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Coping with gastritis and its many symptoms is about as much fun as getting punched in the stomach! Your first instinct may be to reach for an antacid medication because that usually provides quick gastritis relief. But if you want to keep painful gastritis symptoms away for good, the key is to discover your own individual gastritis cause. Identifying the underlying cause of your gastritis will quickly guide you to the best and safest therapies for long-lasting relief.
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Learn more about your digestive system, how it works, why and how it sometimes acts up, and most important, what you can do about it.
Common Gastritis Symptoms
Gastritis pain centers in the upper abdomen, just under the rib cage, and stems from inflammation and irritation in the stomach. The following gastritis symptoms can come on quickly or gradually in chronic cases:
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Abdominal pain
- Vomiting (including vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds)
- Burning, gnawing, or sore feeling between meals
- Loss of appetite
- Black, tarry stools
Gastritis: Is Bacterial Infection to Blame?
The most common cause of gastritis symptoms is an infection with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).The chronic form of gastritis caused by H. pylori infection may eventually lead to peptic ulcers or stomach cancer.
A doctor can test for the presence of this bacteria and then can prescribe a combination of medications, including two or more antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), to try and eradicate the infection. However, conventional drug therapy frequently fails due to increasing antibiotic resistance.
Fortunately, natural protocols for eradicating H. pylori and treating gastritis caused by the bacteria can be very effective. These protocols typically feature certain botanical medicines with either antimicrobial properties or the ability to help heal and protect the gastric mucosa as well as probiotics.
Multiple studies have shown that adding probiotics to conventional treatments improves the eradication of H. pylori, decreases gastritis symptoms, and prevent or reduce antiobiotic side effects.
Extracts and essential oils from medicinal plants from all over the world have demonstrated the ability to kill H. pylori and serves as a gastritis remedy, including: [8-10]
- Aged garlic extract
- Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal) root extract
- Agrimonia eupatoria (agrimony) extract
- Filipenula ulmaria (meadowsweet) extract
- Salvia officinalis (sage) extract
- Coptis chinensis extract
Although few human studies have been conducted to show whether these and other herbal extracts work as stand-alone therapies for treating H. pylori infections in patients, they are commonly used by licensed naturopathic doctor or other practitioners trained in botanical medicine with good results, especially when combined with other herbs and nutrients known to help decrease inflammation in increase healing of the gastric mucosa, such as deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), slippery elm, L-glutamine, and zinc carnosine.[10,11]
It is important that you work with a licensed health care practitioner for the appropriate dosages of all these natural treatments. Also, please be aware that if H. pylori infection is the primary cause of your gastritis, your stomach lining won’t heal, and you won’t reduce your risk of peptic ulcers and stomach cancer until you treat this infection.
Consider Gluten and Other Food Intolerances
Gastritis can also be induced by bile reflux (when bile from the gallbladder backwashes into the stomach), pernicious anemia (an autoimmune B12 anemia), and food intolerances. Gluten, in particular, may be associated with gastritis.
A recent study found that people with celiac disease are much more likely to suffer from gastritis. They are also more likely to have symptoms of heartburn and reflux, and these symptoms have been shown to completely resolve on a gluten-free diet. This may also be true for people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Other food intolerances, such as to dairy, soy, corn, egg, yeast, nuts, grains, or other foods, should also be ruled out as the very cause of your gastritis.
The Dangers of Relying on Antacids for Gastritis Relief
Gastritis flare up symptoms are a red flag your digestive system is in distress. Although antacids and heartburn medications can provide quick gastritis relief, they simply turn off the alarm bells but do not address the underlying causes of your stomach pain. They also come with risks, such as increased development of osteoporosis.
It’s better to identify and then manage the root cause of your gastritis. An integrative physician knows exactly how to help you identify the etiology of your gastritis and can then offer healing therapies individualized to that cause. For occasional flare-ups, however, a number of herbs and nutritional compounds have been shown to tame the “fire in your stomach” and provide safe gastritis relief:
- Deglycyrrhizinated licorice root extract (DGL)
- Mastic gum
- Citrus bioflavonoids
- Bismuth citrate
- Gamma oryzanol
Change Your Diet
Of course, what you actually put in your stomach can determine whether you have gastritis. Relief and prevention isn’t just about avoiding spicy or acidic food and drink. Rather, it’s about eating a diet that respects the integrity of your stomach lining by focusing on whole, unprocessed, natural foods and the avoidance of foods to which you are intolerant.
Many people find that they can relieve or prevent gastritis symptoms by avoiding a high-carbohydrate diet of processed foods, sweets, sodas, coffee drinks, and foods with trans fats. Instead, opt for a whole foods diet with plenty of protein, natural fats (not processed vegetable oils), and produce.
Medications and Alcohol: Causes of Gastritis
Sometimes, gastritis symptoms can stem from taking medications, including some very common drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). Such NSAIDs as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are widely known to damage the stomach lining and can cause gastritis and ulcers.
If you’ve been taking NSAIDs for chronic pain or inflammation and have any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to see your doctor to determine whether gastritis and/or an NSAID-induced peptic ulcer is present.
If possible, work with a practitioner versed in natural alternatives to NSAIDs, such as anti-inflammatory diets and natural supplements with inflammation-fighting actions, like curcumin.
Despite the widespread belief that alcohol and acidic foods and drinks, such as coffee and citrus, cause gastritis, the evidence for this is absent. In fact, moderate alcohol consumption and certain antimicrobial essential oils in citrus may even be therapeutic.[2-4] Nevertheless, some people with gastritis may want to temporarily avoid coffee, alcohol, and acidic foods during treatment as they may aggravate symptoms.
This blog was originally written by Elaine Fawcett, N.T.P. and published in 2012 as “Looking for Genuine Relief for Gastritis Symptoms?”