Gastritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach. There are many possible causes of this disorder including an infection, an irritant, an autoimmune disorder, or a backup of bile into the stomach. The stomach lining may be "eaten away," leading to sores (peptic ulcers) in the stomach or first part of the small intestine. Left untreated, these ulcers may bleed. Gastritis can occur suddenly (acute gastritis) or gradually (chronic gastritis). In most cases, gastritis does not permanently damage the stomach lining and sometimes no specific cause of the inflammation is identified.

Signs and Symptoms

The most common symptoms of gastritis are stomach upset and pain. The following are other symptoms of gastritis.


Gastritis can be caused by infection, irritation, autoimmune disorders (disorders caused by the body's immune response against its own tissues), or backflow of bile into the stomach (bile reflux). Gastritis can also be caused by a blood disorder called pernicious anemia.

Infections can be any of the following types: Irritation can be caused by a number of things, such as the following: Other causes for gastritis are very rare. These include:

Risk Factors


There are several tests that may be done to make a diagnosis. These include endoscopy of the stomach, where a thin tube that has a light and a camera on the end is inserted down your throat to your stomach. This allows the doctor to see into your stomach and, if necessary, take samples (called a biopsy) from the lining. The laboratory tests you may need will depend on the specific cause of your gastritis. A stool test may be used to check for the presence of blood, or a biopsy may be taken of the tissues of your esophagus or stomach to determine the cause of your discomfort. A breath test may detect H. pylori, or samples from your esophagus or stomach may be taken to look for this organism.

Preventive Care

Making lifestyle changes, such as avoiding the long-term use of irritants (aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, coffee, and alcohol) will go a long way to preventing gastritis and its complications like an ulcer. Stress reduction through relaxation techniques including yoga, tai chi, and meditation can also be quite helpful.

Treatment Approach

The treatment of gastritis depends on the cause of the problem. Some causes may resolve by themselves over time, or may be relieved by stopping the ingestion of irritating substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and aspirin. Some dietary changes will no doubt be recommended, although the bland diet often prescribed in the past is no longer thought to be necessary. Medications are often necessary to relieve symptoms, eradicate an infection such as H. pylori, and prevent or treat complications from gastritis such as an ulcer.


The cure for gastritis caused by ingesting irritating substances is to stop the long-term use of these substances, which may include:


Helicobactor pylori infestation, a common bacterial cause of gastritis and ulcers, is typically treated with a combination of drugs. The typical combination includes antibiotics, a bismuth compound, and a proton pump inhibitor. (Proton pump inhibitors reduce stomach acid secretion.) These drugs are usually taken for at least 14 days.

In addition to the medications used for Helicobacter pylori infection, other medications that may be used to relieve symptoms of gastritis include those that reduce stomach acid secretion: Drugs that reduce stomach acid secretion help protect against or treat ulcers. Other drugs used for ulcers include:

Nutrition and Dietary Supplements

Eating a diet high in fiber may not only cut your risk of developing ulcers in half, but fiber-rich foods may also speed the healing of ulcers. Fruits and vegetables are particularly protective sources of fiber and seem to reduce the amount of inflammation in the lining of the stomach; fruit juice appears to have this benefit as well. Plus, if you didn't have enough reasons to avoid fat in your diet already, animal studies suggest that high fat foods may lead to gastritis.

Consumption of foods and beverages that irritate the lining of the stomach or increase the stomach acids should be avoided completely or reduced, and known allergens eliminated. These often include: Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
Very preliminary evidence from test tube and animal studies suggest that gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) from evening primrose oil (EPO) may have anti-ulcer properties. GLA is an essential fatty acid (EFA) in the omega-6 family that is found primarily in plant-based oils, including EPO and borage seed oil. Although studies are promising, it is too early to know how this might apply to people with gastritis.

Healthy or "friendly" organisms, called probiotics, inhabit the lining of the intestines and protect us from the entrance of "bad" infections that can cause disease. Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus) is the most commonly used probiotic. In test tube studies, L. acidophilus and other probiotics were able to kill or slow down the growth of H. pylori; research is needed to understand whether that benefit would occur in people. One way in which probiotics may help is by reducing side effects, such as diarrhea and taste disturbance, from medications used to treat H. pylori.

Vitamin B12
People with pernicious anemia and H. pylori infection are deficient in vitamin B12. Supplementation with this vitamin may be used to treat both. Good dietary sources of vitamin B12 include fish, dairy products, organ meats (particularly liver and kidney), eggs, beef, and pork.

The following appear promising, but more research is needed before these nutrients become a part of treatment for gastritis, its symptoms, or its complications:


Herbs may cause side effects or interact with medications. They should, therefore, be used with caution and only under the guidance of a professionally trained and qualified herbalist. With that said, there are many herbs, some of which are described below, that may be recommended by an herbal specialist for symptoms of gastritis. The herbalist would work with you to individualize your treatment. Others
Animal studies show that certain individual herbal extracts as well as a combination of these extracts show promise in treating ulcers. The combination remedy also shows promise for treating dyspepsia (upper abdominal symptoms such as nausea, loss of appetite, and heartburn). In a study on 137 people with dyspepsia (indigestion), the combination preparation was as effective as the drug cisapride (a heartburn medication). More studies are needed before this combination becomes accepted treatment.

The combination preparation included the following extracts:


Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following remedies for the treatment of gastritis symptoms (such as nausea and vomiting) based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account your constitutional type. A constitutional type is defined as your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for you individually.

Other Considerations

Return to your healthcare provider if your symptoms do not get better or if they get worse. Do not ignore potentially life-threatening symptoms such as vomiting blood or blood in your stool. Be aware that you may not see frank blood in your stool; it may simply look very dark, even black. Be sure to see your healthcare provider regularly, and call him or her if there is any change in your symptoms.

If you are on both antibiotics and vitamin B12, take them at different times of day because vitamin B12 interferes with antibiotic absorption.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should consult with your physician before taking any medication, including herbs.

Borage seed oil, and possibly other sources of GLA, should not be used during pregnancy because they may be harmful to the fetus and induce early labor.

Prognosis and Complications

Symptoms of H. pylori infection are usually relieved with treatment, but you will most likely be asked to see your doctor four weeks or more after stopping your drug regimen. Follow-up is very important, because the H. pylori bacteria is linked to stomach cancer.

Peptic ulcers may develop when digestive juices damage the lining of the stomach or the first part of the small intestine (called the duodenum). These ulcers can generally be treated effectively with lifestyle changes and medication.


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