What is Gastritis?
Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining and it does not always produce noticeable symptoms. Inflammation lasting for only a short time is called acute gastritis. If the inflammation lasts for months to years it is called chronic gastritis. Untreated, gastritis may lead to ulcers (sores in the lining of the stomach or small intestine) or stomach cancer.
What are the symptoms of gastritis?
What causes gastritis?
Gastritis has a variety of causes with their own mechanisms for inducing inflammation. Causes range from infections to overuse of certain medications. A list of common causes include:
Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori)
Although many people around the world may be harboring Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori) in their stomach, only select people develop gastritis as a result of the infection. Genetics, diet, and high-stress levels are believed to play a factor in determining whether or not gastritis will occur in infected individuals.
Excessive alcohol use
Alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach, which can lead to further irritation and damage from the stomach’s own digestive juices. Drinking alcohol in excess usually results in acute gastritis and will typically resolve itself with avoidance of alcohol.
Regular use of pain relievers
Certain medications that treat pain and inflammation such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may cause gastritis and ulcers when they are used frequently. They do so by blocking a molecule that is important in maintaining the mucous barrier that protects the stomach lining from stomach acid. Occasional use of these medications does not carry the same risks as daily or regular use.
Stress from serious illness
Major surgery, illness, burn or infection can cause acute gastritis. Gastritis is one of the many effects of stress from illness.
Some people may experience chronic gastritis due to conditions that target the body’s immune system. These attacks can weaken and degrade the protective lining of the stomach. Autoimmune gastritis is more common in those with other autoimmune diseases such type 1 diabetes. Vitamin B-12 deficiency may also induce autoimmune gastritis.
As people age their stomach lining naturally deteriorates. The thinned stomach lining increases the chance of developing gastritis.
How is Gastritis Treated?
When treated properly, gastritis usually resolves quickly without lingering effects. Treatment varies depending on the cause. Medication or lifestyle modification or a combination of both may be necessary. Some possible treatments and general recommendations include:
Discontinue the offending agent
If gastritis is caused by a medication or substance (such as alcohol) then the appropriate treatment would be to discontinue use of the medication or substance when possible.
Treating Helicobacter pylori
Eradication of H. pylori typically involves a combination of multiple antibiotics such as clarithromycin (Biaxin) and metronidazole (Flagyl) for at least 10-14 days.
Reducing stomach acid
Antacids [Tums (calcium carbonate), Rolaids (calcium carbonate & magnesium hydroxide)], histamine blockers [Cimetadine (Tagamet), ranitidine (Zantac), and famotidine (Pepcid)], and proton pump inhibitors [omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium), pantoprazole (Protonix) and lansoprazole (Prevacid)] can reduce stomach acid, relieve pain, and promote healing of ulcers.
Avoiding stress triggers may help reduce the symptoms or risk of gastritis. Calming activities such as meditation and yoga may be helpful in reducing stress levels. Making time for enjoyable, relaxing activities can help cope with stress.
Change eating habits
Eating smaller, more frequent meals can reduce the frequency of irritating indigestion. Avoiding spicy or acidic foods can also help heal gastritis and prevent future episodes.
References and Resources
Gastritis Information. NIH.gov U.S. National Library of Medicine
Gastritis Overview. Mayo Clinic
DiPiro JT, et al. Chapter 20: Peptic Ulcer Disease. Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiologic Approach, 9e. McGraw-Hill Education; 2014.