It’s estimated that up to half of the world’s population has chronic gastritis to some degree. While it is not the most severe of gastrointestinal diseases, sometimes it presents with no noticeable symptoms. If gastritis goes undiagnosed, it can cause other gastrointestinal complications over time, so it is something you should consult your healthcare provider about. Many patients confuse gastritis with other disorders, such as acid reflux or GERD, so it’s vital to know what gastritis is so that you can receive treatment for it. Read on to learn five facts about gastritis, what gastritis is, and when to see a physician. 

What Is Gastritis?

The medical definition for gastritis is that it is the inflammation of the stomach lining. There are two distinct types of gastritis, acute and chronic. Acute gastritis comes on suddenly and may have more noticeable symptoms. Chronic gastritis is a problem that is recurrent and typically has the same cause. Both types of gastritis can cause significant quality of life issues if the patient is symptomatic. However, diagnosis and treatment are essential in order to avoid future complications down the road. 

Fact #1: Gastritis Is Most Commonly Caused by Helicobacter pylori infection and NSAID Use

The overuse of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can contribute to the development of acute gastritis. You can always alleviate some problems by taking NSAIDs with food or milk, or using analgesics, such as acetaminophen, for pain. H. pylori infection is the most common cause of chronic gastritis. About 35 percent of the US population has H. pylori in their bodies, so they are more prone to chronic gastritis because of H. pylori infection.

What Are the Symptoms of Gastritis?

There are no noticeable symptoms for some, but for others, symptoms can be moderate to severe. Some of the most common gastritis symptoms include bloating and abdominal pain. Nausea, which often leads to vomiting, is another common gastritis symptom. If your vomit is from gastritis, it will be clear-, yellow-, or green-colored. Other common gastritis symptoms include:

  • Chest pain that radiates through to the back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blood in the vomit
  • Foul-smelling bowel movements

More severe symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat

If you’re feeling short of breath, have blood in your vomit, or are experiencing chest pain (particularly with fever), it’s best to contact your gastroenterologist right away for a checkup. Many gastrointestinal disorders present with the same type of symptoms, and only your physician can provide a correct diagnosis. 

Fact #2: Certain Foods Can Trigger Gastritis

Chronic gastritis is often caused by H. pylori infection, but acute gastritis can be triggered by something you ate or drank. Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages can trigger gastritis, as well as spicy foods, food high in fat, and foods that contain chocolate. If you notice symptoms shortly after ingesting these types of foods or beverages, you can likely control gastritis flare-ups with lifestyle changes. 

What Causes Gastritis?

Many cases of gastritis are caused by H. pylori infection or NSAID use or overuse. However, there are other causes of gastritis. Those with autoimmune disorders can develop a specific type of gastritis, known as autoimmune atrophic gastritis, where the immune system attacks the stomach lining. Gastritis can also be caused by other fungi and viruses that are unrelated to H. pylori. Gastritis can also be caused by radiation or an allergic reaction.

Fact #3: Gastritis and Acid Reflux (or GERD) Are Not the Same Things

Gastritis and acid reflux are not the same things as they affect different parts of the digestive tract. Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining, while acid reflux results from the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) not working properly. When the LES doesn’t work correctly, digestive juices get back into the esophagus, causing the most common symptom of acid reflux, heartburn. GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a more severe form of acid reflux and thus, is different from gastritis also. However, it is not uncommon for the two conditions to be comorbid or for gastritis to present with ulcers. 

How Is Gastritis Diagnosed?

Because the gastritis symptoms can mimic those of other gastrointestinal disorders, your physician will likely run diagnostic tests to confirm the gastritis diagnosis. The first battery of tests may include blood tests, stool tests, and a breath test. During the breath test, you ingest a radioactive capsule and then breathe into a bag. Its contents are then examined for the presence of H. pylori. Some physicians may also want further tests and may order X-rays or an upper endoscopy. During an endoscopy, a small, thin tube is inserted into the throat, and at the bottom of the tube is a small camera. This camera can take pictures of the throat, esophagus, and stomach so that you can get a definitive diagnosis. 

Fact#4: There Are Many Risk Factors for Gastritis, and Many Are Preventable

There are lifestyle factors associated with the risk of developing gastritis. Gastritis is more prone to occur in patients who:

  • Are heavy smokers
  •  Use alcohol and/or cocaine heavily
  • Overuse NSAIDs
  • Have high-stress levels
  • Have swallowed foreign objects or toxic substances
  • Overuse potassium or iron supplements

There are other risk factors associated with the development of gastritis that is more beyond a patient’s control, such as:

  • Those with a vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Those exposed to radiation
  • Chemotherapy patients
  • Those with an autoimmune disorder, such as type 1 diabetes
  • Patients with HIV
  • Patients with Crohn’s disease
  • Those diagnosed with tuberculosis
  • Those who have syphilis 

It’s important to understand the risk factors to help prevent the development of gastritis. 

What Is Gastritis Treatment? Can It Be Cured?

Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help relieve gastritis. Most cases can be cured, as acute cases are typically a response to something ingested, and chronic cases can be cured with antibiotics to treat bacterial infections. However, those who have chronic gastritis may see it return because of H. pylori in the body. Common medicinal treatments for gastritis include antibiotics to treat H. pylori, proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole, H2 blockers like famotidine, antacids, anti-nausea medications, and coating agents. Your gastroenterologist may also advise you to help control your gastritis with diet.

Fact #5: What You Eat Can Affect Gastritis Symptoms

Dietary changes cannot only relieve gastritis symptoms, but they can prevent gastritis as well. Some foods inhibit H. pylori growth, such as cauliflower, cabbage, radishes, turmeric, and berries, such as blueberries and strawberries. An overall anti-inflammatory diet can help prevent gastritis from returning. This includes whole foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, and plant foods high in antioxidants. 

You may be wondering, what can I eat if I currently have gastritis? The gastritis diet during a flare-up is more about foods and beverages you should avoid. Avoid consuming alcohol or caffeinated beverages, as well as spicy foods and acidic foods like tomatoes and tomato products. Researchers also believe eating broccoli and yogurt during a flare-up can help with symptoms and protect against H. pylori. 

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If you need more information about gastritis or would like to be seen by a physician, contact us today. We provide a full spectrum of comprehensive care devoted to gastrointestinal needs and concerns.