Overview of gastritis
Health and hygiene are two primary factors that determine the quality of life of an individual. Any deviation from the rules of a healthy and hygienic life can create a huge socio-economic impact.Digestive disorders are the primary threats to healthy living and can disrupt the normal body functions. Gastritis is considered as the most severe forms of digestive disorder that can cripple an individual within a short time.Gastric disorder cases are steadily rising due to increased negligence on the part of individuals to maintain a balanced, healthy and hygienic lifestyle.
Studies by World Health Organization (WHO) show that gastric infection rate of adults exceeds 90% in low-income and underdeveloped countries. A holistic approach is necessary to eliminate the root causes of gastritis and help the patients maintain better standards of living.
What is gastritis?
Gastritis is the inflammation and corrosion of the inner lining of the stomach called mucosa as a result of an immune response to infection or external injury.
It is accompanied by excessive pain in the upper abdomen.
In this condition, less acid (gastric juice) and enzymes (pepsin) are produced, which leads to incomplete breakdown and digestion of food.
Also, due to decreased secretion of mucous, the stomach lining becomes damaged by the acidic digestive juice, which causes inflammation of stomach lining.Gastritis has become a very common occurrence these days and requires immediate attention.
What causes gastritis?
The main causative agent of gastritis is the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, that triggers acute infection conditions and inflammation of the stomach lining. The generalized causes of gastritis are as follows:
- Severe damage to the stomach lining, which leads to reactive gastritis (immune response to bacterial infection)
- Contamination through food items or water
- Few medications like NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen that cause damage to stomach lining.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol or caffeine
- Prolonged and unprotected exposure to radiation (during radiotherapy, chemotherapy)
- Bile reflux from small intestine to stomach (in case of patients who had part of their stomachs surgically removed)
- Trauma caused by external injuries, chronic illnesses, critical surgeries or severe burns. This is usually called stress gastritis.
- Crohn’s disease which causes inflammation of any region of the gastrointestinal system.
- Abnormal formation tissue clusters causing inflammation of inner linings of organs (patients suffering from sarcoidosis)
- Allergy triggered by food items like cow milk, soy (mainly in children)
- Excessive tobacco intake through smoking causes irritation of stomach linings
- Repeated consumption of spicy and greasy food
- Excessive stress (mental and physical) that leads to disturbed secretion of digestive juices.
- Accidental consumption of acid or alkali
- Non-bacterial pathogens like Cytomegalovirus, Histoplasma capsulatum (fungal), Cryptosporidium (parasitic)
What are the signs and symptoms?
The symptoms of gastritis are easily identifiable. But in minor cases they are mostly overlooked, and give rise to severe complications (mostly ulcers) in future. The major and minor symptoms of gastritis are described below:
- Persistent burning pain in the upper abdomen (usually after consumption of certain food items)
- Feeling of gas formation in stomach
- Mild pain in the chest (occasional) causing breathlessness
- Nausea and vomiting (with blood)
- Extreme fatigue and dizziness
- Pale complexion
- Blood in stool (indicates bleeding of stomach lining) or discoloured stool (turns blackish)
- Frequent hiccups
- Repeated belching and irritation of throat due to release of excess acidic juice
- Diarrhoea (occasional)
- Loss of appetite
Regardless of the severity of the symptoms, immediate diagnosis should be carried out to avoid future complications.
Can it take different forms?
Based on the cause or nature of occurrence, gastritis can be broadly classified into two types-
- Acute: It initiates as sudden spasm in the gastrointestinal tract and is of short duration.
- Chronic: It relapses within short time gaps and is of permanent nature if not diagnosed. It can of three types – (i) Autoimmune gastritis (ii) Helicobacter pylori gastritis and (iii) Chemical gastritis
Based on the severity, this disorder can be classified into two types:
- Erosive type: It causes wear and tear of stomach linings and can lead to deep sores or ulcers within the stomach
- Non-erosive type: Inflammation of stomach lining occurs without formation of ulcers.
There are few other forms of gastritis which are elaborated below:
- Iatrogenic type: It causes erosion of mucous layer and formation of brown pigments.
- Autoimmune type: It occurs due to parietal cell damage
- Granulomatous type: It occurs due to bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections
- Lymphocytic type: It is characterized by increased number of T lymphocytes along the surface epithelium
- Collagenous type: It is characterized by deposition of collagen bands on the sub-epithelial layer
- Eosinophilic type: It is characterized by connective tissue diseases caused by parasitic infections (due to infiltration of excess eosinophil across gastric epithelium)
What are the long-term implications?
Gastritis does not limit itself to minor signs and symptoms. If left undiagnosed, these symptoms will grow and take the form of the following chronic disorders:
- Peptic ulcers (on stomach and duodenum)
- Anaemia (due to bleeding of stomach wall)
- Atrophic gastritis ( loss of stomach lining and glands due to acute inflammation)
- Vitamin B12 deficiency and pernicious anaemia (due to auto-immune attacks)
- Tumour-like growths (often malignant) on the stomach lining (might lead to lymphoma, duodenal ulcer or carcinoma).
Treatment and Prevention
Since the inflammation of the stomach’s lining is mainly caused by the action of H.
Pylori bacteria, foods that contain adequate fiber and flavonoids will help in reducing the growth of the said bacteria.
Such diet includes onions, garlic, soy products, broccoli, legumes, and ginger.
Whole grains such as brown rice, eggs, nuts, and olive oil can be consumed safely.
A person suffering from gastritis must refrain from smoking and drinking.
Limit the use of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and painkillers if you have gastritis. Also, it is important to drink adequate amount of water every day and control stress.
Sugary foods, junk food, oily and deep-fried items, and carbonated drinks also tend to exacerbate the gastritis condition. Antacids might be consumed to get relief from acidity.
Prevention of gastritis can be effectively done by two things – refraining from drinking and smoking, and limiting on the consumption of NSAIDs and painkillers. Sometimes, certain types of toxic compounds if ingested can also cause gastritis.
Gastritis can be prevented on a global scale by following proper hygiene conditions like consumption of properly washed food and disinfected water, living in a clean environment etc. According to CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) reports, nearly 5,00,000 to 8,50,000 cases of peptic ulcer cases are reported globally.
- More than 80% of gastritis cases are caused by the bacteria H.pylori.
- Gastritis is often confused with upper abdomen discomfort and is often associated with the occurrence of peptic ulcers.
- 1 out of every 100 Americans suffers from gastritis issues.
- In extreme cases, gastritis causes gradual erosion of gastric lining of the digestive tract leading to gastric cancer.
- Acute gastritis (phlegmonous), which is characterized by bleeding through gastric lining, can cause death in more than 60% of the patients.
- Breathlessness, blood in vomit, black-coloured stools, and paleness are the classic signs of erosive gastritis.
Dos and Don'ts
- Capsaicin can protect the inner gastric lining from the action of NSAIDs. It is actively found in chillies.
- Similarly, foods rich in vitamin A, amino acids, anti-oxidants, and vitamin C are beneficial for individuals suffering from gastritis.
- Many herbal and natural remedies can also be used to alleviate the symptoms. Chamomile, liquorice, and goldenseal are effective against the action of H.pylori bacteria.
- Use NSAIDs to treat the pain or infection.
- Eat food items that have high fat content or are deep-fried.
- Consume alcohol, tea, coffee, and other foods that increase the acidic content of the stomach.
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