Gastritis is inflammation of the lining of your stomach, which you may experience as a gnawing or burning pain in your stomach or upper abdomen. The term gastric refers to your stomach. This inflammation of the lining of your stomach, which is fairly common, has many causes. The lining of your stomach can become inflamed if you regularly take aspirin or certain other pain relievers that irritate the stomach. Drinking alcohol to excess can damage the lining of your stomach. Another common cause of gastritis is an infection with the same bug that can cause stomach ulcers. Sometimes what’s known as stress gastritis develops after traumatic injury or major surgery to the body.
Treatment of gastritis depends on the cause, and most causes are easy to diagnose and treat. Antacids or other medications to decrease or neutralize acid in your stomach usually temporarily relieve burning stomach symptoms but don’t promote healing. Most inflammation of the stomach improve rapidly with the correct treatment. Learn more about our recommended and personally endorsed treatment to quickly stop the burning in your stomach and never suffer another day…
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Signs and Symptoms of Gastritis
Signs and symptoms of Inflammation of the stomach may include:
- A gnawing or burning ache or pain (indigestion) in your upper abdomen, which some people describe as having a sour or burning stomach. Eating may worsen or improve the discomfort.
- Loss of appetite.
- Belching or bloating.
- A feeling of fullness in your upper abdomen after eating.
In most cases, the signs and symptoms of gastritis are relatively mild and short-lived. Occasionally, Inflammation of the stomach may cause stomach bleeding, but it’s rarely severe unless there’s also ulceration of your stomach lining. Signs of stomach bleeding include the vomiting of blood, which may resemble coffee grounds in its composition, and blood in your stools, which are often black or tarry.
The signs and symptoms of gastritis may depend on how long the problem has existed. If it occurs suddenly is called acute gastritis. In its acute phase, Inflammation of the stomach causes the classic nausea and pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen. If it develops gradually is called chronic gastritis, and its signs and symptoms may vary from those of acute. You may experience a dull pain in your upper abdomen and a feeling of fullness and loss of appetite after a few bites of food. Or for many people, chronic gastritis actually causes no signs or symptoms.
Inflammation of the stomach is just one of many common digestive problems with somewhat similar signs and symptoms. It differs from:
- Gastroenteritis. Also called stomach flu, gastroenteritis is usually due to a viral infection of the intestines. Signs and symptoms of gastroenteritis often include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and nausea or vomiting, as well as indigestion. And symptoms typically resolve within a day or two, whereas the discomfort of Inflammation of the stomach may be recurring.
- Heartburn. Heartburn is pain or a burning sensation behind the breastbone, often occurring after a meal. Heartburn is caused by the back flow of stomach acid into your esophagus, the tube that connects your throat to your stomach. With heartburn, you may also experience a sour taste and the sensation of food re-entering your mouth.
- Stomach ulcers. If a gnawing or burning pain in your stomach is persistent and severe, you may have an ulcer. Stomach (peptic) ulcers are open sores that develop on the inside lining of the stomach. The most prominent symptom of a stomach ulcer is pain. But ulcer pain is typically worse at night or when your stomach is empty. Stomach ulcers and gastritis share some of the same causes.
- Nonulcer dyspepsia. Dyspepsia is the medical term for indigestion. Nonulcer dyspepsia is a common disorder of the digestive tract that produces symptoms such as pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen similar to that caused by an ulcer, but tests show that you don’t have an ulcer. Inflammation of the stomach and nonulcer dyspepsia have similar symptoms but different causes. Nonulcer dyspepsia, which is common, often results simply from stress or your diet, eating foods that are upsetting to your stomach, such as overdoing spicy, fatty or fried foods.
Causes of Gastritis
Your stomach, a hollow, muscular sac, sits in the upper-left corner of your abdomen, just under your rib cage. The typical adult stomach is about 10 inches long and can expand to hold about 1 gallon of food and liquid. When your stomach is empty, its tissues fold in on themselves, a bit like a closed accordion. As your stomach fills and expands, the folds gradually disappear.
