There are three different forms of chronic gastritis: Type A, B, and C. Stress and diet often play a key role in inflammation of the gastric mucosa.
Almost everyone has had an upset stomach at some point: stress and nutrition play a key role in gastritis, a widespread disease. While the insidious chronic forms often go unnoticed for a long time, acute gastric mucosa manifests itself very unpleasantly with sudden severe stomach pain, a feeling of fullness, nausea, and belching. These complaints can become chronic.
The stomach is a high-performance organ
The food eaten makes the first longer stopover in the stomach. Here it is further chopped up, kneaded, and soaked in corrosive gastric acid: 35 million glands in the gastric mucosa produce three liters of gastric juice every day in order to digest the food and kill any germs it contains. So that the stomach does not “digest itself” straight away, specialized cells produce a viscous mucus that covers the gastric mucosa with a thin protective film. If this protective layer is damaged or if there is too much stomach acid, the gastric mucosa can be damaged and inflamed.
- Possible triggers of acute gastritis
- too much nicotine, alcohol, coffee, spicy food
- Food poisoning
- mental or physical stress (fear, stress, accidents)
- Bacterial, viral, and mold infections
- Medication (especially painkillers such as acetylsalicylic acid, diclofenac, ibuprofen, especially in combination with cortisone, also non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressants)
Causes of chronic gastritis
The causes of chronic gastritis are of various natures. Accordingly, physicians distinguish gastritis according to type A, B, or C.
Type A Gastritis: Autoimmune disease. In this rather rare form, the body forms antibodies against certain cells of the gastric mucosa for reasons that are not yet understood. The so-called parietal cells actually produce gastric acid – they gradually perish as a result of the autoimmune attack. Since the parietal cells also produce the so-called intrinsic factor, which controls the absorption of vitamin B 12 in the intestine, vitamin absorption from food is also disrupted in this form of gastritis. The result is anemia (pernicious anemia).
Type B gastritis: bacterial infection. Type B is the most common form, here the bacterium Helicobacter pylori is usually to blame. About half of adults are infected with it, often without even knowing it. The transmission routes have not yet been fully clarified, but the infection occurs more frequently among people who have close contact (e.g. in families). The germ has specially adapted to the harsh living conditions in the stomach and can nest there without causing any problems. However, it is considered a risk factor for gastric ulcers and malignant tumors.
Type C gastritis: chemical-toxic irritation. About every third to fourth inflammation of the gastric mucosa is triggered by painkillers or other chemical stimuli. Anyone who frequently takes painkillers or certain other medications should consult their doctor to find milder alternatives. Other triggers for type C gastritis are excessive alcohol consumption or – very rarely – so-called bile reflux: bile passes from the duodenum into the stomach.
Symptoms often only appear in acute gastritis
Acute gastritis usually begins with a burning or feeling of pressure in the stomach area. Acid regurgitation, a bloated stomach, stomach or back pain can also occur, as well as nausea and vomiting. The upper abdomen is often sensitive to pressure.
Chronic inflammation of the gastric mucosa has no symptoms or only causes mild symptoms after meals, such as belching or a feeling of fullness. With the pronounced type of gastritis, fatigue, shortness of breath, and weakness can occur due to the accompanying anemia.
Diagnosis is made by the specialist
The doctor will inquire about diet and lifestyle habits, possible previous illnesses, and medications. An ultrasound scan of the upper abdomen can be useful to rule out gallstones.
The diagnosis is confirmed by a gastroscopy (gastroscopy) by a specialist (gastroenterologist). For the examination, he pushes a thin, flexible tube (endoscope) through the esophagus into the stomach. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s a bit uncomfortable. The doctor can now view the inside of the stomach via a built-in camera. He takes small tissue samples from conspicuous areas for histological examination in the laboratory.
A Helicobacter infection can possibly be detected in the tissue sample. Other detection methods are stool samples or breath tests.
If type A gastritis is suspected, a blood test is indicated to detect any antibodies.
When should you see a doctor?
Complaints such as abdominal pain, nausea, or a feeling of fullness can be triggered by completely harmless digestive disorders, but can also be caused by an irritable stomach or serious illnesses. Therefore, you should consult a doctor if stomach problems last longer than 14 days.
Treatment depends on the cause and form of gastritis.
Diet for gastritis: Eat gently on the stomach
Acute gastritis usually disappears quickly if you take it easy on the stomach. Everything that fuels inflammation needs to be reduced: especially stress and poor diet.
Too much food, too fatty, too spicy, but also too sweet means hard work for the stomach. He reacts irritably, produces more acid, and his muscles cramp painfully. Coffee and alcohol also boost gastric acid production, as do fried, breaded, and smoked foods, sausages, delicatessen salads, and other convenience products.
In the case of gastritis A, other dietary recommendations apply. Complaints rarely occur after eating. The stomach does not produce too much acid, but too little. That’s why a glass of lemon water with food can help with digestion. It is also important for those affected to keep an eye on nutrient deficiencies – such as vitamin B12 – and to substitute them if necessary. Since the immune system fights against its own body cells in gastritis A, the value should be placed on an anti-inflammatory diet that is kind to the intestines.