Acute Gastritis: Temporary Pain Symptoms and Treatment

Acute gastritis is the sudden inflammation of the lining of the stomach. It can cause stomach pain and discomfort that goes away in time.

The lining of the stomach is very strong, but it can be irritated by bacteria, medications, or certain foods. Irritation can lead to inflammation and pain.

This article will discuss acute gastritis symptoms and causes, how it differs from chronic gastritis, and ways to prevent it. It will also cover holistic and standard medical treatments.

Woman experiencing stomach pain

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What Does Acute Gastritis Do to the Stomach?

The stomach's lining (gastric mucosa) protects it against infection and stomach acid (a fluid that helps you digest food). Acute gastritis happens when the stomach lining is irritated and becomes inflamed. When the lining is not able to protect the stomach, an ulcer can form. A stomach ulcer can cause serious complications, such as stomach bleeding.

Acute gastritis can cause other complications like gastric polyps, stomach tumors (cancerous and noncancerous), and atrophic gastritis. Atrophic gastritis kills the cells that make the stomach's digestive juices. However, atrophic gastritis usually only happens if the gastritis is caused by a Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection.

Acute vs. Chronic Gastritis

There are several differences between acute and chronic gastritis. One of the main differences is how long someone suffers from the condition. Acute gastritis lasts for a short period of time, whereas chronic gastritis can continue for months or years. Other differences include:

Acute gastritis:

  • Sudden onset
  • Caused by irritants of the stomach lining like medications, alcohol, and infections
  • Usually goes away when the irritant is removed
  • Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite

Chronic gastritis:

  • Persistent inflammation and damage to the stomach lining
  • Usually caused by an H. pylori infection
  • Can be asymptomatic (no symptoms)

Causes

Acute gastritis has several possible causes, including:

  • H. pylori: This bacterium is one of the most common causes of gastritis. If left untreated, it can remain in the stomach for a person's entire life.
  • Medications: Using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil (ibuprofen), aspirin, or Aleve (naproxen), for long periods can decrease the protection of the stomach lining.
  • Smoking: Smoking raises the risk of getting an H. pylori infection and can irritate the stomach lining.
  • Spicy foods: These can irritate the lining of the stomach.
  • Alcohol: Heavy alcohol use can irritate and erode the lining of the stomach.
  • Bile reflux: When bile backs up into the stomach and esophagus, it can irritate the lining of the stomach.
  • Autoimmune disease: Pernicious anemia is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body is unable to digest vitamin B12.

Less common causes include kidney failure, being on a ventilator, infection from cytomegalovirus, or herpes simplex virus.

Symptoms

The most common symptom of acute gastritis is abdominal pain. Other symptoms include:

  • Heartburn
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Belching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal fullness
  • Stomach bloating

Gastritis can cause stomach bleeding, which has a separate set of symptoms. These include black stools and vomit with a coffee-ground appearance.

Diagnostic Testing

Diagnosing gastritis starts by making an appointment with a healthcare provider. During your visit, they will examine the stomach and ask about your health history and lifestyle.

A gastritis diagnosis can be determined based on information alone. If a cause cannot be found, however, further testing may be needed.

In some cases, an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), or upper endoscopy, will need to be done to see the inside of the stomach. This procedure involves placing a small instrument inside the esophagus and into the stomach. It allows healthcare providers to see the walls of the stomach and take small samples to be examined in a lab (biopsy).

Other diagnostic testing may include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) test to check for a low blood count
  • H. pylori test to check for presence of the bacteria
  • Stool test to look for blood in the stool

Treatment and Prevention

Gastritis can be a painful condition with waves of discomfort that come and go. Finding and avoiding triggers that cause stomach pain can help relieve symptoms. Some triggers include spicy foods, alcohol, and smoking. If these changes don't make a difference, then gastritis is usually treated with medication that lowers the acid levels in the stomach.

There are three types of medications that are used to treat acute gastritis:

  • H2 blockers: Pepcid (famotidine) is a common medication choice in this category. It reduces the amount of acid produced in the stomach.
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): Prilosec (omeprazole) and Protonix (pantoprazole) are two choices from this medication category that reduce acid in the stomach.
  • Antacids: These medications neutralize stomach acid.

Gastritis that is caused by an H. pylori infection is treated with a PPI and antibiotics.

Holistic Management

Acute gastritis is a condition that can be managed with lifestyle changes and medication. Identifying certain lifestyle causes—such as spicy foods, heavy alcohol use, and smoking—and making changes to avoid them can reduce your likelihood of developing acute gastritis.

Gastritis caused by H. pylori is typically treated with a PPI and antibiotics, but certain natural products and foods may also help. According to the World Journal of Gastroenterology, some of these foods include:

It's important to talk to a healthcare provider before treating gastritis with natural products. They may interfere with certain medications or have unintended effects.

Summary

Acute gastritis is a condition that comes on quickly due to stomach irritation and inflammation. Spicy food, alcohol, and an H. pylori infection are all possible causes. A healthcare provider can make a diagnosis based on reported symptoms or with additional diagnostic testing. Treatment involves removing anything that could irritate the stomach and medication, if necessary.

A Word From Verywell

Acute gastritis may feel like a bad stomachache that goes away after a few days. If you have stomach pain with no known cause, make sure to contact your healthcare provider. Acute gastritis can turn into chronic gastritis, which may lead to further complications. If you are diagnosed with acute gastritis, consider making lifestyle changes that can not only relieve your stomach symptoms, but also improve your overall health.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When does acute gastritis go away?

    Acute gastritis can last for days to a couple of weeks. Symptoms tend to improve with treatment. A healthcare provider can prescribe the right medications to alleviate the symptoms of acute gastritis.

  • How do you know if you have acute gastritis?

    The symptoms of acute gastritis include abdominal pain, bloating, belching, loss of appetite, and fullness. These symptoms can mimic other conditions. Talk to a healthcare provider to get an accurate acute gastritis diagnosis.

  • What should you eat and drink with acute gastritis?

    Avoid eating foods that irritate the stomach, such as spicy foods, alcohol, coffee, and acidic fruit. If something hurts the stomach, then avoid it in the future.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Johns Hopkins. Gastritis.

  2. MedlinePlus. Gastritis.

  3. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Gastritis: Overview.

  4. Medical University of South Carolina. Gastritis.

  5. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Definition & facts of gastritis & gastropathy.

  6. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Smoking and the digestive system.

  7. Takeuchi H, Trang VT, Morimoto N, Nishida Y, Matsumura Y, Sugiura T. Natural products and food components with anti-Helicobacter pylori activitiesWorld J Gastroenterol. 2014;20(27):8971-8978. doi:10.3748/wjg.v20.i27.8971

By Patty Weasler, RN, BSN
Patty is a registered nurse with over a decade of experience in pediatric critical care. Her passion is writing health and wellness content that anyone can understand and use.