The acute form normally causes noticeable symptoms that resolve without treatment after a few days. Chronic gastritis, however, may stay in the body unnoticed but complicate later on.
The Helicobacter pylori (H. Pylori) bacteria is one of the main causes of gastritis and is thought to be present in 50 percent of the global population.
This article will explore the symptoms, causes, and treatments of gastritis, as well as provide tips on what to eat and what to exclude from the diet when this condition occurs.
Contents of this article:
- Gastritis can increase the risk of other gastrointestinal conditions, such as stomach ulcers and cancer.
- People with gastritis typically report sharp, stabbing, or burning pains in the upper-center or upper-left part of the abdomen.
- The two main types of gastritis are erosive and nonerosive. Erosive gastritis wears down the stomach lining, and nonerosive gastritis causes change to the stomach lining.
- Smokers and people who regularly use pain medications are at risk of gastritis.
- People with gastritis should eat celery, apples, and honey. Herbal teas are also safe to drink. Avoid caffeinated beverages, dairy produce, and spicy foods.
- A range of medications is available to treat gastritis, including antibiotics and antacids.
H. pylori bacteria are a common cause of gastritis.
There are a number of symptoms that characterize gastritis.
People with gastritis frequently experience abdominal pain. Pain is often located in the upper-center part of the abdomen, or in the upper-left portion of the stomach. Pain will often radiate to the back.
Other common symptoms include bloating and nausea. In cases of gastritis involving vomiting, the appearance of the vomit may be clear, yellow, or green. The vomit may also contain blood.
Vomiting blood is a symptom of more severe gastritis. Other symptoms of severe gastritis include shortness of breath, chest pain, severe stomach pain, and foul-smelling bowel movements.
Seek urgent medical evaluation if any of the following symptoms occur:
- vomiting blood
- bringing up excessive amounts of yellow or green vomit
- black or bloody bowel movements
- abdominal pain with fever
- dizziness and fainting
- rapid heartbeat
- excessive sweating
- shortness of breath
Gastritis may occur without any symptoms at all.
On occasion, gastritis symptoms can escalate into more serious conditions.
Stomach bleeding and ulcers can occur in people with gastritis who are yet to be treated. Chronic gastritis can sometimes increase the risk of developing stomach growths and tumors.
Certain types of gastritis, including autoimmune atrophic gastritis and H. pylori gastritis, can reduce the effectiveness of the body's ability to absorb iron from blood. In autoimmune atrophic gastritis, this can also affect vitamin B12 absorption. Both types can develop into anemia.
Causes and types
There are different causes and types of gastritis.
Gastritis happens after a weakening of the protective mucus lining of the stomach. Digestive juices can then damage and inflame the walls of the stomach.
There are two main types of gastritis.
- Erosive gastritis: This form of gastritis is severe, and involves both inflammation and the gradual wearing down of the stomach lining. An example is acute stress gastritis, which follows changes due to critical illness. Erosive gastritis usually has a quick onset, but this may take longer with chronic gastritis.
- Nonerosive gastritis: The nonerosive form of gastritis involves changes in the stomach lining
The most common cause of gastritis is H. pylori infection in the stomach lining. However, some types occur when the immune system inappropriately attacks the stomach lining, such as autoimmune atrophic gastritis.
There are other types that result from trauma or damage to the stomach lining. One example of this is postgastrectomy gastritis, where the stomach lining degenerates after the removal of part of the stomach.
It is not known how this occurs. It is thought that gastrectomy may cause increased reflux, reactions from the vagal nerve, or reduction in the number of acids triggered by hormones.
Others types include:
- Infectious gastritis not caused by H. pylori: Viruses or fungi can cause gastritis in people with immune difficulties or long-term illnesses.
- Radiation gastritis: Exposure of the abdominal area to radiation can irritate the stomach lining.
- Eosinophilic gastritis: This form of gastritis can occur due to an allergic reaction. The cause of the allergic reaction is not known.
- Ménétrier disease: This disorder is rare and involves the development of thick folds and cysts on the stomach wall.
It is not currently known how gastritis spreads. Contaminated food, water, or cutlery are thought to play a part in transferring H. pylori from one person to the next.
However, the wide range of causes makes this difficult to confirm.
Certain people are at a higher risk for developing gastritis. There are many conditions and lifestyle factors that can increase the chances of inflammation in the stomach lining.
