Gastritis is the term used to define inflammation of the stomach lining. The condition can be acute or chronic. For some it may be a lifelong condition. Gastritis can lead to stomach ulcers and an increased risk of stomach cancer. Often times it may be present without symptoms, isn’t serious, and improves quickly with treatment.
What causes gastritis?
Too much alcohol consumption and regular use of common pain medications such as Advil and Aleve are the most common causes of gastritis. Inflammation also can occur from a helicobacter pylori infection or from an inflammatory condition such as Crohn’s disease.
- A burning/gnawing ache or pain in your upper abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- A feeling of fullness in your upper abdomen after eating
- Loss of appetite
If you are experiencing symptoms of gastritis, your doctor may perform one or more of the following tests.
- Tests for H. pylori- By either a breath, stool, or blood test your doctor can determine if the H. pylori bacteria is present in your digestive tract. A breath test is the most accurate method and blood tests tend to be the least accurate.
- Upper endoscopy- A small flexible tube with a camera can be inserted into many areas of your gastrointestinal tract, including your stomach and small intestine. A biopsy can also be done during this exam—where a cell sample is taken for testing. Your doctor may take a biopsy if they detect an ulcer. A biopsy can test for many things including H. pylori. An endoscopy will typically be recommended if you have signs/symptoms of bleeding in the GI tract.
- X-ray- Your doctor may recommend a series of x-rays of your upper digestive system. Before the x-rays you will be asked to swallow a liquid containing barium in order to make abnormalities more visible.
A number of medications can treat the causes of gastritis and promote healing. What your doctor prescribes will depend on the cause of your symptoms.
If H. pylori is found in your digestive tract, your doctor will most likely prescribe an antibiotic to kill the bacteria. An antibiotic will often be prescribed in combination with a medication that reduces stomach acid.
Many over-the-counter medications either block the production of stomach acid or reduce the amount of stomach acid released into your digestive tract. These medications promote the healing of inflammation, some include Prilosec, Nexium, and Zantac. Antacids, such as Tums, can provide immediate pain relief but aren’t typically used to heal gastritis.
If your gastritis is due to frequent use of NSAIDs you should work with your doctor in order to reduce or eliminate your use of them. Medication that helps protect your stomach and small intestine lining may also be prescribed to promote healing.
Avoid the risk factors for developing gastritis. Limit alcohol, refrain from smoking, and control stress. Avoiding spicy food also may help prevent symptoms. Eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will make it easier for your body to heal inflammation.