Gastritis is inflammation or irritation of the lining of the stomach. It can occur suddenly (acute) lasting one to three days, or it can be chronic, lasting several days to weeks.
The typical symptoms of gastritis include:
- Heartburn/indigestion (burning feeling in the stomach/chest)
- Nausea or vomiting (sometimes vomiting blood or “coffee” like material)
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain and/or bloating
- Black, tarry stools
4 Main Causes of Gastritis
There are several reasons why a person could develop gastritis—chronic stress, for example, or an autoimmune disorder such as HIV, fungal infections, acid reflux disease, and more. But typically, gastritis symptoms start with one of four primary causes.
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria. Up to 50 percent of the world’s population is infected with this bacteria, although most people do not experience symptoms or even know they have it. H. pylori can break down the lining of the stomach, causing gastritis and stomach ulcers.
- Conditions related to vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency results when the gastrointestinal tract does not properly absorb vitamin B12, most likely due to chronic inflammation (gastritis). Therefore, the conditions that cause gastritis are the same as those that cause vitamin B12 deficiency: celiac disease (gluten sensitivity), Crohn’s disease, recent stomach surgery, recent infection, poor nutrition, thyroid disease, or pernicious anemia, a form of anemia that occurs when the stomach lacks a naturally-occurring substance called intrinsic factor needed to properly digest vitamin B12. (See our post “The Top B12 Foods for Every Diet.”)
- Medication use. Sometimes, gastritis symptoms stem from taking medications that cause stomach problems or even stomach bleeding: aspirin, NSAIDs (ibuprofen or naproxen), prednisone, chemotherapy drugs, or others.
- Acidic drinks, spicy foods, and other food culprits. Drinks such as coffee, alcohol, juices with citric acids, and spicy foods such as hot peppers can cause exacerbation of gastritis symptoms. But the real “cause” of gastritis is a consistent diet of food “culprits” (listed below).
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Conventional Treatment for Gastritis
The conventional treatment for gastritis involves taking antacids or other drugs to reduce stomach acid. While these drugs work quickly to ease symptoms, chronic use of these medications can lead to severe problems, such as osteoporosis or a condition called hypchlorhydria (low stomach acid).
These University Health News posts offer more information on the effects of an acidic diet and how to help yourself:
- Is Your Heartburn Medication Putting You at Risk for Osteoporosis?
- Low Stomach Acid–The Surprising Cause of Many Indigestion Symptoms
A Gastritis Diet Corrects the Root Causes of Gastritis
Rather than pop a purple pill to mask gastritis symptoms, a gastritis diet can heal the gut naturally. Adhering to a gastritis diet means eating a combination of healthy foods while simultaneously avoiding the food “culprits” on a daily basis; this is the key to alleviating gastritis symptoms permanently.
1. Gastritis Diet: Eat foods that kill H. pylori bacteria.
- Broccoli. A nutrient in broccoli called sulphoraphane has been proven effective by medical research to kill H. pylori bacteria in the stomach lining. It even works at killing strains of H. pylori that have become resistant to antibiotic drugs. And, broccoli sprouts contain 20 to 50 times more sulphoraphane than the mature plant. If you do not like the taste of broccoli, you can purchase broccoli or sulphoraphane supplements online or at your local health food store. Since 50 percent of the world’s population has H. pylori–even though they may not know it –eating broccoli several times per week or taking supplements is recommended for everyone.
- Garlic. Garlic is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial and antifungal agent, and H. pylori bacteria are highly sensitive to it. However, some people with chronic heartburn do not react well to garlic. If this applies to you, try eating small amounts garlic first (or take garlic capsules) and gradually increase the amount to tolerance.
2. Gastritis diet: Eat foods that heal the gut and help increase vitamin B12 absorption.
- Probiotics. Probiotics such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species are beneficial bacteria that colonize the soft lining of the intestinal tract and thus heal the digestive system. Taking probiotics helps increase the gut’s ability to absorb and digest nutrients. For people who have gastritis and vitamin B12 deficiency (above), eating foods with probiotics (or taking probiotic supplements) with B vitamins can help tremendously. Foods that contain probiotics include organic yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and sourdough bread.
3. Gastritis diet: Eat foods that reverse damage from medication use and ease gastritis symptoms.
Again, probiotic-rich foods are the most beneficial to reverse any gut damage. In addition to probiotics, particular foods have been found to both heal the stomach and ease gastritis symptoms of nausea, stomach pain, burning, bloating, and heartburn:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Cranberry juice
- Pineapple (bromelain)
- Beet juice and/or carrot juice
- Green tea
Also, you’ll want to eat foods high in vitamin A: liver, carrots, greens, spinach, asparagus, sweet potatoes, peaches, and apricots. Vitamin A is essential for the healthy function of mucous membranes and tissue repair.
4. Gastritis Diet: Avoid foods and beverages that exacerbate your gastritis symptoms.
Many people who suffer from gastritis know exactly which foods items exacerbate their symptoms, whether it’s coffee or chocolate, hot peppers or pasta.
If you don’t know which foods trigger your gastritis, then you need to find out. It’s easy to do—simply create a food diary. For two to four weeks, write down everything you eat or drink and note the exact date/time you eat it.
Simultaneously, write down any time you experience gastritis symptoms. After your food diary has been completed, notice correlations between your food consumption and the symptoms you experienced. For example, do you develop nausea or heartburn an hour after eating pizza? Or, do you experience bloating and cramping the day after eating breads or sweets? Once you figure out your specific gastritis triggers, you’ll know exactly which foods or beverages you should avoid.
Follow a Healthy Gastritis Diet Permanently
Permanent gastritis relief and prevention will involve changing your lifestyle. While it’s not easy, with hard work, it can be accomplished!
On a daily basis, try following a gastritis diet that respects the integrity of the stomach lining. That is, eat whole foods with plenty of protein, natural fats, and fruits and vegetables, which provide your body with the needed nutrients to support healing.
And try to avoid the “food culprits” that can damage both your gut and your immune system:
- Dairy (other than organic yogurt)
- Processed foods
- Excessive coffee drinks
- Energy drinks
- Foods with trans fats
Originally published in 2013 and updated.