Gastritis is a general term that refers to a group of conditions, each caused by inflammation in the lining of the stomach. It can come in a number of different forms ranging in severity from case to case.
Acute gastritis, for instance, involves the sudden onset of severe inflammation, while chronic gastritis involves lower-level, less-severe inflammation that persists for a long period of time. Chronic gastritis can even last for several years if left untreated, whilst acute gastritis generally requires immediate intervention.
There’s a lot to know when it comes to gastritis, and, while it can be treated with the right medication, altering your diet can also play a large role in managing symptoms and preventing progression.
In this article, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about gastritis.
What Causes Gastritis?
Generally speaking, gastritis begins to form when the lining of the stomach becomes weakened, enabling digestive juices to damage it and causing it to become inflamed. Those with thin or damaged stomach linings are more at risk of developing gastric conditions since their defences against them aren’t as strong.
As well as weakened tissues, sometimes, gastritis can be caused by a bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal region. Typically, the infection that leads to gastritis is one known as Helicobacter pylori - a type of bacteria known to grow within the digestive tract and attack the stomach lining. H. pylori are usually passed from person to person but have also been known to infect people through food and water.
While the above two factors are the most common when it comes to the development of gastritis, there are a number of other variables that can encourage its development. Such factors include:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Regular cocaine usage
- Tobacco use
- Regular use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) - such as aspirin or ibuprofen
- Autoimmune conditions
- Digestive disorders such as Crohn's disease
- Viral infections
Common Symptoms of Gastritis
Gastritis can sometimes go unnoticed since its symptoms don’t always affect everyone in the same way. There are a few notable conditions to look out for, though, and these generally include:
- Unusual feelings fullness in your upper abdomen - especially after eating
In cases of erosive gastritis, a form of inflammation that causes gastrointestinal mucous to erode, symptoms may be different and more severe. Some of these include:
- Black, tar-like stool
- Vomiting blood or dark-coloured, coffee-like material
How is Gastritis Treated?
Generally, the specific treatment chosen to combat incidences of gastritis will depend upon the direct cause of the condition. If an instance of gastritis is linked to overconsumption of NSAIDs, for example, sometimes simply avoiding these drugs can be enough to alleviate symptoms.
In cases where H. pylori have been identified as the cause of gastritis, antibiotics are used to kill the bacteria. As well as antibiotics, several other types of medication may be used to treat gastritis. Let’s run through some of them in more detail.
Proton Pump Inhibitors
Medications known as proton pump inhibitors operate by disabling cells that contribute to the buildup of stomach acid. The most commonly used proton pump inhibitors include omeprazole, lansoprazole and esomeprazole, however, long-term usage of such medications at high doses can increase the risk that other conditions will develop.
The complications associated with the long-term usage of proton pump inhibitors can range from an increased risk of spinal, hip and risk fractures to an elevated chance of suffering renal failure.
As well as proton pump inhibitors, acid-reducing medications may also be used to counteract the symptoms of gastritis.
The two most commonly used medications within this category are ranitidine and famotidine, and, by lowering the amount of stomach acid being released into the digestive tract, these medications relieve the pain of gastritis and allow the lining of the stomach to heal.
Sometimes, doctors recommend that patients use antacids. These aim to provide rapid relief of gastritis-related pain by neutralising the acid in the stomach.
While such medications can be beneficial, some antacids can actually cause diarrhoea and constipation. For that reason, it’s always best to discuss these side effects with your doctor and work to find manageable solutions.
Probiotics, also known as ‘healthy bacteria’, have been proven to replenish digestive flora, working to promote the healing of gastric ulcers.
Though probiotics are sometimes recommended in the treatment of gastric conditions, there actually isn’t any evidence to suggest that they have a positive impact on acid secretion. For that reason, there aren’t currently any guidelines pertaining to the use of probiotics in the management of gastritis.
Some studies do, however, show that probiotics can help to alleviate symptoms and combat gastritis where its cause relates to H. Pylori. Implementing probiotic foods/supplements may therefore help in the management of gastric conditions.
The Right Diet For Gastritis
It has been proven that there particular diets that can help to manage gastritis by lessening symptoms. Such diets tend to recommend various food products and cutting others out in order to reduce stomach acid and combat gastritis.
Let’s take a look at some of the best ways patients can tackle gastric conditions with their diet.
Foods to Choose When Dealing With Gastritis
The foods recommended in such diets typically include:
- Foods high in fibre, such as apples, porridge, broccoli, beans and carrots
- Foods with a low acidity content, such as vegetables which are naturally more alkaline
- Non-carbonated drinks
- Non-caffeinated drinks
- Low-fat animal products like chicken, turkey breast and fish
- Fermented, probiotic-rich foods like kombucha, yoghurt, kimchi and sauerkraut
Foods to Avoid When Dealing With Gastritis
Generally speaking, foods with a high-fat content can make gastritis-related inflammation worse. Acidic can also contribute to excess stomach acid, worsening symptoms.
