Gastritis is a condition that inflames the stomach lining (the mucosa), causing belly pain, indigestion (dyspepsia), bloating and nausea , It can lead to other problems. Gastritis can come on suddenly (acute) or gradually (chronic). Medications and dietary changes can reduce stomach acid and ease gastritis symptoms.
What Causes Gastritis?
Gastritis can be caused by irritation due to excessive alcohol use, chronic vomiting, stress, or the use of certain medications such as aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs. It may also be caused by any of the following:
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori): A bacteria that lives in the mucous lining of the stomach; without treatment, the infection can lead to ulcers, and in some people, stomach cancer.
- Bile reflux: A backflow of bile into the stomach from the bile tract (that connects to the liver and gallbladder)
- Infections caused by bacteria and viruses
If gastritis is left untreated, it can lead to a severe loss of blood and may increase the risk of developing stomach cancer.
What Are the Symptoms of Gastritis?
Symptoms of gastritis vary among individuals, and in many people there are no symptoms. However, the most common symptoms include:
- Nausea or recurrent upset stomach
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal pain
- Burning or gnawing feeling in the stomach between meals or at night
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting blood or coffee ground-like material
- Black, tarry stools
How Is Gastritis Diagnosed?
To diagnose gastritis, your doctor will review your personal and family medical history, perform a thorough physical evaluation, and may recommend any of the following tests:
- Upper endoscopy. An endoscope, a thin tube containing a tiny camera, is inserted through your mouth and down into your stomach to look at the stomach lining. The doctor will check for inflammation and may perform a biopsy, a procedure in which a tiny sample of tissue is removed and then sent to a laboratory for analysis.
- Blood tests. The doctor may perform various blood tests, such as checking your red blood cell count to determine whether you have anemia, which means that you do not have enough red blood cells. He or she can also screen for H. pylori infection and pernicious anemia with blood tests.
- Fecal occult blood test (stool test). This test checks for the presence of blood in your stool, a possible sign of gastritis.
How can I prevent gastritis?
Pylori is one of the top causes of gastritis, but most people don’t know they’re infected. The bacteria are easily transmitted. You can lower your risk of infection by practicing good hygiene, including hand-washing.
You also can take steps to minimize indigestion and heartburn. These conditions are linked to gastritis. Preventive measures include:
- Avoiding fatty, fried, spicy, or acidic foods.
- Cutting back on caffeine.
- Eating smaller meals throughout the day.
- Managing stress.
- Not taking NSAIDs.
- Reducing alcohol consumption.
- Not lying down for two to three hours after a meal.
Eating, Diet, & Nutrition
Researchers have not found that eating, diet, and nutrition play an important role in causing the majority of cases of gastritis or gastropathy. H. pylori gastritis can cause problems absorbing iron from food, and autoimmune gastritis can cause problems absorbing iron and vitamin B12 from food.