Your Guide to Living With Gastritis

Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining. The condition can come on gradually and may last for a long time.

Although gastritis is not the same thing as heartburn, it can cause similar symptoms. Gastritis can also be treated with some medications used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)—for example, drugs that reduce stomach acid.

This article will go over what causes gastritis, what the symptoms are, how it's diagnosed, and the options for treatment.

Gastritis
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Symptoms of Gastritis

The most common symptoms of gastritis are:

Causes

The most common causes of gastritis are:

  • Taking aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., ibuprofen)
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Infection with Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) bacteria
  • Wearing down (erosion) of the protective layer of the stomach lining

The less common causes of gastritis include:

  • Eating or drinking caustic or corrosive substances (e.g., poisons)
  • Backflow of bile into the stomach (bile reflux)
  • Autoimmune disorders (e.g., pernicious anemia)
  • Excess gastric acid secretion (e.g., from stress
  • Viral infections (especially in people with a weak immune system)

Gastritis can come on suddenly (acute gastritis) or gradually (chronic gastritis).

Diagnosis

There are several tests that may be used to diagnose gastritis.

If you have symptoms of gastritis, your healthcare provider might one to do one or more of these tests.

  • Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy: For this procedure, a healthcare provider puts a thin tube containing a tiny camera (endoscope) in your mouth or nose and down into your stomach. The camera helps the provider see what the lining of the stomach looks like. They will check for inflammation and may take a tiny sample of tissue for tests (biopsy).
  • Complete blood count (CBC): This blood test is used to check your red blood cell count. If you do not have enough red blood cells (anemia) it might be from bleeding in your stomach caused by gastritis.
  • Fecal occult blood test: This test checks for blood in your stool. This can be a sign of bleeding somewhere in the digestive tract.
  • Breath test: A breath test can be used to look for H. pylori, a potential cause of gastritis.

Treatment

In gastritis, stomach acid irritates the inflamed tissue of the stomach.

Therefore, the treatment usually involves taking drugs to reduce stomach acid, which can help relieve symptoms and promote healing of the tissue.

Antacids or other medications such as Pepcid (famotidine) decrease or neutralize gastric acid in the stomach.

Proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec can be used to relieve symptoms and help the tissue heal.

Gastritis that is caused by a condition called pernicious anemia needs to be treated with vitamin B12.

If your gastritis is caused by H.pylori, your provider might prescribe antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors to clear up the infection.

Once the underlying problem is treated, gastritis usually gets better. However, you might need to avoid certain foods, beverages, or medicines that could cause the irritation to come back.

Do not stop taking a medication or start a treatment for gastritis without talking to your provider first.

Complications

If gastritis is not treated it can lead to stomach ulcers and stomach bleeding.

In some cases, chronic gastritis can increase your risk of stomach cancer.

Other complications of gastritis are:

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Gastric erosion
  • Anemia
  • Dehydration

When to Call Your Provider

If you're being treated for gastritis but your symptoms are not getting better, or they get worse, you need to call your healthcare provider.

You should also get in touch with your provider if you start having new symptoms, especially if they are worrying you.

When to Go to the ER

Sometimes, gastritis can become a medical emergency—for example, if you are experiencing a complication.

If you have sudden, severe symptoms you need to get medical care right away.

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if:

  • You have sudden, severe stomach pain
  • You have a high fever
  • You suddenly start vomiting a lot of blood or having a lot of bloody diarrhea
  • You cannot eat or drink without vomiting
  • You feel faint or pass out
  • Your heart is beating very fast
  • You are having trouble breathing

Living With Gastritis

Research has shown that what you eat is not to blame for gastritis.

That said, as you are healing and taking medication to reduce stomach acid, you may want to avoid foods that would require your stomach to make more acid.

For example, several foods and beverages can trigger heartburn and increase acid production in the stomach.

You may want to avoid these foods and focus on eating foods that can decrease acid production.

Several lifestyle modifications can also help manage gastritis symptoms, such as:

  • Eating six small meals instead of three big meals: This eating pattern keeps your stomach from getting too full and reduces gastric pressure.
  • Avoiding alcohol: Alcoholic beverages increase the production of stomach acid.
  • Using an antacid: Antacids, such as Tagamet, decrease or neutralize gastric acid.
  • Trying a probiotic. While they won't cure gastritis, some people find that probiotics in yogurt or in supplements help their digestive symptoms.
  • Quitting smoking: Smoking stimulates the production of stomach acid. If you smoke, your symptoms might get better if you quit.

Summary

Gastritis is a condition where the lining of your stomach is inflamed. It can come on suddenly or over time. While it can feel similar to heartburn, it's not the same condition.

Gastritis can cause stomach pain and nausea, especially when you eat. If there is bleeding in your stomach, you might notice blood in your stool or if you vomit.

The condition can be caused by several things, including medications, having certain health conditions, using substances, or getting infections. While eating certain foods might make your symptoms worse, diet is not a cause of gastritis.

Your provider can diagnose you with gastritis by looking inside your stomach with a special camera. They might also take a little piece of tissue from your stomach to look at under a microscope.

Some blood tests can help make the diagnosis by showing if you have low red blood cells (anemia), which can happen if your stomach is bleeding.

It's very important to treat gastritis to avoid complications. Having gastritis for a long time may increase your risk of health problems, including stomach cancer. There are medications and lifestyle changes that can help manage the symptoms and help your stomach lining heal.

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5 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.
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