What are the Symptoms, Causes and Treatments for Chronic Gastritis?
Gastritis is when the stomach becomes inflamed or irritated, usually caused by damage to the lining. When the problem persists over a long period of time or keeps returning its known as Chronic Gastritis. Symptoms will often appear gradually over time.
Chronic Gastritis is one of the most common forms of Gastritis affecting roughly 2 out of every 10,000 people, as opposed to Acute (sudden) gastritis which affects about 8 out of every 1,000 people.
Chronic Gastritis can be more difficult to heal compared to acute gastritis. It does depend greatly on how far it has been left to progress. If someone has left their symptoms untreated for months or years, the damage to the stomach lining will take longer to heal.
For some whose gastritis is very bad, it may mean that healing is not possible, and it may just be a case of managing the symptoms.
Causes of Chronic Gastritis
- Taking NSAIDS too often – (painkillers such as Aspirin and ibuprofen).
- Age – The stomach lining naturally thins with age
- Helicobacter H.Pylori infection – about 40% of the UK population have this bacteria in their stomach, many with no symptoms, but for many, it will go on to cause gastritis or ulcers. It is thought to be spread by bodily fluids, water, and food.
- Cocaine use
- Diets high in fats, oil and salt
- Bile reflux
What’s the difference between acute and chronic gastritis?
Acute gastritis tends to come on suddenly with more sharp pain, chronic gastritis symptoms appear more slowly and if pain experienced it tends to be duller but longer lasting
Symptoms of Chronic Gastritis
Symptoms of Gastritis vary greatly from person to person, but these are the common symptoms:-
- Gnawing burning pain in the stomach
- Feeling full after eating
- Pain when hungry or after eating
- Bleeding – this is usually caused by erosive gastritis
- Symptoms that don’t go away – If you treat an acute attack of Gastritis or indigestion type issue and everything seems fine for a while, but then symptoms return again and again this could be a sign of Chronic Gastritis.
Erosive gastritis (also known as reactive gastritis)
This is when the stomach lining has been worn away, and the tissues are exposed to acids
Erosive gastritis can cause peptic ulcers. If left untreated these can cause internal bleeding, which can be very dangerous, and even life-threatening. Symptoms of erosive gastritis may include:-
- Burning feeling in stomach
- Heavy feeling in gut
- Weakness and fatigue
- No appetite
How is gastritis diagnosed
- Medical history – Your GP will look at your history of digestive issues and what medications have been prescribed.
- Endoscopy – This is a procedure when a flexible thin tube in inserted down your throat and into your stomach, there is a small camera on the end of the tube so the doctor can see what is happening inside. A biopsy may also be taken at this time to check for H.H.Pylori bacteria.
- Blood test – A blood test may also be used to test for H.Pylori
- Breath test – This test will test for H.Pylori. You will be asked to swallow a liquid or capsule and then will need to blow into a bag. The breath test will show an increase in carbon dioxide.
When you should see a doctor
There are certain warning signs that should never be ignored.
- Blood in your poo (stool)
- Blood in your vomit
- Weight loss that is unexplained
- Extreme tiredness (it could be anaemia)
Treatment for Chronic Gastritis
Treatment for Gastritis will depend on what caused your gastritis in the first place. Some medication will be used to help kill off bacteria whereas some will be to reduce the acid in your stomach.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) – These are often prescribed by Doctors to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach, or to treat ulcers. There are various types that can be prescribed. If one doesn’t suit you and you are having side effects, then your doctor can swap you to another one. Some common types are Lansoprazole, Omeprazole and Nexium.
- Antibiotics – These will be used to treat bacterial infections such as H.Pylori.
- H2 Blockers – these work in a similar way to PPIs and work by reducing the acid in your stomach. Cimetidine and nizatidine are often prescribed. Ranitidine (zantac) was very popular but was recalled due to it containing carcinogenic properties.
- Antacids – These are the mildest of the medication and can often be bought over the counter. They help neutralise the acid in your stomach. Some examples are Gaviscon, Tums and Rennies.
Healing your Chronic Gastritis naturally
If your symptoms are not relieved by medication alone, it might be a good idea to try and rethink your lifestyle. Find some natural ways to help your body heal and stop the issues from returning time and time again.
I took PPIs for a couple of years and at first, they were very effective, and I would only need to take for a month at a time and my symptoms would disappear.
But over time my symptoms would return after a month or two and so I would take the PPIs again. It seemed like I was in a vicious cycle and one I didn’t want to stay in.
So, after one particular course of PPIs, I decided to wean myself off them slowly and avoid using them again in the future if possible.
I first looked at my diet and made sure I was following a bland and Gastritis friendly diet. Avoiding trigger foods that I know my body didn’t tolerate.
I also looked into supplements that I had heard about being very successful in treating Gastritis. I used Zinc L carnosine, slippery elm and probiotics, amongst others. For more information on how I healed using supplements, check out my post. Don’t want to take PPIs anymore, what’s the alternative?
I have now been 90% healed for some time and can eat and drink most things, although I will probably always stay away from certain trigger foods.
I do feel that coming off the PPIs was one of the best things I have done, it seems to have let my digestive system reset itself and work how it should be working. But some people will need to take them, especially if they are suffering with things like severe gastritis or ulcers. Its best to take the advice of your Doctor.