What is gastritis?

Gastritis refers to inflammation in the lining of the stomach. Gastritis can be acute or chronic and it can occur in people of all ages. Symptoms of gastritis include upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating, belching, loss of appetite and weight loss. Acute gastritis causes more severe symptoms but usually they will resolve within a few days if treated properly. On the other hand, chronic gastritis causes symptoms which can persist for a very long time and severely affect a patient’s quality of life. There are many factors which can cause gastritis but the commonest ones are Helicobacter pylori infection and long term use of medications such as aspirin and steroids. There are a small number of patients in which the underlying cause for their gastritis cannot be found.

What to do when I have gastritis?

Chronic pain is one of the most distressing symptoms known to man and chronic gastritis causes long-term pain which can adversely affect a patient’s physical and mental health. Therefore, the most important thing to do when a person experiences symptoms of gastritis is to seek help as soon as possible. An underlying cause can be found for most of gastritis cases. As long as the underlying cause is treated, the gastritis will resolve and the patient can regain their previous quality of life.

Most causes of gastritis can be treated with simple methods. For gastritis caused by intake of medications, stopping the intake of the medication for a few days will usually resolve the symptoms. For those who are unable to stop taking certain medications such as aspirin, a medication which suppresses stomach acid production such as omeprazole can be taken together to prevent gastritis. Helicobacter pylori infection can be treated with a combination of antibiotics and acid suppressant medications.

What to do when the treatments don’t work?

As long as the underlying cause can be found, there will always be a treatment for it. For example, if the treatment for Helicobacter pylori infection fails to resolve the symptoms, another course of treatment with stronger antibiotics and acid suppressant medications can be given. However, if the symptoms persist despite multiple treatments, it may be wise to ask for a referral for a specialist. Further investigations such as endoscopy with stomach tissue biopsy can be done to find out the underlying causes for resistant gastritis.

What to do if the underlying cause of gastritis cannot be found?

In a small number of patients, the underlying cause of gastritis cannot be found. In these patients, supportive treatments are given. Supportive treatments usually involve the use of a combination of medications, lifestyle changes and psychological therapy to help patients cope with gastritis. Supportive treatments are also useful for patients whose treatments may take a longer time to work and hence they will have to endure the symptoms of gastritis for longer periods.

How do I live with gastritis?

There are many ways to help a person live with gastritis. One of the most common methods to help a patient live with gastritis is by using medications. For many patients, acid suppressant medications are used to reduce the inflammation caused by acid corrosion on the stomach lining. One of the most common medications used are antacids such as milk of magnesia. Antacids neutralise stomach acid and reduces corrosion and inflammation of the stomach lining. If antacids do not work well, more potent medications like H2 antagonists (ranitidine, famotidine) and proton pump inhibitors (omeprazole, pantoprazole, esomeprazole) can be used to reduce stomach acid production and promote healing of the stomach lining. Taking these medications as directed by the doctor will help alleviate the symptoms of gastritis.

Other than medications, lifestyle changes are also very important to reduce the severity of the symptoms. Changing to a healthier diet has been shown to improve the quality of life for many patients. A bland diet which is low in natural acids and fat will prevent irritation and reduce inflammation of the stomach lining. Lean meat and leafy green vegetables are good examples of food which is good for patients with gastritis. Patients should also avoid spicy food, alcohol and smoking as these will increase the production of stomach acid and worsen the symptoms of gastritis. Patients are also encouraged to eat 5 or 6 small meals a day instead of three big meals to relieve gastric discomfort.

The symptoms of gastritis often cause a lot of psychological stress to patients. Therefore, it is very important to have good mental support to cope with the symptoms of gastritis. For most patients, regular exercise is a good method to relieve stress. Regular exercise also helps to regulate hormones in the body and improve the mood. Getting adequate sleep at night will also help to relieve stress. Other than that, meditation exercises and yoga are also useful methods to improve mindfulness and reduce negative emotions. For patients who experience more severe psychological stress, psychological therapy will be offered. Psychologists can help patients find out more efficient ways to cope with the symptoms of gastritis. Effective sessions with a psychologist or psychotherapist can help patients to reframe their mind to improve their quality of life. During these sessions, patients will be guided to realise that they should spend less time reinforcing and reiterating the pain from their symptoms, and spend more time thinking about the positive steps they are making towards a meaning life.

Learn more by reading chronic gastritis guide by DoctorOnCall on their website.

By Skyler West

Piper Skyler West: Piper, a sports medicine expert, shares advice on injury prevention, athletic performance, and sports health tips.