Gastritis: Symptoms, Causes, Types, Home Remedies & Treatment
Written By: Dr. Toufik Tabarra
Dr. Toufik Tabbara is a general surgeon educated in Syria and the USA. He has rich work experience as a surgeon and a professor in the USA and the UAE.
What is Gastritis?
Gastritis refers to an illness in which the tissue lining of the stomach becomes inflamed, leading to irritation. Many causes (including bacterial causes) contribute to gastritis as well, which often lead to gastric ulcers in some patients.
Gastritis can manifest itself in a patient in either of the following two ways:
- Acute Gastritis:A sudden and severe inflammation of the stomach lining.
- Chronic Gastritis :A gradual, long-term inflammation of the stomach lining, which can last for months to years and cause various complications if left untreated. Some patients also experience what is called ‘erosive gastritis’ where there is an erosion of the lining. It is much less common but it leads to gastric bleeding and gastric ulcers.
Gastritis often causes no symptoms in patients and, therefore, in most cases, it is not a cause for concern. In gastritis patients that do exhibit symptoms, we most commonly observe some or all of the following:
- Vomiting, sometimes with blood
- Reduced appetite due to indigestion/ Feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen
- Burning pain in the upper abdomen between meals
- Bloated abdomen
- Tarry stool (in case of erosive gastritis)
When to See A Doctor for Gastritis
If you severely experience any of the aforementioned gastritis symptoms or for longer than a week, especially blood in vomit and bloody stool, you should immediately visit your doctor. If the symptoms do not subside after taking medication prescribed by your doctor, you should get in touch with the doctor again.
Causes of Gastritis
Gastritis takes place when the stomach lining becomes inflamed. This happens when the moist, mucus-lined barrier, that is meant to prevent digestive juices in the stomach from coming in contact with the inner stomach wall, weakens or breaks down. When this happens, the stomach lining is more susceptible to inflammation and irritation.
There are several factors that can lead to your stomach lining becoming thin or getting damaged, increasing risk of inflammation, i.e. gastritis. These include:
Bacterial infection in the stomach can weaken and damage the stomach lining. The most common infection is caused by the Helicobacter pylori bacteria and is referred to as the H. pylori infection. H. pylori bacteria are present in people’s digestive tract but does not often cause major trouble. In some cases, however, it can cause an infection and medical professionals believe it can be transmitted through close personal contact and via contaminated food and water.
Digestive disorders, including several digestive illnesses, such as inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) caused by Crohn’s disease, can also lead to gastritis.
Excessive use of NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs), including many pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can irritate the stomach lining, causing gastritis.
Viral infections, although a less common cause, can damage the stomach lining as well.
Autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s disease of the thyroid gland can lead to the body attacking the stomach cells’ lining, causing the stomach lining to wear down, leading to gastritis.
Risk Factors of Gastritis
There are certain factors which can put you at a higher risk of getting gastritis including:
- Getting bacterial infections, such as the H. pylori infection, put you at a higher risk of gastritis.
- Regular use of pain relievers and NSAIDs increases the risk of getting gastritis.
- Older people are more prone to gastritis because the stomach’s mucus lining thins with age.
- Extreme alcohol consumption makes you more susceptible to gastritis, especially acute gastritis, since alcohol irritates and chips away the stomach lining.
- High physical stress levels after an injury, medical surgery, or a burn, can increase your chances of developing gastritis.
- Having autoimmune diseases increases the likelihood of developing gastritis.
- Heavy smoking
Complications of Gastritis
Gastritis should be treated as soon as possible if symptoms persist for more than a week or if they are extremely severe right from the onset. If due medical care is not received, gastritis can cause the following complications:
- Gastric ulcers
- Chronic gastritis may put you at risk of stomach cancer
- Stomach bleeding
Contact a doctor if gastritis symptoms persist even after treatment.
As is the case with the majority of gastrointestinal diseases, gastritis treatment varies from case to case, depending on the underlying cause.
Treatment for NSAIDs-caused gastritis
This might include your doctor taking you off NSAIDs and prescribing alternatives. For pain relievers, opting for paracetamol is a better alternative to using aspirin. In case you cannot be taken off NSAIDs, your doctor may prescribe a medicine that counters its effects to take alongside.
Treatment for bacteria-caused gastritis
Examples include H. pylori, which might result in your doctor putting you on a course of antibiotics.
Other gastritis treatments
Your doctor may also choose to treat you in the following ways:
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPP) such as omeprazole (Prilosec), Lansoprazole (Prevacid), etc., are prescribed to block cells that create stomach acid, thereby preventing digestive juices from inflicting too much harm on stomach lining.
Acid reducing medications and Antacids are given to patients to reduce the acid concentration in the stomach and relieve gastritis pain. However, some of these medications may cause diarrhea or constipation.
Probiotics may be given to patients as well. Probiotics are aimed at helping the stomach lining heal.
In the majority of gastritis cases, symptoms disappear quickly after treatment.
Prevention of Gastritis
Gastritis can be prevented using the following lifestyle changes and home remedies:
- Eating less spicy foods and foods with high fat content.
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Washing your hands thoroughly before cooking and eating
- Preparing and storing food properly
- Reducing use of NSAIDs or switching to better alternatives
- Reducing or eliminating alcohol intake and smoking
Gastritis During Pregnancy
Pregnant women with gastritis may experience gastritis symptoms more severely, including frequently experiencing heartburn, stomach pain, vomiting, etc. These problems do not pose a risk to the fetus and can be treated easily using home remedies for gastritis during pregnancy. These remedies include taking antacids, reducing intake or spicy, acidic, and fried foods, and stopping the consumption of caffeinated drinks. Certain food items such as red meat should also be avoided so as not to exacerbate the stomach pain accompanied by gastritis.
To understand more about the symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention of gastritis, get in touch with us.
Meet our doctors from the General Surgery department