1Recognize gastritis. Gastritis is a general medical term that can refer to many different diseases, such as dyspepsia (indigestion), peptic ulcer disease caused by H. pylori, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Not everyone has symptoms when they have gastritis. However, you may have gastritis if you suffer from the following symptoms:
- A burning pain in your stomach. It may improve or worsen when you eat.
- An aching feeling in your stomach.
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal discomfort
- Early satiety (feeling full after only a little bit of food)
2Go to the doctor if you think you may have gastritis. Get medical attention if you suffer from gastritis for longer than a week.
- Go to the doctor immediately if you are vomiting blood, have streaks of fresh red blood in your stool, or black tarry stools.
- Go to the doctor immediately if you experience weight loss, painful swallowing, and bloody vomiting. You may need an EGD test.
- If you use prescription or over-the-counter painkillers, particularly those with aspirin, be sure to tell your doctor. Some painkillers may cause gastritis.
3Discuss your medical history with your doctor. This may help your doctor determine whether you are likely to be vulnerable to gastritis. Risk factors include:
- An infection with “Helicobacter pylori”. Not all people who have this bacteria develop gastritis.
- Regular use of over-the-counter painkillers including aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc.), or naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox). These medications may make your stomach lining vulnerable to being irritated by your stomach acids.
- Your age. The stomach lining gets thinner as you get older, which increases your vulnerability.
- Alcohol use. Be honest with your doctor about your drinking. Alcohol can irritate your stomach lining, making it more vulnerable to your stomach acids.
- Use of tobacco
- Obesity (where your BMI is over 30)
- Hiatal hernia
- Stress. If you have been under severe stress, such as recovering from surgery, an injury, burns, or a severe infection, this increases your risk for developing gastritis.
- An autoimmune disorder. Tell your doctor if you have an autoimmune disorder such as Hashimoto’s disease, type 1 diabetes, or if you know you have a B12 deficiency. These disorders make you more likely to develop autoimmune gastritis. This occurs when your immune system attacks the lining of the stomach.
4Get additional tests if your doctor recommends it. Because gastritis can have many different causes, your doctor may need to do additional tests to determine exactly what is causing it for you. Your doctor may suggest:
- A test for H. pylori. The doctor may test for H. pylori bacteria in several different ways. It can be done through a blood test, a stool test, or a breath test. If your doctor recommends a breath test, you will drink a cup of liquid that has radioactive carbon in it. It is clear and has no taste. If you have H. pylori, they will break down the fluid when it reaches your stomach, so it you will have it on your breath. A stool test is where a stool sample is taken and tested in the lab for H. pylori. It’s considered equally effective to the breath test.
- An esophagogastroduodenoscopy, or an EGD. During this procedure, the doctor uses a thin tube with a camera on it to look at your digestive tract. The images will show areas of inflammation. If the doctor finds an area that looks inflamed a small tissue sample may be taken and tested for H. pylori.
- An x-ray. During this test you will drink white liquid containing barium. The barium coats your esophagus, stomach, and intestines, making them easier to see on the X-ray. This allows your doctor to look for areas with problems.
- If H. pylori is detected by one of these tests and you are treated for it, it is recommended to have a repeat test in 4-6 weeks to confirm eradication.
Relieving Gastritis with Medications
1Ask your doctor about changing painkillers. Some painkiller medications, including commonly used over-the-counter medications, can cause gastritis. They are responsible for 15-30% of ulcers. Always discuss any changes in medications with your doctor before making them, including changes in over the counter-medications. If your doctor thinks switching may be helpful to you, acetaminophen (Tylenol) is less likely to give you gastritis than:
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc.)
- Naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox)
2Take an antacid. These medications, such as Tums, neutralize your stomach acid, making it less acidic and less irritating to the lining of your stomach. They are fast acting.
- They can be purchased at your local drug store or grocery store without a prescription and taken as needed.
- Side effects can include constipation or diarrhea.
3Kill bacteria with antibiotics. If your doctor expects that an H. pylori infection is causing your gastritis, you may be prescribed antibiotics to kill it. Always take the full course of antibiotics even if your symptoms subside. This is important for not creating strains that are resistant to antibiotics. Your doctor will most likely prescribe these three medications for H. pylori:
- Amoxicillin OR metronidazole OR levofloxacin, depending on if you are allergic to any specific antibiotics
- Omeprazole or another PPI
4Take histamine (H-2) blockers. These medications lower the amount of acid your body releases into your digestive tract. This helps to alleviate discomfort and let inflamed tissues heal. These medications are available by prescription and as over-the-counter products. Note, however, that these do not work immediately. Their mechanism of action is to reduce the amount of acid pumped in the stomach (at the molecular level). This can take 3-4 weeks, and if the drug is stopped, the effect can be lost. Common ones include:
- Ranitidine (Zantac)
- Famotidine (Pepcid)
- Cimetidine (Tagamet)
- Nizatidine (Axid)
5Try proton pump inhibitors to reduce acid. These medications reduce the amount of acid your body produces and are more effective than H2 blockers. These medications are available over-the-counter and in prescription strengths. If you take them for long periods of time you may need to take calcium supplements to reduce your risk of hip, wrist, and spine fractures. Common proton pump inhibitors include:
- Omeprazole (Prilosec)
- Lansoprazole (Prevacid)
- Rabeprazole (Aciphex)
- Esomeprazole (Nexium)
- Dexlansoprazole (Dexilant)
- Prantoprazole (Protonix)
Relieving Gastritis with Lifestyle Changes
1Cut down on foods that may irritate the lining of your stomach. Note that this tip will work only if you are suffering from GERD, not if you are suffering from peptic ulcer disease. Foods that are particularly likely to do this include:
- Heavy, greasy, fried, or fatty foods. Avoid foods that are deep fried such as French fries and many types of fast foods. These foods are likely to make your gastritis worse.
- Acidic foods. Foods that are acidic will not neutralize your stomach acids. Avoid large doses of things like vinegar, tomatoes, lemon juice and other acidic fruit juices.
- Spicy foods. Spices, including hot chili peppers, may also irritate the tissues of your digestive tract.
2Eat smaller meals more often. This will prevent your digestive system by being overloaded at any one time. The small meals will keep a more constant flow of food through your system, reducing the amount of time that your stomach acids are sitting in an empty stomach.
- Reduce the amount that you eat at breakfast, lunch and dinner. This will make you hungry sooner and you can add light snacks between breakfast and lunch and then again between lunch and dinner.
- Don’t give in to the urge to snack on unhealthy, fried foods that will aggravate your gastritis. Avoid French fries, potato chips, and anything that is deep fried.
3Reduce your alcohol intake. Alcohol can irritate the lining of your stomach and bring on an episode of acute gastritis. If you know you have gastritis, you may want to abstain from alcohol completely until it heals. If you do drink alcohol, keep it moderate and stay within the recommended limits.
- Women and men over 65 should drink no more than one drink per day. Men under 65 should drink no more than two drinks per day.
- A drink is a 12 ounce beer, a 5 ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5 ounce shot of hard alcohol.
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