Gastritis is a common term for types of gastroenteritis. Gastritis is often a direct result of infection with the type of bacteria that causes stomach ulcers.
However, regular use of some pain relievers and excessive alcohol consumption can also contribute to gastritis.
Gastritis can occur in two general ways. These are acute gastritis that comes on suddenly or chronic gastritis that comes on slowly over time.
In some cases, gastritis can cause ulcers and an increased risk of stomach cancer. However, in many cases gastritis is not a serious condition and will heal quickly with the right treatment.
What Causes Gastritis ?
Any condition that can cause inflammation of the stomach lining can lead to gastritis. The weakening or injury of the mucus-lined barrier that protects the inner wall of the stomach causes the gastric juice, which the stomach uses for digestion, to damage the stomach lining and become infected.
However, a number of diseases and medical conditions can increase an individual's risk of gastritis, including Crohn's disease and sarcoidosis, a condition of uncontrolled increase in the number of inflammatory cells in the body.
Conditions that increase the risk of gastritis include primarily bacterial infection. Although infection with Helicobacter pylori is the most common strain among human infections worldwide, only a small cluster of people infected with this infection develop gastritis or other related upper gastrointestinal disorders.
Medical professionals therefore believe that the reasons for being vulnerable to this bacterium may be inherited or may result from lifestyle choices such as smoking and diet.
Regular use of pain relievers can cause gastritis. Painkillers can cause both acute gastritis and chronic gastritis because regular use of painkillers or overdose of drugs can lead to a decrease in the amount of an important substance in the protective lining of the stomach that helps protect it
The stomach lining tends to thin with age. In addition, older individuals are more likely to have Helicobacter pylori infection or autoimmune disorders, increasing the risk of gastritis.
Alcohol can irritate and erode the stomach lining as a result of excessive alcohol use, making the stomach more vulnerable to digestive juices. Excessive alcohol use is more likely to cause acute gastritis.
Severe stress due to severe surgery, injury, burns or serious infections can cause acute gastritis.
The body's own immune system attacking stomach cells can cause a type of gastritis called autoimmune gastritis. The cells that make up the stomach lining are worn down by the immune system and weakening of the stomach's protective barrier is observed.
It is more common in individuals with other autoimmune disorders, including autoimmune gastritis, Hashimoto's disease, and type 1 diabetes. Autoimmune gastritis is also associated with vitamin B12 deficiency.
Besides these, other medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS, Crohn's disease, and parasitic infections can cause both acute and chronic gastritis.
Gastritis, if not treated properly, can lead to stomach ulcers and stomach bleeding. Some rare types of chronic gastritis can increase the risk of stomach cancer, especially if it causes changes in the stomach lining or lining cells.
How to Prevent Gastritis ?
Although it is not clear how the H. Pylori infection, which causes the most common type of gastritis, spreads, there has been some evidence that it can be transmitted from person to person through contaminated food and water.
It is possible for an individual to protect himself or herself from infections such as H. pylori by practicing safe hygiene, i.e. washing hands frequently with soap and water and choosing to eat fully cooked food.
In order to be protected from other types of gastritis, it is necessary to act in accordance with each type. For example, limiting alcohol consumption or being careful in the use of pain medication will prevent gastritis caused by these.
What Are the Symptoms of Gastritis ?
Signs and symptoms of gastritis primarily include a scraping, burning sensation or pain in the upper abdomen. These discomforts may be alleviated or increased by eating. At the same time, nausea, vomiting and a feeling of fullness in the abdomen after eating are among the symptoms of gastritis. However, gastritis may not always cause signs or symptoms.
Almost everyone can suffer from indigestion and stomach irritation several times in their lifetime. Most cases of indigestion are short-lived and do not require medical care. However, if the signs and symptoms of gastritis are seen for more than a week, it is recommended to consult a doctor.
If vomiting of blood is observed in addition to or independently of stomach upset, if there is blood in the stool or if the stool appears black in color, it is recommended to consult a doctor immediately to determine the cause of these conditions.
How Is Gastritis Diagnosed ?
When gastritis is suspected, the doctor first talks to the patient about their medical history and performs a physical exam. Although your doctor may suspect gastritis after talking to you about your medical history and performing an examination, he or she may order one or more of several tests to be done to determine the exact cause.
These tests include the H. pylori test. H. pylori bacteria can be detected with a blood test, stool test or breath test, depending on the severity of the condition. For the breath test, the individual is given a small glass of clear, tasteless liquid containing radioactive carbon.
H. pylori bacteria can break down this fluid in the stomach. After a while, the individual is asked to blow into a bag. If H. pylori infection is present, radioactive carbon will be present in the breath sample.
Endoscopy may be performed to examine the individual's upper digestive tract. During endoscopy, the doctor passes a flexible tube equipped with a lens, or endoscopy, down the patient's throat and esophagus until it reaches the stomach and small intestines.
Thanks to this system, the doctor can look for signs of inflammation in the stomach or small intestines. If the doctor finds a suspicious area, he or she may take a small sample for laboratory examination, i.e. perform a biopsy. It is also possible to detect the presence of H. pylori in the stomach lining as a result of the biopsy.
It is possible to use an X-ray of the upper digestive tract to look for abnormality. It may be necessary to drink a white, metallic liquid containing barium that coats the inside of the digestive tract to make any ulcerated tissue inside more visible.
How Is Gastritis Treated ?
Gastritis treatment differs according to the specific cause. For example, acute gastritis caused by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or alcohol can be relieved in a short time by stopping the use of these substances.
In addition, various drugs are used in the treatment of gastritis, depending on the cause of gastritis. For example, if there is P. hylori bacteria in the digestive tract, the doctor may recommend various combinations of antibiotics to be used continuously for seven or fourteen days to kill this bacteria.
In order to prevent the bacteria in the stomach from becoming resistant to the drug, it must be used completely for the period specified by the doctor.
Drugs that inhibit gastric acid production and promote healing can also be used in the treatment of gastritis. Proton pump inhibitors reduce acid by partially blocking the action of acid-producing cells.
However, long-term use of proton pump inhibitors, especially in high doses, may increase the risk of hip, wrist and spine fractures. For this reason, it should only be used under the supervision of a doctor. If the doctor deems it necessary during this process, he may recommend a calcium supplement.
Acid blockers, also called histamine (H-2) blockers, reduce the amount of acid released into the digestive tract. This in turn relieves gastritis pain and promotes healing.
In addition to these, there are antacids that neutralize stomach acid. The doctor may prescribe these antacids for use with other medicines. But among the side effects of antacids are constipation or diarrhea, depending on the components of the drug and its combination with other drugs.
Lifestyle Changes and Home Care to Prevent Gastritis
It may be possible to relieve the signs and symptoms of gastritis by taking a few small precautions. First of all, it is necessary to feed with smaller and more numerous meals. If indigestion is felt frequently, less food should be eaten at each meal and the number of meals per day should be increased to slow down the effects of stomach acid and rest the stomach.
It is necessary to avoid stomach irritating foods, especially spicy, acidic, fried or fatty foods at meals. It is necessary to avoid alcohol in particular.
Alcohol will irritate the mucous membrane of the stomach. In addition to these, it is important to consult a doctor to change the type of pain reliever used and to prefer a type that will have less side effects. In this way, it may be possible to alleviate the effect of gastritis.