Gastritis is a painful inflammation of the stomach lining which can have many causes. The most common is an infection by H. pylori bacteria, but other common causes include regularly taking certain pain relievers, heavy alcohol consumption, and stress. The symptoms of gastritis include appetite loss and weight loss, nausea and vomiting, pain in the upper abdomen, belching and bloating, and/or a feeling of being full even after eating just a little. Mild cases can be treated with over-the-counter remedies, dietary changes, and stress-reducing techniques; however, severe or persistent gastritis will usually require medical help to get rid of it.
Should You Treat by Yourself?
Do Not Treat at Home If:
- You are in severe pain.
- You are experiencing weight loss.
- Your symptoms developed after taking over-the-counter or prescription drugs, such as aspirin.
- You have blood in your stool, or you are vomiting blood.
- Symptoms do not go away after one week.
- You test positively for an H. pylori infection at the doctor's office.
- You feel symptoms despite eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
Freely Treat at Home If:
- You only experience mild symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea, hiccups, heartburn, or indigestion. They only occur after meals and disappear quickly.
- Symptoms are irregular or infrequent.
- Over-the-counter relievers, like antacids or pain analgesics, effectively manage the pain.
- You're willing to make proactive changes to your diet and lifestyle, and see results.
Easy Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes
- Try an over-the-counter antacid. While antacids will not treat any ulcers that might form because of gastritis, they will reduce the amount of stomach acid and thus ease stomach pain. Particularly if your gastritis is due to what you eat and drink — i.e. too much alcohol, acidic beverages like coffee and soda, and too many processed or fatty foods — taking antacids after meals may help.
- Common antacids include aluminum hydroxide (Amphojel, AlternaGEL), magnesium hydroxide (Phillips' Milk of Magnesia), aluminum hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide (Maalox, Mylanta), calcium carbonate (Rolaids, Titralac, Tums), and sodium bicarbonate (Alka-Seltzer)
- Be aware that antacids can interfere with the uptake of medication. Be sure to take them at least on hour after taking any medications.
- Drink filtered water. Try to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. This will lower the acidity of your stomach acid. Also, keeping yourself hydrated is important because dehydration can lead to an increase in the amount of stomach acid, thereby exacerbating the effects of gastritis. Filtered water is easier on your stomach because potentially irritating minerals have been removed.
- Take supplements. The right oils and vitamins can help to reduce inflammation of your stomach lining and also fight H. pylori, the bacteria that causes many cases of gastritis. Consider taking:
- Vitamin E — Reduces inflammation.
- Vitamin C — 5 grams of vitamin C taken daily over 4 weeks has been shown to eliminate H. pylori in some patients with gastritis.
- Omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil — One or two capsules a day, or a teaspoon two to three times a day, may reduce inflammation.
- Probiotics — The "friendly" bacteria in probiotics can help to suppress the H. pylori causing gastritis.
- Use an herbal remedy. Herbs have been used for centuries to battle the symptoms of gastritis. You can take them in capsule form, as a tea (1 tsp. of herb per cup of hot water), or as an extract. If a tea, steep five to 10 minutes for leaves and flowers and 10–20 minutes for roots, and drink two to four cups a day.
- Cranberry — 400 mg twice daily — Cranberry helps to fight H. pylori infections by preventing the bacteria from attaching to tissues. Cranberry juice and pills are both effective.
- Mastic extract – 1,000-2,000 mg daily, taken in two to three doses – Has been shown to inhibit the growth of H. pylori bacteria.
- DGL-licorice extract – 250-500 mg, three times daily – Licorice reduces inflammation and fights H. pylori bacteria. DGL is licorice without glycyrrhizin — a chemical with negative side effects.
- Peppermint — one .2 ml enteric-coated tablet, two to three times daily or as a tea after meals – Peppermint soothes the stomach and fights H. pylori bacteria.
- Ginger — Ginger helps to prevent ulcers and to reduce the amount of H. pylori in your gut. You can take it by chewing on fresh ginger, boiling it and drinking the liquid, or adding ginger powder to a drink.
