Gastritis: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Complications and Prevention

It is an inflammation of the stomach lining. This inflammatory disease can be acute or chronic.

In fact, it can appear suddenly, with a burning in the stomach  or a difficulty digesting, and can disappear in a few days.

It can also return regularly and evolve over several years.

Gastritis is often associated with esophagitis , which is inflammation of the lining of the esophagus that is manifested by a burning sensation behind the breastbone or acid regurgitation and can change from reflux esophagitis to gastroesophageal reflux .

In general, the disease is not serious, gastritis is a risk factor for developing stomach cancer . But in most cases, gastritis is still a fast-healing disease.

Gastritis can be a distressing and uncomfortable medical condition. Acute gastritis is a very common and short-lived illness.

She is easily relieved. Chronic gastritis is very different. Its symptoms can easily be related to those of a gastric or duodenal ulcer.

The treatment of gastritis is effective and the medications used are well tolerated.

Care must be taken with self-medication when you do not know exactly what you are treating.

The doctor may decide to prescribe a medication before starting the tests, because ulcers, gastritis, and esophagitis usually improve within a week after starting treatment.

Finally, if there are any signs of complications such as gastrointestinal bleeding (vomit-brown blood or black stools), fatigue, or weight loss, see your doctor immediately.

Role of the stomach lining

The lining of the stomach protects the wall of this organ from the acid secretions produced during digestion. Play a barrier role.

Without protection, the stomach wall would be attacked and eroded by the different substances produced by the body to digest food.

An ulcer would inevitably be the result of these acid attacks.

Causes of gastritis

Gastritis has multiple causes, including excessive alcohol consumption, stress, tobacco, drugs, the consumption of very fatty, very acidic or very sugary foods.

Long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or infection with a virus, fungus, or bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori, which survives heartburn.

This bacteria, when present in the stomach lining, can be responsible for a stomach ulcer.

Also, gastritis can develop after major surgery, traumatic injury, burns, or radiation.

There are diseases that can cause gastritis such as:

  • Autoimmune disorders: when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells.
  • Chronic bile reflux: when bile, a liquid that helps with digestion, returns to the stomach and esophagus.
  • Pernicious anemia: It is a form of anemia that occurs when the stomach cannot digest vitamin B12.
  • Allergy to certain food substances.
  • The desnutrition.

Chronic gastritis can be secondary to other stomach diseases such as a hiatal hernia, a gastric ulcer.

Risk factor’s

People over 60 years of age are at higher risk of developing gastritis, simply because age weakens the lining of the stomach. Also, Helicobacter pylori infections are more common in the elderly.

People infected with the bacteria are at increased risk for gastritis.

Other risk factors for gastric inflammation include the following:

  • Have decreased immune function.
  • People who overuse pain relievers, including ibuprofen overdose and aspirin dependence.
  • A poor diet and nutrient deficiencies (including vitamin B12 deficiency or low in magnesium, calcium, zinc, and selenium).
  • Consuming alcohol in excess or smoking habits.
  • High levels of stress.
  • Other health conditions that affect the digestive system, including bile reflux, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, allergies, thyroid disorder, an autoimmune disorder, or viruses such as HIV and Herpes.
  • People with pernicious anemia, which affects the lining of the stomach and makes it difficult to absorb vitamin B12 normally.
  • The obese or overweight can also worsen symptoms.

Gastritis symptoms

The most common symptom of gastritis is abdominal discomfort or pain.

Other symptoms are belching, bloating, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and / or a feeling of fullness or burning in the upper abdomen.

Blood in vomit or black stools can be a sign of stomach bleeding, as gastritis can lead to ulcers.

If this occurs, it is important that you seek immediate medical attention.

Fatigue can also be a sign of stomach bleeding, as tiredness can occur with iron deficiency anemia, from loss of blood.

Gastritis can have sudden and short-lived symptoms, such as when gastritis is induced by a virus.

On the other hand, some people have chronic gastritis, which means that symptoms persist for months, even years.

Diagnosis of gastritis

Gastritis is diagnosed through one or more of the following medical tests:

Blood test

The doctor can check the red blood cell count to see if the patient has anemia, which means that he or she does not have enough red blood cells.

Anemia can be caused by bleeding in the stomach.

In cases of anemia, the doctor will monitor the levels of iron and ferritin (ferritin is a protein that stores iron).

If the patient has iron deficiency anemia, the doctor will want to check for stomach bleeding.

The doctor may also order pernicious anemia blood tests, including a vitamin B12 level.

In pernicious anemia, cells of the immune system attack cells in the stomach that allow vitamin B12 to be absorbed from food.

Your doctor will recommend a test for H. pylori, a type of bacteria that can be in the stomach.

Stool tests

This test checks for blood in your stool, a sign of bleeding. The presence of blood in the stool, which can be a sign of gastritis if there has been bleeding.

A stool sample can also be used to detect Helicobacter pylori. This test checks if you have stomach bacteria that can cause gastritis.

Breath test

You may have a test to collect your breath and test it for stomach bacteria.

After drinking a liquid or swallowing a capsule, the exhaled breath is examined to check if bacteria are present in the stomach.

