What to Know About Gastritis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Diet

Gastritis is swelling and irritation of your stomach lining. In most cases your diet does not cause gastritis. There is no gastritis diet for everyone, but some foods or drinks can make your gastritis worse and should be avoided.

gastritis stomach pain

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) for digestive diseases, research shows that neither eating, diet, or nutrition plays a role in most of the causes of gastritis.

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Gastritis is not one disease. It is a group of conditions that cause swelling and irritation, called inflammation, of your stomach lining. Normally your stomach lining has a mucous barrier that protects your stomach from stomach acids. Stomach acids are digestive juices that are great for breaking down the food you eat, but if they get through that barrier, they can eat away at the lining of your stomach. [2]

Gastritis Symptoms

Symptoms of gastritis can include a burning or aching pain in your upper belly, nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, and feeling full soon after starting to eat. Eating may make the pain better or worse. You may have weight loss if you have symptoms for a long time. [1-3]

Causes of Gastritis

Common causes of gastritis are infection, over-the-counter drugs called NSAIDs, and drinking alcohol. All three can weaken or destroy the mucous barrier and lead to gastritis:

  • Infection with the bacteria pylori (the same bacteria that causes ulcers) is the most common cause of gastritis. [1,3] This infection is present in about 35 percent of Americans. Most people with this infection get gastritis. Untreated H. pylori can last a lifetime and can lead to ulcer disease and stomach cancer. [1]
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are prescription and over-the-counter drugs used to treat pain and inflammation. The most common are aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. When used for too long, these drugs interfere with the production of the mucous barrier. [2]
  • Drinking alcohol can cause a short-term case of gastritis. Too much alcohol can eat right through the mucous barrier. This is called erosive gastritis. [2]

Less common causes of gastritis include severe stress due to an illness or injury and diseases in which your body’s defense system mistakenly attacks your stomach lining, called autoimmune gastritis. [2] If you have gastritis, you may find that some foods make your symptoms worse. Spicy foods are a common example. Alcohol and caffeine can also make gastritis worse. You may be able to prevent symptoms of gastritis by avoiding these foods. [3]

How Is Gastritis Treated?

Treatment depends on the cause. For the most common cause, H. pylori, the treatment is a combination of antibiotics and a medication that blocks stomach acid called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI). Do not try to treat H. pylori with diet alone. Untreated H. pylori can lead to an ulcer or stomach cancer. [1]

The treatment for gastritis caused by NSAIDS is to block acid with a PPI and lower the dose or discontinue use of NSAIDs. Erosive gastritis from alcohol use may improve if you stop drinking alcohol. [1]

Lifestyle and diet recommendations for people with gastritis can include:

  • Avoiding any foods that make gastritis worse
  • Not drinking alcohol or caffeine
  • Not smoking

Is There Such a Thing as a Gastritis Diet?

gastritis diet

Ridding yourself of gastritis symptoms may require following a strict gastritis diet. (Photo (c) Dreamstime)

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) for digestive diseases, research shows that neither eating, diet, or nutrition plays a role in most of the causes of gastritis. That means it is unlikely that a specific diet for gastritis is helpful for most people. [1] It does not mean that what you eat or drink has no effect on gastritis. In some cases, certain foods or drinks, such as alcohol or spicy foods, may contribute to gastritis or make the symptoms worse. [1-3]

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you have symptoms of gastritis that last for a week or longer, or if you have symptoms that are getting worse. [2,3] If gastritis is severe and leads to an ulcer, it can cause stomach bleeding. Call your doctor right away if:

  • You have vomiting with blood or coffee ground material.
  • You have blood in your stool or you have stool that looks dark and tarry.

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SOURCES

  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Gastritis & Gastropathy
  2. Mayo Clinic, Gastritis
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine, Gastritis

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Chris Iliades, MD

Chris Iliades has an MD degree and 15 years of experience as a freelance writer. Based in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, his byline has appeared regularly on many health and medicine … Read More

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