- Change your over-the-counter pain relievers. Regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, is one of the major causes of gastritis. Try switching to another pain reliever, like acetaminophen, that causes less irritation. If you are still having problems, ask your doctor about other pain reliever choices.
- Avoid foods and drinks that irritate the stomach. Gastritis can be aggravated by eating heavily processed, fried, or very spicy foods. If you can, cook your own food from fresh ingredients, and avoid:
- Acidic beverages like coffee, sodas, or citrus-based juices
- Refined foods, such as pasta, white bread and sugar
- Trans fatty acids, often found in things such as cookies, cakes, and other commercially-baked foods
- Processed foods such as breakfast cereals, chips, frozen meals, or meat products like bacon and sausage
- Fried foods
- Heavily spiced foods
- Do something you enjoy. If your gastritis is acting up, try calming down with an enjoyable activity like reading a book, listening to music, practicing a hobby, or having dinner with a friend. Lowering stress may reduce symptoms.
- Connect with friends and loved ones. Positive social interactions — particularly those involving physical contact such as a hug — produce oxytocin which helps to reduce stress levels.
Even a brief interaction can have a powerful effect, so every day try to take time for a coffee break with a friend at work, a chat with your neighbor, or a phone call to a family member or friend. If you need to expand your social network, consider:
- Taking up a social hobby like playing cards or a sport
- Joining a book club
- Finding friends where you worship
- Going to a dog park with your dog
Intermediate Lifestyle Changes
- Smoke and drink less. Heavy consumption of alcohol is another leading contributor to gastritis, and smoking cigarettes is another confirmed cause. Lowering your consumption of alcohol can help you to ease the irritation of your stomach, relieving the symptoms of gastritis, and helping limit their recurrence.
- Eat smaller meals. If you sometimes experience stomach pain and relatively mild gastritis symptoms, you can ease your digestion by eating several small meals instead of three large ones. Try eating every two to three hours throughout the day.
- Consume more fruits and vegetables. As well as knowing what foods to avoid, it's important to learn what foods can be beneficial. The more fresh fruits and vegetables you can eat, the better. In particular, eat foods high in flavonoids, antioxidants, vitamin B, or calcium, such as:
- Antioxidant-rich foods: Blueberries, cherries, tomatoes, squash, bell peppers
- Foods rich in Vitamin B and calcium: Almonds, beans, whole grains, spinach, kale
- Foods with flavonoids that inhibit H. pylori: Apples, celery, cranberries
- Eat healthy sources of protein. Lean meats, fish, and tofu are good sources of protein that will help you to maintain digestive health.
The leanest cuts of meat typically contain "round" or "loin" in their name. Lean meats include:
- Poultry (white meat without skin)
- Beef — Flank steak, sirloin tip, eye of round, top round, tenderloin, top loin, rump roast, and extra lean ground beef
- Pork — Center loin, tenderloin, Canadian bacon
- Lamb — Chops, leg roast, tenderloin shank
- Wild game — Venison, bison, elk, squab, wild duck (without skin), pheasant, rabbit
- Lower your stress levels. Stress has been shown to result in higher levels of inflammation and stomach acid, both of which will worsen the symptoms of gastritis. Whether your gastritis is caused by stress or only aggravated by it, learning to manage and reduce stress is an important step in reducing stomach pain.
- Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep has a host of negative health effects, from weakening the immune system to increasing the risk of obesity. Getting enough sleep will both reduce stress levels and help you deal with any stressful incidents that do crop up. Adults should aim for nine to seven hours a night, teens for nine to 10 hours, and younger children for at least 10 hours. To help you get enough sleep:
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each night.
- Limit the use of computers and smartphones near bedtime, as they can interfere with sleep.
- Do not eat within an hour of bedtime.
- Manage stressful situations. Some stressful situations — work or a long commute for instance — cannot be avoided, but they can be managed to help reduce stress. If you stress over work during the weekend, try taking some time on Friday to create a to-do list for the coming week that lays out how you will accomplish all you need to do. If you hate the traffic during your commute, leave earlier to avoid it, or listen to a book on tape to distract yourself. If your family squabbles during the holiday, take a break to go for a walk and relax.
