Gastritis is an irritation, weakening, or inflammation of stomach lining that can occur suddenly or over time. It may be experienced after excessive consumption of alcohol, stress or anxiety, repeated vomiting, bile reflux, a bacteria that lives in the lining of the stomach (helicobacter pylori), or the use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Regardless of the cause, medical attention is usually needed to prevent blood loss and other issues.
Gastritis doesn’t always produce symptoms unless the condition advances to the point where the stomach lining becomes severely irritated or worn. If the irritation or erosion of stomach lining continues, noticeable pain can be experienced. Subtle symptoms may include indigestion, bloating, and a loss of appetite.
Gastritis can occur in a variety of situations. For instance, certain diseases can increase your risk of gastritis through injury to the protective barrier lining your stomach. Factors that could increase your risk of gastritis include stress, old age, alcohol abuse, and using pain relievers regularly.
Stressors such as burns, severe infections, or major surgery can lead to gastritis. Since the stomach lining usually thins with age, it’s not unlikely that old age would increase your risk. Alcohol abuse triggers gastritis by irritating your stomach lining, making it more susceptible to digestive juices.
Autoimmune gastritis is common in people with other autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes and Hashimoto’s disease. A vitamin B deficiency can also cause gastritis.
Gastritis can develop in people with Crohn’s disease, HIV/AIDS, and parasitic infections.
Diagnosis can involve tests such as an upper endoscopy (tiny camera inserted through the mouth to the stomach), a red blood cell count, and a stool test. Treatment depends on the underlying cause of gastritis. If it’s due to H. pylori, antibiotics can ease the irritation. Gastritis due to NSAIDs is often treated with changes to medication and histamine blockers. Antacids may also help ease discomfort but won’t treat any underlying causes of gastritis.
The risk of developing gastritis can be minimized by minimizing excessive alcohol consumption, taking medications as prescribed, avoiding foods that are highly acidic or excessively spicy, and managing stress. See your doctor if you experience stomach irritation that persists or becomes progressively worse to determine the cause to prevent potentially serious damage to stomach lining.
A fiber-rich diet can help prevent the growth of H. pylori, the bacteria that causes gastritis. Certain foods contain flavonoids that help ward off the bacteria or prevent it from spreading. Those foods include soy, broccoli, certain teas, berries, onions, parsley, garlic, kale, thyme, legumes, and celery. Eating smaller, more frequent meals to ease any discomfort associated with indigestion helps. Certain foods should be avoided, such as fatty, spicy, fried, and acidic foods. Avoiding alcohol can also help.
If you’re using pain relievers, consider switching to something similar. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be an alternative. Talk to your doctor about which medications are safe to take.
Practicing a good hand-washing regimen can help you avoid gastritis. Because it can be transmitted from person to person through contaminated food and water, washing your hands thoroughly and completely is important. Cooking all foods completely to avoid the spread of infection is recommended.
Reducing your exposure to certain toxins, chemicals, or radiation can also prevent gastritis.