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Demystifying Gastritis: Exploring Causes, Symptoms, and Effective Treatment Strategies

Gastritis can be caused by multiple factors: alcohol, tobacco, food, and drugs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Substances like anti-inflammatories, aspirin, Helicobacter pylori, or alcohol can irritate your gastric mucosa, causing abdominal pain, nausea, or loss of appetite.

What is gastritis?

The Merck Manual defines gastritis as follows: “Gastritis is an inflammation of the gastric mucosa caused by various conditions, such as infection (Helicobacter pylori), medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, alcohol), stress, and autoimmune phenomena (atrophic gastritis). Many cases are asymptomatic, but sometimes dyspepsia and gastrointestinal bleeding occur. Doctors make the diagnosis through endoscopy. Treatment targets the cause, but often includes acidity suppression and, in the case of Helicobacter pylori infection, antibiotics.”

In other words, gastritis is an inflammation of the gastric mucosa, the layer of cells that lines the stomach inside, protecting it from the acidity of gastric juices. Although not accurate, it is often common for the term gastritis to be used synonymously with dyspepsia (pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen, as well as symptoms of burning, pressure, or fullness often, though not necessarily, related to meals).

Gastritis can be caused by multiple factors: alcohol, tobacco, food, drugs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), major surgeries, or infections (the Helicobacter pylori bacteria is associated with some types of gastritis).

Since the late 20th century, H. Pylori has been linked to gastric pathology in one way or another. That is, the involvement of this bacterium in gastroduodenal ulcers and as a precursor to some types of gastric cancer is undeniable.

It also plays a significant role as a cause of gastritis. When its prevalence has been studied, more than half of the population shows evidence of the presence of this germ in the stomach.

A series of diseases and conditions can increase the risk of having gastritis, including inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease.

Demystifying Gastritis: Exploring Causes

Risk factors

Among the factors that increase the risk of having gastritis are:

  • Bacterial infection. Although Helicobacter pylori infection is one of the most common human infections worldwide, only some people with the infection develop gastritis or other upper gastrointestinal tract disorders. Doctors believe vulnerability to the bacteria could be hereditary or result from lifestyle choices such as smoking and diet.
  • Frequent use of pain relievers. Pain relievers commonly called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve, Anaprox DS) can cause both acute and chronic gastritis. Regular use of these pain relievers or excessive amounts may reduce a key substance that helps preserve the stomach’s protective lining. Advanced age.
  • Older adults are at higher risk of developing gastritis because the stomach lining tends to become thinner with age and because they are more likely to have Helicobacter pylori infection or autoimmune disorders than younger people.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol can irritate and erode the stomach lining, making it more vulnerable to digestive juices. Excessive alcohol consumption is more likely to cause acute gastritis.
  • Stress. Intense stress due to major surgery, injury, burns, or severe infections can lead to acute gastritis.
  • Causes of Gastritis Cancer Treatment. Chemotherapy drugs or radiation therapy can increase the risk of gastritis.
  • Your body attacks stomach cells. So-called autoimmune gastritis occurs when the body attacks the cells that form the lining of the stomach. This reaction can wear down the stomach’s protective barrier. Autoimmune gastritis is more common in people with other autoimmune disorders, such as Hashimoto’s disease and type 1 diabetes. Autoimmune gastritis can also be associated with a deficiency of vitamin B-12.
  • Other medical diseases and conditions. Gastritis may be associated with other medical conditions, such as HIV or AIDS, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, sarcoidosis, and parasitic infections.

When to see a doctor

Almost everyone has had an episode of indigestion and stomach irritation. In most cases, indigestion lasts a short time and does not require medical attention. If you have signs and symptoms of gastritis for a week or more, contact your healthcare provider.

Seek medical attention immediately if you have severe pain. If you vomit and cannot keep any food down or if you feel dizzy or lightheaded.

Tell your doctor if stomach discomfort occurs after taking any prescription or over-the-counter medication, especially aspirin or other pain relievers.

If you vomit blood or if your stools are bloody or black, see a doctor immediately to determine the cause.

If you want to learn more, visit our article on Unveiling Therapeutic Potential: Stem Cells for Battling Gastritis.

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