Upset stomach, or gastritis, is a very common problem. Many causes of gastritis are related to lifestyle. Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, smoking, and eating spicy foods can all cause gastritis.
Gastritis can also be caused by some medicines, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. Some infections and diseases can cause gastritis. Stress, surgery, severe burns, and trauma are other possible causes.
Many people with gastritis have no symptoms at all. Some people, however, experience symptoms like upper abdominal pain and cramps. Often the pain is made worse by eating. Some people are less hungry or lose their appetite. Sometimes gastritis causes pain in the chest, and people think it is related to their heart.
Other symptoms of gastritis can include nausea and vomiting, bloating, belching or hiccups. You may have a feeling of fullness or burning in the stomach. And you may have a burning acid taste in the mouth. A few people get blood in their vomit or stool, a sign that the stomach lining may be bleeding. Blood in vomit looks like coffee grounds. Blood in stool often can’t be seen, but sometimes make the stool black and sticky. Bleeding in the stomach needs medical attention right away.
If you have symptoms of gastritis, your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and give you a physical exam. You may also have tests.
The most common test for gastritis is endoscopy, with a biopsy of the stomach. An endoscope is a flexible, lighted tube with a camera. It is guided through the mouth and throat, down into the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine. The doctor will look at these areas and may take a tissue sample for testing.
Another test is called an upper G-I series. G-I stands for gastrointestinal. This test is also called a barium swallow. For the test, you swallow a liquid that contains barium. This will make your digestive tract visible in an X-ray. X-ray images may show changes in your stomach lining, such as sores called ulcers.
You may have blood tests. One test checks for a type of bacteria called H. pylori, which has been linked to gastritis. Another blood test checks for anemia. This is a condition where a person does not have enough red blood cells. Anemia can be a sign of bleeding in the stomach. A stool test may also be done to check for blood.
Gastritis is often treated with medications and certain lifestyle changes. Together these can help to reduce stomach acid, relieve symptoms, and heal the stomach lining.
Avoid food, drinks, or medications that cause symptoms or irritate the stomach lining. These can include alcohol, caffeine, and acidic and spicy foods. If gastritis is due to smoking, ask your healthcare provider for help in quitting.
Medication called antacids can also help stop mild symptoms of gastritis. Many chewable and liquid antacids give quick relief. These make the stomach acid less acidic. Other drugs such as histamine-2 or H-2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors cause the stomach to make less acid. These are available over the counter and by prescription. Talk with your healthcare provider about which to take.
When gastritis is due to an illness or infection, that cause should be treated. Gastritis due to H. pylori is treated with medications to kill the bacteria, reduce stomach acid, and help the stomach heal.
Things to Remember
- Avoid things that cause your symptoms, such as alcohol, caffeine, acidic and spicy foods, and smoking.
- Medications can help make symptoms go away and heal the stomach.
- Signs of blood in vomit or stool need medical attention right away.
Gastritis is very common and easy to treat. Talk with your healthcare provider about your symptoms. He or she can help you find the best types of treatment for your needs.
What We Have Learned
Gastritis is not a common problem. True or false?
The answer is False. Gastritis is very common.
Most gastritis is a sign of infection. True or false?
The answer is False. There are many possible causes, including medicines such as NSAIDs, too much alcohol or caffeine and smoking.
Antacids can relieve mild gastritis symptoms. True or false?
The answer is True. Antacids can be very effective for treating mild symptoms.