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Chronic gastritis and what I did about it

Gastritis (Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments)

I suffered chronic gastritis for years during my 20s (I’m now nearly 50), took a boatload of medication but this very little made any difference.  The symptoms might be managed for a while, but any cessation of the medication, and I’d be straight back into a world of hurt. The symptoms were typically worse during times of stress, and at the peak, I was taking a PPI (lansoprazole), Gaviscon and antacids on every day without much relief. The doctor attributed it to spicey foods and stress, which certainly made the symptoms worse. However, after the initial onset of the heartburn, I had stopped consuming all spices and switched to a rather bland diet.

I had two gastroscopies, biopsies and tests for H. Pylori, but everything was negative and the pain continued to be worse than ever before.  Ultimately, the symptoms were 100% alleviated with the following lifestyle changes:

  • I quit my job which I hated and went self-employed. Despite the several years of financial struggles that followed, long term this paid off both mentally, emotionally and financially.
  • I quit smoking and drinking alcohol 100%, I’ve never missed the alcohol, but I cannot pretend that I don’t miss smoking even now after all these years.  I have no doubt that it was less the actual stress that caused the heartburn but more the fact that I drank more alcohol when stressed that was the primary cause.
  • I began a high pro-biotic diet mostly through making my own, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha and so on. (Link opens in new window)
  • I increased the acidity of my food intake. Paradoxically, a low stomach pH can exacerbate gastric reflux.

I’ve been free of all heartburn and gastritis for many years, and my diet is largely very spicey.  I am a regular visitor to India and just love Indian food, which makes up the bulk of my diet. I am now free from heartburn and chronic gastritis.  Recently, after a GI infection from bad airplane food, I developed acute gastritis (infective), which was alleviated within 24 hours by consuming well-fermented sauerkraut.

Many ethnic populations have significantly low incidences of peptic ulcer and gastric cancer in spite of having very high prevalence of H. pylori infection. Incidentally, each ethnic population also has unique tradition of consuming fermented food and beverages that contain probiotics.

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Gastritis is a term used commonly by the public referred to as stomach discomfort. It is also known as “Upset Stomach” or “Indigestion.” It usually happens after eating something that disturbs your stomach and causes nausea, and vomiting. A pathologist makes the proper diagnosis of Gastritis after seeing the specimen inflammation and damage to the stomach lining seen during the biopsy under the upper endoscopy. The true use of the term gastritis refers to the chronic condition of stomach discomfort. For most people, Gastritis is not a serious condition, but with the mild symptoms, it can last for years in some people, and severe symptoms are usually associated with serious stomach inflammation.

Types of Gastritis
Mainly, there are two types of Gastritis

  1. Acute Gastritis
    Acute gastritis is a sudden inflammation of the stomach lining known as gastric mucosa. When endoscopy is performed by a gastroenterologist, the lining of the stomach appeared red, and some inflammatory cells are found, mainly the white blood cells known as leucocytes. There could be some acute holes in the surface lining, and some tiny bleeding areas are also found in the acute conditions of Gastritis.
  2. Chronic Gastritis
    Chronic Gastritis refers to the onset of the slow inflammation of the stomach lining. It is a slow grade but persistent damage to the stomach lining. The normal cells are destroyed, and stomach mucosa becomes thinner, loaded with the inflammatory cells, commonly the lymphocytes that indicate an immune response. Chronic gastritis lasts for years leading to severe conditions and sometimes become a cause of gastric cancer in some individuals.

When I worked in Accident and Emergency, about half the acute chest pain cases were found to be acute gastritis or “epigastric pain”.  The pain can be intense and on the first presentation, the patient may well feel like they are having a heart attack.  However, if in doubt, get it checked without delay. Just because someone has gastritis, this doesn’t mean they’ll never get a heart attack.

Main Risk Factors
Some factors might increase your risk of Gastritis

  1. Excessive use of pain relievers (anti-inflammatories)
    Excessive use of pain killers like Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can cause both acute and chronic Gastritis. Too much intake of these drugs reduces the substance that is protecting the lining of your stomach.
  2. Infections
    Certain bacteria cause stomach infection, among which Helicobacter pylori are often associated with infections, and in some people, the infection develops gastritis. Some people believe that the sensitivity to bacterial infection is caused by inheritance, while others believe that it is based on lifestyle choices.
  3. Excessive Alcohol Use
    Excessive intake of alcohol will make your stomach lining more susceptible to gastric juices. Too much alcohol intake will lead to acute gastritis in some individuals.
  4. Age Factor
    Age is a major risk factor for acute and chronic gastritis as in the older age, the stomach lining becomes thin, and the older person is more susceptible to infection by Helicobacter Pylori and autoimmune diseases.
  5. Stress and trauma
    Severe stress due to some kind of injury, burns, or infections sometimes lead to acute gastritis.
  6. Autoimmune Gastritis.
    It happens when the cells of the stomach lining start to attack the stomach lining and cause inflammation. Sometimes, this reaction could wear away by your stomach barrier. People with autoimmune disorders are more susceptible to autoimmune gastritis.

The main symptoms of gastritis include:

  • Pain or burning ache in the upper abdomen which may get better or worse after eating
  • A feeling of heaviness in the upper abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Indigestion
  • Tiny areas of bleeding

Diagnosing Gastritis
For the diagnosis of Gastritis, the doctor usually prescribes one of the following tests:

  • A stool test to check for the bleeding of the stomach.
  • A breath test to check the infection with H. Pylori. In this test, the patient drinks a colorless and tasteless liquid that contains radioactive carbon and blowing into a bag.
  • An endoscopy that is attached with a tiny camera that is passed down your esophagus and stomach to check for inflammation.
  • A barium solution is given to the patient who clearly shows an X-ray of the digestive system, and inflammation in the stomach should be checked.

The treatment of gastritis aims to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach to relieve the symptoms. Some people can treat gastritis by themselves by taking the food and some mild medicines that can heal the stomach lining.

Drugs to reduce symptoms

Antacids: These drugs neutralize the effect of drugs in your stomach and help to relieve pain.
Histamine Blockers: these drugs will reduce the production of acid in your stomach. Use it on Doctor Prescription.
Omeprazole: these are the proton pump inhibitors and block the acid production in your stomach more efficiently than histamine blockers. Low-dose PPI can be brought from pharmacies without Doctor’s prescription.

If gastritis is left untreated, it may lead to severe infections, stomach ulcers, and bleeding. Prolonged gastritis will make the stomach lining very thin, and in some cases, it might lead to stomach cancer. Keep an eye on the signs and symptoms of gastritis and see the doctor if the condition is not getting better.

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