That being said, some foods to avoid due to their stomach-irritating tendencies include:
- Coffee and caffeinated drinks
- Acidic ingredients, like tomatoes and processed foods
- Fruit juice
- Fatty foods such as butter, bacon and chocolate
- Fried foods
- Carbonated drinks
- Spicy foods
- Allergenic and/or symptomatic foods
Follow an Anti-inflammatory Diet
Since gastritis is characterised by inflammation of the stomach, diets that work to minimise inflammation can provide relief from symptoms. Though research has not conclusively shown that any particular diet actually causes or prevents gastritis, it certainly plays a role in the treatment and management of symptoms.
Opting for a diet that generally serves to combat inflammation will ensure to keep symptoms in check. Foods that contribute to inflammation, and therefore should be avoided, include:
- Processed food products
- Acidic foods
- Dairy products
- Sugary foods
- Spicy foods
Consider Taking a Garlic Extract Supplement
Some research actually suggests that taking a garlic extract supplement on a regular basis can also help to reduce the symptoms of gastritis. Crushing raw garlic it and adding it to foods can also work.
If raw garlic isn’t your thing, it can be mixed in with other foods in order to mask its jarring taste. Some people even consume it alongside a teaspoon of peanut butter, or with something sweeter in flavour, like a date.
Try Taking Probiotics
As touched on previously, probiotics, whilst also being excellent for overall health and wellness, can help to improve digestion and encourage regular bowel movements.
Moreover, probiotics introduce healthy and essential bacteria into the gastrointestinal tract, helping to halt the spread of H. pylori.
While taking a supplement is an option, it’s also a good idea to consume food high in probiotics. Such foods include:
- Fermented yoghurt
Drink Green Tea With Manuka Honey
Studies have shown that drinking either green or black tea at least once a week can significantly reduce the prevalence and spread of H. pylori in the gastrointestinal tract.
Manuka honey, whilst sweetening the taste of tea, can also work to counteract bacteria and fight infection. Additionally, manuka honey also possesses antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, all contributing to overall health and physical wellbeing.
Make Use of Essential Oils
Essential oils like lemongrass have been found to increase resistance to H. pylori in laboratory-based tests. Other oils that have been known to have a positive impact on the digestive system include peppermint, clove and ginger.
Remember, though, that essential oils should never be ingested and must be diluted with a carrier oil if applied to the skin. As well as dermatological application, essential oils can also be added to oil diffusers.
Avoid Smoking and Taking Too Many Painkillers
Smoking has long been known to damage the stomach lining, increasing a person’s risk of developing a number of different gastrointestinal conditions ranging from gastritis to stomach cancer.
Quitting smoking can help to alleviate the symptoms and severity of gastritis, whilst also contributing to overall immune health - boosting the body’s ability to combat bacteria and infections like H. pylori.
Moreover, as discussed previously, taking too many over-the-counter painkillers or NSAIDs can further damage the lining of the stomach, making gastritis worse. For alternative pain-management medications, speak to a medical professional.
Stress isn’t good for anything - especially where your health is concerned. Stress has also been linked to gastric flare ups, worsening inflammation and subsequent symptoms.
How exactly can you reduce stress, though? Well, thankfully, there are a number of different techniques that have been proven to alleviate symptoms of stress. Let’s run through three of the most popular.
Meditation is, simply put, the practice of being present. It’s popularity has been spearheaded by the fact that so few of us spend our time focusing on this moment, and instead lose ourselves to worries of the past and future.
Try implementing a 5-10 minute meditation practice into your daily routine. Simply take a seat somewhere quiet, shut your eyes and spend a few moments observing your thoughts. Watch as they come and go, and if you get lost in them, just revert your attention back to your breath.
When you’re stressed, cortisol, the stress hormone, begins to build up around your body. One of the best ways to release it is by moving. For that reason, exercise can be an incredibly effective way to alleviate stress and promote positive emotions.
It doesn’t have to be a gruelling, sweaty session of mixed-martial arts or spinning. A thirty-minute walk or a relaxing yoga session can work wonders for your stress levels without leaving you feeling exhausted.
Make Time to Socialise
The simple act of socialising with friends and loved ones can be incredibly uplifting - particularly in a world in which so many of us are lost in our phones and devices.
When you’re feeling stressed, why not meet up with an old friend for coffee, or spend a little FaceTime with a relative? Speaking with others prevents us from feeling alone, and talking about the way we feel is a very therapeutic and uplifting act.
Making time to socialise more frequently will work to keep your stress levels in check and, in turn, reduce the symptoms of your gastritis.
While problematic, painful and downright annoying at the best of times, gastritis is a condition that can be effectively managed with the right education and action. Knowing precisely which foods contribute to inflammation, which ones can benefit it and making an effort to better understand your condition puts you in a far better position in which to tackle it.
Although the above methods aren’t cures for gastritis, they can certainly make it easier for you to cope with. And, even if that weren’t the case, all of the recommendations in this article will contribute to your overall health and wellbeing anyway - so why not give them a try?