- Exercise. Aerobic exercise, in particular, has been clinically proven to reduce levels of anxiety and depression.
Just remember to start slow and not overdo it at first. Some particularly good exercises to help you relax and get those endorphins pumping include:
- Walking or jogging for at least 10 minutes
- Tai Chi or Qi Gong (meditative martial arts developed in China)
- Practice Relaxation Techniques. Meditation has been shown to improve health and reduce stress. There are many types of meditative techniques, but most are founded on four basics: a quiet location with few distractions; a comfortable posture; a focus of attention (on an object, set of words, or the sensation of breathing); and an open mind (letting thoughts come and go without judging them. Some specific techniques that might prove useful include:
- Mindful meditation — Sit in a comfortable, quiet place, with your hands on your thighs. Let your gaze settle where it will. Concentrate on your breathing, not trying to control it but simply feeling it. When thoughts occur, gently return your focus to your breathing. Start with 10 minutes and build up.
- Tai Chi or Qigong — Chinese martial arts combining movement, breathing, and relaxation.
- Mantra meditation — Sit in a comfortable posture in a quiet place. Silently repeat a word or phrase that you choose in order to prevent distracting thoughts. When thoughts do intrude, gently return your attention to your word or phrase.
- Talk with a mental health professional. Talking with a professional counselor is a proven way to work through your problems and relieve stress. He can give you tips to help you manage stress in your daily life. If you feel like you cannot cope with life, have suicidal thoughts, or are using drugs or alcohol to cope, then you should seek a mental health professional immediately.
- Get a diagnosis. Your doctor will examine you and perform some tests in order to make a diagnosis. He or she will take your medical history and listen to your abdomen with a stethoscope.
Be sure to describe your symptoms accurately and precisely to your doctor. He or she may recommend you have a blood test, a stool test, and/or a breathe test. These three tests can check for H. pylori infections as well as other potential causes and contributory factors.
- In some cases your doctor might decide to perform an endoscopy. This is an examination which involves inserting a small tube, called an endoscope, down your esophagus and into your stomach. The endoscope has a camera to visualize lesions, and the ability to take biopsies to check for infections or other abnormal stomach conditions.
- An alternative to an endoscopy is a barium swallow and X-Ray. This not as invasive, but is less accurate.
- Take medications to tackle stomach acid. Depending on your diagnosis, you will be prescribed medication which will relieve your symptoms by reducing the amount of acid in your stomach. This will allow the stomach lining to heal. The two major types of medication prescribed are:
- H-2 blockers — Cimetidine (Tagamet), Ranitidine (Zantac), Nizatidine (Axid), and Famotidine (Pepcid) all work by lowering the amount of acid released into your digestive tract.
- Proton pump inhibitors — Esomeprazole (Nexium), Lansoprazole (Prevacid), Omeprazole (Prilosec), Pantoprazole (Protonix), and Rabeprazole (AcipHex) also lower acid levels in the gut. Some can be obtained over the counter.
- Get treatment for a Helicobacter pylori infection. An H. pylori infection is the leading cause of gastritis. If you have been diagnosed with one, your doctor will prescribe you a regimen of drugs to tackle the infection. This treatment is known as H. pylori eradication therapy, and generally involves taking a course of drugs which include two antibiotics as well as a proton pump inhibitor to reduce stomach acid and allow your stomach lining to heal.
- If you are prescribed a course of medication, be sure to take the full amount and continue taking the drugs until the end of the course.
- For an H. pylori infection, you will typically have to take the medications for 10-14 days.
- See your doctor immediately if you vomit blood or find blood in your stool; otherwise, see a doctor if symptoms last more than a week.
- Prolonged use of proton pump inhibitors may thin bones and enable fractures, so talk to your doctor about this risk.
- Gastritis and acid reflux can also lead to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus which involves precancerous lesions where the esophagus meets the stomach; therefore, it is very important to have your gastritis and reflux treated.
- Cure Stomach Bloating
- Relieve Symptoms of Gastritis
- Treat a Helicobacter Pylori Infection
- Treat Ulcers
Sources and Citations