Risk factors for gastritis include:
- bacterial infections, especially H. pylori infection
- viral, fungal, or parasitic infections
- caffeine intake
- excessive alcohol intake
- cocaine use
- routine use of pain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
- regularly taking medications such as prescription steroids, chemotherapy, potassium supplements, and iron
- being an older adult
- swallowing corrosives or foreign objects
- having an autoimmune disorder such as Hashimoto's disease or type 1 diabetes
- vitamin B12 deficiency
- Crohn's disease
- bile reflux after undergoing stomach surgery
- a history of chronic vomiting
- exposure to radiation, either by radioactive treatment or contamination
- food allergies
Tests and diagnosis
A gastrologist may examine the stomach lining with an endoscope.
Gastritis may be diagnosed using the following:
- physical examination
- the medical history of an individual and their current symptoms
- evaluation for H. pylori by way of blood, breath, or stool testing
In some cases, gastritis will be diagnosed with X-rays of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. These X-rays are sometimes referred to as an upper gastrointestinal series or a barium swallow.
Barium is a white, metallic liquid that is sometimes swallowed before a scan to help highlight any abnormalities.
A doctor may also request:
- blood tests
- urine tests
- evaluations of kidney and liver function
- checks for anemia
- gallbladder and pancreas function tests
- pregnancy tests
- stool evaluation
Using this range of checks will allow a doctor to diagnose gastritis.
If these tests are inconclusive, a doctor may perform an upper endoscopy. This involves the insertion of a thin, flexible, illuminated viewing tube into the abdomen through the mouth to look at the stomach.
Gastritis and the diet
Dietary choices for gastritis can help to manage the severity of symptoms and prepare the body to get rid of H. pylori bacteria.
While these measures alone are unlikely to cure the condition, they can provide vital support to active gastritis treatment.
Foods to eat
Probiotic yogurt is safe to eat during gastritis and can also help to clear out the H. pylori infection.
Both broccoli sprouts and probiotic yogurt have demonstrated helpful effects that counter H. pylori. However, there remains no concrete evidence that broccoli sprouts reliably keep gastritis at bay.
Probiotic yogurt has shown great promise as a supporting treatment alongside antibiotics, but more research is required to confirm this. Some studies have shown that probiotics help to clear out infection.
Other foods that are safe to consume during a case of gastritis include:
- olive oil
- herbal teas
Rather than looking for foods to resolve the infection, it is best to eat foods that do not further inflame the infection.
Foods to avoid
Some foods and beverages can aggravate the symptoms of gastritis, and should not be eaten while the disease is active. These include:
- caffeinated drinks
- regular and decaffeinated coffee
- mint, green, and black teas
- orange and grapefruit juices
- alcohol beverages
- spicy foods, such as chili powder, hot peppers, nutmeg, and black pepper
- dairy foods made from whole milk and strong or spicy cheeses
- tomato products
When adjusting the diet during a case of gastritis, be sure of the following:
- Eat 5 to 6 small meals a day, as this can reduce the impact of stomach acids.
- Hydrate often by frequently consuming water.
- Add omega-3 supplements to the diet, as they may play a role in resolving gastritis.
There is no single diet that will cure gastritis. However, embracing the dietary changes that soothe inflammation can support a treatment regimen. The foods consumed are an important part of gastritis treatment.
Treatment for gastritis is dependent on several factors. These include the cause of the condition and whether the presentation of gastritis is acute or chronic.
Treatment options for gastritis involve a range of medications, such as:
- Antibiotic medications: A 10-to-14-day course of antibiotics can directly attack H. pylori. Regimens may include clarithromycin and metronidazole.
- Proton pump inhibitors: These include omeprazole and lansoprazole. Proton pump inhibitors block the production of acid and aid healing.
- Histamine (H-2) blockers: Histamine blockers, such as ranitidine and famotidine, can decrease acid production.
- Antacids: These can neutralize stomach acid.
- Coating agents: Sucralfate or misoprostol can coat and protect the stomach lining.
- Anti-nausea medications: This type of medication can reduce sickness symptoms.
The treatment depends on the cause. For example, if the cause of gastritis is not bacterial, antibiotics will have no effect.
Combining these treatments with the recommended dietary changes is the surest way to tackle gastritis.
A person can reduce the risk of developing gastritis by following these steps:
- Practice good hand-washing hygiene and eat well-cooked food. This reduces the risk of contracting H. pylori.
- Avoid certain medications, smoking, caffeine, and alcohol.
As some causes are unknown, there is no way to fully prevent gastritis.