Upper GI series or barium swallow

This x-ray shows the organs in the upper part of your digestive system. It shows the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine (duodenum).

A metallic liquid called barium is swallowed. The barium covers the organs so they can be seen on the x-ray.

Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy

This test examines the inside of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. It uses a thin tube with a camera and light, called an endoscope.

The tube is placed in the mouth and passed down the throat. It then enters the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum.

The endoscope allows the gastroenterologist to look down into your stomach to examine the stomach lining.

The doctor will check for inflammation and may remove a small sample of tissue for testing.

This procedure to remove a tissue sample is called a biopsy.

Gastritis Treatment

There are several treatments for gastritis, from diet and lifestyle changes to medications.

You can try treating it at home for:

  • Eat little and often.
  • Cut back on your alcohol intake or stop drinking altogether.
  • Limit or avoid hot and spicy, fried, fatty or acidic foods (or drinks, such as fruit juices).
  • Trying to reduce stress levels.
  • Change pain relievers, if that’s what’s causing the symptoms.

In more persistent or severe cases, medications can be used to treat gastritis, including antacids, histamine 2 (H2) blockers, and proton pump inhibitors.

Treating gastritis generally involves taking medications called proton pump inhibitors to reduce stomach acid and thereby help relieve symptoms and promote healing.

Stomach acid irritates inflamed stomach tissue. It may also be recommended to avoid certain foods, drinks, or medications.

If gastritis is caused by an infection, that problem can also be treated. For example, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to kill a Helicobacter pylori infection.

Gastritis in pregnancy

Gastritis in pregnancy can be treated slightly differently, as some medications are not licensed for use in pregnant women.

An early diagnosis of gastritis in pregnancy will help prevent other conditions, such as stomach ulcers and the later complications they can create.

If the patient is already taking medicine for gastritis and becomes pregnant, she should speak with a doctor to make sure the medicines she is using are safe.

If they are not, the doctor can provide an effective alternative.

Complications of gastritis

Chronic gastritis can increase the risk of other health problems such as:

  • Peptic ulcer disease: painful sores in the upper digestive tract.
  • Gastric polyps: Small masses of cells that form on the inner lining of your stomach.
  • Stomach tumors: which can be cancerous and non-cancerous.

You can also have atrophic gastritis. This can happen if the gastritis is caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria or an autoimmune disorder.

Atrophic gastritis destroys the cells in the stomach lining that make digestive juices.

Thus increasing the risk of stomach cancer.

Prevention of gastritis

You can lower your risk of getting the disease by:

  • Have good hygiene habits, especially washing your hands. This prevents infection with the H. pylori bacteria.
  • Do not eat or drink food that irritates the stomach lining. This includes alcoholic beverages, caffeine, and spicy foods.
  • Do not abuse medications such as aspirin and over-the-counter pain and fever medications (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

Foods that help overcome gastritis

Foods that are high in antioxidants : Research shows that foods that are high in antioxidants, such as those rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, and flavonoids (found in berries, for example) can help reduce stomach inflammation and reduce the risk of digestive disorders or complications.

Natural sources of antioxidants are fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables.

These include onions, garlic, squash, bell peppers, green leafy vegetables, artichokes, asparagus, celery, fennel, seaweed, ginger, turmeric, crucifers, berries, apples and blueberries.

Probiotic foods: Consuming probiotics helps control Helicobacter pylori bacteria and treat infections in the gastrointestinal tract that usually cause gastritis and ulcers. These foods include vegetables, kombucha, yogurt, and kefir.

They have numerous health benefits: they reduce inflammation, normalize bowel movements, control allergic reactions or food intolerances, among others.

Probiotic foods and supplements that contain beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus may help regulate the amount of acid the stomach produces and reduce inflammation by significantly inhibiting the expression of cytokines and chemokines.

Consuming garlic: consuming garlic is an ancient natural remedy for gastrointestinal problems. Garlic has natural anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties.

Raw garlic is believed to be able to inhibit the growth of other harmful bacteria in the microbiome including Helicobacter pylori.

Licorice, fennel or anise: they are a traditional remedy for digestive problems, including ulcers and reflux. They have anti-inflammatory properties, help in the control of diabetes, acts as an antioxidant and is an antitumor, has antimicrobial and antiviral activity.

However, licorice can interact with medications used to treat high blood pressure.

Fiber-rich foods (nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes): A high-fiber diet has been shown to be beneficial for gastritis and other digestive disorders.

Some sources of fiber include nuts like almonds, seeds like chia or flax, legumes, beans, and whole grains (preferably gluten-free ones like oats, quinoa, wild rice, buckwheat, and amaranth).

Regular consumption of cranberry and apricot juice can prevent infection and reduce the inflammatory effects of Helicobacter pylori.

Healthy fats and proteins: the consumption of lean proteins, helps to repair the intestinal walls.

Salmon or sardines are foods high in omega-3 foods that are anti-inflammatory. Other healthy fats that are easy to digest include coconut or olive oil, avocado, butter, and ghee.

Flaxseed: Flaxseed can relieve mucosal irritation caused by gastritis.