, enhancing digestion and blood flow. In normal circumstances, wood (liver and gall-bladder) restricts the earth (spleen and stomach) which means that the spleen and stomach are under the control of the liver and gall-bladder. If the liver is hyperactive, it unduly restricts functioning of the spleen, causing an imbalance in the body. According to the five elements theory, the resulting situation is described as "wood overacting on earth."

The spleen and stomach belong to the earth element, while the liver and gall bladder belong to the wood element.