Gastritis is a fairly common condition that you may not know much about. It’s estimated that 8 out of every 1,000 people are affected by acute gastritis, while 2 out of 10,000 are affected by chronic (or long-term) gastritis. Some patients may not experience gastritis symptoms, while others may be plagued with symptoms, such as abdominal pain and bloating, that can noticeably affect their quality of life. Read on to learn more about gastritis and if you should make an appointment with your gastroenterologist or healthcare provider.
1. Lifestyle Choices Can Affect the Onset of Gastritis
Like many conditions, it’s more common to develop gastritis as you become older. You may be wondering, what exactly is gastritis? Technically, gastritis is the inflammation of the stomach lining. The stomach lining weakens as you get older, and digestive juices can cause more inflammation in the stomach because of this. However, there are certain habits and lifestyle choices that can affect whether or not you develop gastritis regardless of age, such as:
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Cocaine use
- Overuse of over-the-counter medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and aspirin
- Tobacco use
There are also other risk factors unrelated to lifestyle choices that can cause gastritis as well, such as:
- Viral infections
- Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease
- Stress (can be related to recent surgery or illness)
- Autoimmune disorders
However, the most prevalent cause of gastritis is Helicobacter pylori infection. This is a gastrointestinal bacterial infection that can weaken the lining of the stomach, leading to gastritis. H. pylori can be transmitted from person to person, or you can ingest the bacteria through food or water that is contaminated. Overuse of NSAIDs and H. pylori infection are the most common causes of gastritis—but it’s also exceedingly important to remember the lifestyle choices that can put you at increased risk.
2. Gastritis Symptoms May Not Be Very Noticeable
Not all patients can notice their symptoms when they have gastritis. There are two types of gastritis: acute and chronic. With chronic gastritis, the stomach lining weakens slowly over time. This is a less common form of gastritis and may not carry noticeable symptoms. The most common symptoms of chronic, or erosive, gastritis are black, tarry stools, or vomiting blood. If you experience these symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately. Most cases of gastritis are acute, which means the onset is quick and potentially uncomfortable or painful. Symptoms of acute gastritis include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chest pain, which radiates through to the back
- Severe abdominal pain
- Stools with a foul odor
If you experience shortness of breath, dizziness, or fainting, seek medical attention immediately. These are less common symptoms of gastritis but can indicate a severe case.
3. There Are Many Diagnostic Tests to Test for Gastritis
If you feel that you may be suffering from gastritis, your healthcare provider may order a battery of diagnostic tests. It is difficult to tell whether it is a case of indigestion or gastritis from the patient interviews alone. The most simple of the diagnostic tests is a blood test, which will look for antibodies present in the blood that fight H. pylori infection.
Another common way to test for gastritis is with a breath test. This also looks for potential H. pylori infection. For this, you will swallow a radioactive substance and then breathe it into a bag. The contents of the bag are then examined for the presence of H. pylori. Your doctor may also order a stool test, which can detect bacterial infection as well.
If your doctor suspects you may have a comorbid condition, such as ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), they may want to perform an upper endoscopy. This is a simple outpatient procedure, where a thin tube is inserted into the throat to examine the esophagus and stomach with a tiny camera. The physician may also take a biopsy (tissue sample) of the stomach during an endoscopy.
4. Gastritis Is Easily Treated and Cured
If you’re diagnosed with gastritis, many treatments can help eradicate it. However, the method of treatment depends upon the cause of gastritis. For example, if you have an H. pylori infection, your physician will likely prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria. If you have gastritis due to chronic alcohol consumption, your healthcare provider will likely advise you to cease drinking and may prescribe antacids or histamine blockers to help with the production of stomach acid. Antacids and histamine blockers are used for many causes of gastritis, as well as proton pump inhibitors. Some treatments are available over the counter, while others require a prescription. Likely, your doctor will also advise you of a gastritis diet. You will need to add certain foods into your diet and avoid others.
5. You Should Adhere to a Certain Diet with Gastritis
You may be wondering, what can I eat with gastritis? The gastritis diet is not horribly restrictive, but you should add certain foods and beverages in and take other foods and beverages out, particularly if you have chronic gastritis. For acute gastritis, a special diet may be short-term, until the symptoms have subsided. Foods to eat while you have gastritis include:
- Non-carbonated beverages
- Caffeine-free beverages
- Foods that are low in acidity levels, such as beans and vegetables
- Foods low in fat
- High-fiber foods, such as vegetables, whole grains, and beans
It’s suggested that a probiotic supplement or probiotic foods can help with gastritis when the cause is H. pylori infection. Probiotic-rich foods include: kombucha, yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut.
Many of the foods and beverages you should avoid with gastritis are to be moderated or avoided for many other health-related reasons. These include:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Foods high in acidity, such as tomatoes and tomato products
- Fried foods
- Foods high in fat
- Spicy foods
- Carbonated drinks
All of these can raise the acid level in the stomach, which can further exacerbate gastritis.
6. Gastritis Can Cause Complications If Not Treated
If gastritis is not treated, particularly if the root cause is H. pylori infection, it could cause serious health concerns, such as anemia, pernicious anemia (which means your body cannot absorb B12), and peritonitis. Gastritis can worsen ulcers, leading to this dangerous bacterial infection, which can result in sepsis. Untreated gastritis with H. pylori as the cause also increases your risk of developing stomach cancer.
Needham Gastroenterology Associates servicing Needham Massachusetts
If you need more information regarding gastritis and its symptoms, or you need to be seen by a physician, contact us. We provide comprehensive care for the full spectrum of gastrointestinal issues and concerns.