The two main jobs of your stomach are to help process food and to store food, gradually releasing it into your small intestine. When food arrives from your esophagus, a muscular ring at the joining of your esophagus and stomach (lower esophageal sphincter) relaxes to let it in. Your stomach walls, which are lined with layers of powerful muscles, then begin churning the food, mixing it into smaller and smaller pieces. At the same time, glands in the wall of your stomach pump out gastric juices — including enzymes and stomach acid. These juices help break down food further.
Hydrochloric acid is one of many gastric juices your stomach produces. This helpful but corrosive acid could dissolve your stomach itself if it weren’t for the protective sticky mucus lining your stomach walls.
Inflammation of the stomach occurs when the normal protective mechanisms in your stomach are overwhelmed and damage occurs to your stomach lining. The lining of your stomach then becomes inflamed. Common causes include:
- Bacterial infection.
May be caused by a common bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) — the same bug that’s to blame for most stomach ulcers. H. pylori lives and multiplies within the mucous layer that covers and protects the lining of your stomach. Often, H. pylori causes no problems. But sometimes, under certain conditions, it can damage the mucous layer and result in inflammation of your stomach lining — gastritis. If bacteria actually erode the tissue of your stomach lining, an ulcer develops. H. pylori may be the most common gastrointestinal infection in the world. Eighty percent of people in developing countries are infected. In the United States, 20 percent of young adults and half the adults older than age 60 are infected. Although it’s not clear exactly how H. pylori spreads, it appears to be transmitted from person to person by close contact. Most people become infected with H. pylori in childhood, and that infection remains throughout life unless antibiotics cure it.
- Regular use of pain relievers.
Certain medications — namely nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — can inflame the lining of your stomach. NSAIDs come in prescription and over-the-counter forms. Examples of nonprescription NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Aleve) and ketoprofen (Orudis). These commonly used pain relievers reduce a protective substance in your stomach called prostaglandin. Taken infrequently and short-term, NSAIDs usually don’t cause many stomach problems, especially if taken with antacids, food or milk. However, regular use or overuse may lead to gastritis, as well as stomach ulcers.
- Excessive alcohol use.
Alcohol can irritate and erode the mucous lining of your stomach. Abusing alcohol can give rise to gastritis.
- Cocaine use.
Cocaine can be damaging to the stomach, leading to stomach bleeding and gastritis.
Severe stress due to major surgery, traumatic injury, burns or severe infections may produce gastritis, along with ulcers and stomach bleeding.
- Autoimmune disorder.
Atrophic gastritis, can be caused by an underlying autoimmune disorder in which your immune system attacks healthy cells in your stomach lining. This causes the lining of your stomach to gradually thin (atrophy). In turn, your stomach produces less gastric acid. In addition, cells in your stomach that produce a substance called intrinsic factor, which helps you absorb vitamin B-12, may be affected by your immune system. An inability to absorb vitamin B-12 leads to a condition known as pernicious anemia. Severe atrophic gastritis and pernicious anemia often coincide and most commonly occur in older adults. Atrophic gastritis is a chronic form of gastritis and rarely causes any gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Crohn’s disease.
This bowel disease causes chronic inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract, infrequently including the stomach (gastritis). Signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease, an often painful and debilitating condition, include abdominal pain and watery diarrhea.
- Radiation and chemotherapy.
Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation may lead to inflammation of the lining of the stomach, leading to stomach ulcers and gastritis.
- Bile reflux disease.
Bile, a fluid that helps you digest fats, is produced in your liver and stored in your gallbladder. Your gallbladder is a small organ on the right side of your abdomen, just beneath your liver. Bile travels to your small intestine to aid in digestion through thin tubes collectively referred to as your bile duct. Normally, a ring-like sphincter muscle (pyloric valve) prevents the back flow of bile from your small intestine into your stomach. However, if this valve doesn’t work properly, bile can back up into your stomach causing inflammation (gastritis).
Other, less common forms result from more generalized diseases such as liver or kidney failure.
Prevention depends on the specific cause of the inflammation.
