Gastritis is not just one single illness. It is a condition resulting from several various causes. The most common of these causes include bacterial infection, fungal infection, parasitic infection, traumatic injury, or even the excessive or unprescribed use of certain pain relievers. The varying causes of gastritis has made it a very common medical problem. It has been estimated that at least 10% of the people who come to a hospital for a medical emergency with abdominal pains suffer from gastritis.
Stomach the Pain
Put simply, gastritis is the inflammation of the lining of the stomach, medically known as the gastric mucosa. While gastritis has many causes, all have the same symptoms: a gnawing pain on the upper abdomen that may become worse when you eat, vomiting, nausea, bloating, and loss of appetite.
There are two classifications of gastritis. One is acute gastritis which manifests without warning and is more likely to make you nauseous. Acute gastritis also causes a feeling of burning discomfort on the upper abdomen. The second classification is chronic gastritis which develops over a period of time. Most people don’t experience any outright symptoms of chronic gastritis but to those who do, it usually manifests as a dull pain and feeling of fullness after only a few bites of food.
Rarely does gastritis induce stomach bleeding and when it does, it’s not usually severe. However, if you start to vomit blood or if your stool has a black, tarry property to it, then call your doctor as soon as possible. You may be suffering from something that is much more severe.
Your stomach has a mucus-lined barrier that covers its inner walls. The barrier protects the walls from the acids that digest your food. When this barrier is weakened or destroyed, your stomach inflames and that is when you develop gastritis.
There are a number of factors that can erode this barrier. Among them are:
- Bacterial infection. The most common bacteria that causes gastritis is the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria. About half of the world’s population is said to be infected by the bacterium, and it can be passed on from person to person, but they normally don’t get any complications from having the bacterium. Those who do, however, get gastritis because H. pylori breaks down the stomach’s coating.
- Too much alcohol use. Alcohol can erode your stomach lining.
- Pain relievers. Using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may reduce an important substance that helps in preserving the lining of your stomach.
- Stress. Stress due to major surgery, trauma, or severe infections can cause acute gastritis.
- Auto-immune gastritis. Auto-immune gastritis is relatively rare but it happens. The condition occurs when your body attacks the cells that make up your stomach’s lining.
Getting Rid of Gastritis
Since there are many causes of gastritis, methods of treating and getting rid of them will depend on the particular case of gastritis you have.
- Treat stomach acids. Stomach acids irritate any inflamed tissue in your stomach lining, causing further inflammation and pain. In order to treat gastritis, neutralize or lessen stomach acid. There are several ways you can go about doing this:1) By antacids – Antacids like Maalox can be used to treat mild gastritis. They neutralize excess stomach acid and give fast relief.2) By acid blockers – If antacids are not enough, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications like Pepcid or Zantac that helps reduce the amount of acid that your stomach produces.
3) By pump inhibitors – There are medications that reduce the acid by blocking the action of tiny pumps in the cells that secrete the acid in your stomach. Examples of these are Prilosec, Aciphex, and Nexium.
Your doctors may also treat the H. pylori bacteria in your stomach via antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors.
- Exercise. Any form of exercise that helps in increasing your breathing and heart rate also helps in stimulating the activity of your intestinal muscles. Food waste, then, can move quickly through your intestines. A good form of exercise is aerobics.
- Maintain a healthy weight. While it is true that gastritis can affect anyone regardless of weight, other digestive problems such as bloating, heartburn and constipation tends to happen more to people who are overweight. Such problems can facilitate or increase gastritis.
- Eat properly. Eat moderate amounts and at regular times. Relax while eating. Doing so will help your digestive system break down foods properly. Also, avoid foods that are spicy, fatty, or acidic. They contribute to the already existing stomach acids.
- Minimize alcohol consumption. Alcohol erodes your stomach linings. If you already gastritis, it will exacerbate the condition, increasing pain and inflammation.
- Don’t smoke. Like alcohol, smoking also erodes the protective lining of your stomach, making it more susceptible to gastritis and ulcer. Smoking also causes an increase in the production of stomach acid, delays healing of the stomach, and is one of the leading causes of stomach cancer.
- Switch your pain relievers. If your pain relievers contribute to the increase of getting gastritis, then try switching to another pain reliever. If possible, about NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Go for pain relievers containing acetaminophen instead.
Remember that if your gastritis lasts longer than usual, have yourself checked by your doctor. If the pain becomes unbearable, do the same. You may be suffering from something that is far deadlier than simple gastritis.