Stress + coffee + no sleep = ulcer?

Originally Published: October 1, 1993 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: April 16, 2014
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Dear Alice,

I have had acid coming up my throat from my stomach for the last 3 weeks. It comes up and just burns my throat. What is it? Do I have an ulcer? By the way, I get 3 hours of sleep a night, and my roommate doesn't help the situation.




Dear Alice,

I have recently asked you about my would be ulcer. I shall pose the question again. Lately I have this damn acid coming up my throat. I've been under a lot of stress and have strange sleeping habits. I am also drinking a lot of coffee. I drink about 5 cups of coffee a day and my roommate isn't exactly stress relieving. I go to bed about 3:30am and wake up about 5:45am for crew. Am I dying? Do I have an ulcer? What's wrong with me?


Deathly Ill

Dear Ulcer & Deathly Ill,

Whether you have an ulcer, indigestion, gastric reflux, or some other ailment, you can jumpstart your health by cutting down on your coffee consumption, getting more sleep, eating small frequent meals, exercising regularly, managing stress, and seeing a health care provider who can examine, assess, and diagnose your concerns. You can also learn more about ulcer symptoms, causes, and what you can do to help them, by checking out Ulcers and Stress and the stomach — how do I avoid getting an ulcer? in the Go Ask Alice! general health archives.

The symptoms you describe may be linked to an ulcer or another health condition — only a health care provider can give you a diagnosis. When you see your health care provider, you can discuss not only the acid coming up your throat, but the other contributing factors you mentioned in your email. Your roommate conflict may be having more impact on your health than you think. Resident Advisors (RAs) can help with resolving roommate conflicts, and they are a resource for you. The registered dietitian at Medical Services at Columbia or one suggested by your health care provider can develop a practical, appealing, and healthy eating plan, taking into account your particular eating patterns, preferences, and tastes. S/he can also help you manage your coffee/caffeine intake and can answer your food and health-related questions. Finally, Columbia students can check out the A!sleep website for tips on healthy sleeping habits and to take a sleep assessment.

Students at Columbia can also make an appointment on the Morningside campus with Medical Services and at the CUMC campus with Student Health Services. If you are not a student at Columbia, you can access your school's health services, see your own health care provider, or visit your local health clinic or urgent care facility. And of course, any reader who is truly "deathly ill" should call 911 and/or go to an emergency room.


April 21, 2006


Dear Alice,

RE: Ulcer?

You seem to have had this acid problem for quite a while, so the best thing for you to do would be to see a doctor, otherwise you will never find out. You...

Dear Alice,

RE: Ulcer?

You seem to have had this acid problem for quite a while, so the best thing for you to do would be to see a doctor, otherwise you will never find out. You might have an ulcer or you might have acid reflux, there are many good medications out for that problem, but you certainly need to see a doctor first. As far as your roommate goes, well, there is always a solution if you really want one, whether you have a good talk with your roommate or find a different place to live. Just a suggestion! Good luck!