- Eat smart.
If you experience frequent indigestion, eat smaller, more frequent meals to buffer stomach acid secretion. In addition, avoid irritating foods such as spicy, citrus or highly seasoned items if you have this condition or stomach ulcers.
- Limit or avoid alcohol.
Excessive use of alcohol can irritate and erode the mucous lining of your stomach, causing inflammation and bleeding.
- Don’t smoke.
Smoking interferes with the protective lining of the stomach, making your stomach perhaps more susceptible. Smoking also increases stomach acid and delays stomach healing.
- Switch pain relievers.
If possible, avoid taking NSAIDs — aspirin, ibuprofen, ketoprofen and naproxen. These over-the-counter medications can cause or worsen your the burring symptoms. Some so called experts say to, switch to pain relievers that contain acetaminophen.
- Follow your doctor’s recommendations.
Your doctor may recommend that you take an over-the-counter antacid or acid blocker, truly not the best solution.
Treatment depends on the specific cause and may include lifestyle changes, medications or, rarely, surgery to treat an underlying disease or condition.
Medications for stomach acid
Stomach acid further irritates inflamed tissue in your stomach, causing pain. That’s why treatments that involve taking drugs to reduce or neutralize stomach acid, such as:
Antacids (Maalox, Mylanta, others) in liquid or tablet form are a common treatment for mild gastritis. Antacids neutralize stomach acid and can provide fast pain relief.
- Acid blockers.
If you’re troubled by excessive acid and antacids fail to provide relief, your doctor may give you a prescription drug such as cimetidine (Tagamet), ranitidine (Zantac), nizatidine (Axid) or famotidine (Pepcid). These drugs decrease the amount of acid your stomach produces.
- Proton pump inhibitors.
An even more effective way to reduce stomach acid is to shut down the acid “pumps” within acid-secreting stomach cells. Proton pump inhibitors reduce acid by blocking the action of these tiny pumps. They include the prescription medications omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), rabeprazole (Aciphex) and esomeprazole (Nexium). Another similar drug, pantoprozole (Protonix), can be taken orally or administered intravenously in the hospital. Proton pump inhibitors also appear to inhibit H. pylori activity.
- Cytoprotective agents.
These medications are designed to help protect the tissues that line your stomach and small intestine. They include the prescription medications sucralfate (Carafate) and misoprostol (Cytotec). If you’re taking NSAIDs regularly, your doctor may suggest that you also take one of these medications to protect your stomach. Another cytoprotective agent is bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol). In addition to protecting the lining of your stomach and intestines, bismuth preparations appear to inhibit H. pylori activity.
Medications to treat H. pylori
H. pylori infection is treated with antibiotics, sometimes given in combination with a proton pump inhibitor. Some such combinations of medications are highly effective, killing the bacteria up to 90 percent of the time.
Antibiotics most commonly prescribed for treatment of H. pylori include amoxicillin (Amoxil, Wymox), clarithromycin (Biaxin), metronidazole (Flagyl) and tetracycline (Achromycin V). Some pharmaceutical companies package a combination of two antibiotics together, with an acid suppressor or cytoprotective agent, specifically for treatment of H. pylori infection. These combination treatments are sold under the brand names Prevpac and Helidac.
You’ll need to take antibiotics for only one to two weeks, depending on the type and number your doctor prescribes. Other medications prescribed in conjunction with antibiotics, such as a proton pump inhibitor, generally are taken for a longer period.
To ensure that H. pylori has been eliminated, your doctor may test you after treatment. The breath test and the stool test are the preferred ways to check for remaining signs of H. pylori. The blood test may remain positive for months or longer despite the fact that the bacteria have been eliminated.
If the medication that you’re taking doesn’t seem to be working, your doctor may recommend that the medication be replaced with other drugs. For example, newer NSAIDs called COX-2 inhibitors, examples of which include celecoxib (Celebrex) and rofecoxib (Vioxx), cause fewer stomach problems than do traditional NSAIDs and may work for you. But talk to your doctor before stopping any prescribed drug on your own.
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