If the lining of your stomach becomes inflamed, a condition known as gastritis, this can lead to ulcer disease over time, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although foods can't cause — or cure — gastritis and ulcer disease, the way you eat could lower your risk or relieve your symptoms.
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Symptoms of gastritis and ulcer disease develop when the natural, protective coating of your stomach becomes too weak to protect these areas from the digestive acids produced in your stomach, explains the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
And when those stomach acids irritate the lining of your digestive tract where the mucosal barrier is thin, you may feel a gnawing pain in your upper belly, says Mayo Clinic. That's dyspepsia, commonly called indigestion. If you have an ulcer, there will be also an open sore.
Which Foods Worsen Gastritis Symptoms?
Eating can make the pain of gastritis and gastric ulcer worse, says Mayo Clinic. For many years, doctors advised people with gastritis or a stomach ulcer to stay away from spicy foods and follow a bland diet, with lots of dairy foods to coat the stomach.
Today, however, medical experts know that milk actually increases stomach acid, notes the National Institutes of Health. Although spicy foods, like peppers and chili, do not cause gastritis or ulcer, they can cause dyspepsia. Because of that, it's best to avoid spicy, acidic, fatty and fried foods if they bother your stomach, says Mayo Clinic.
You may also want to steer clear of coffee and alcohol, suggest the GI Society That's because coffee stimulates acid production, and alcohol can cause gastritis and delay healing of an ulcer, according to the review.
Read more: Foods to Avoid for Gastritis
Can Diet Relieve Gastritis Symptoms?
What and how you eat may reduce dyspepsia. "Conscious dietary choices can give your gastrointestinal tract the right material to deal with these symptoms," says Andrew L. Rubman, ND, a naturopathic physician and director of the Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines in Southbury, Connecticut.
To make digestion easier on your body, Dr. Rubman suggests that you:
- Chew your food thoroughly.
- Drink just enough fluid while eating to keep your mouth moist. Too much fluid dilutes the digestive juices of your stomach and actually makes digestion harder.
- Replace processed foods with raw or lightly cooked fruits and vegetables.
- Be sure not to take too many bites of dense protein at a meal. Alternate between the different types of food on your plate when you eat.
More suggestions for dyspepsia relief, offered by the Mayo Clinic, include eating smaller meals more frequently. "A good way to prepare your stomach for digestion is to have a small serving of low-acid fruit, like pears or apples, about 10 to 15 minutes before your meal," adds Dr. Rubman.
Read more: Breakfast Diet for Gastritis
Berries and Gastritis
Some say that berries are good for gastritis, and there may be truth to that claim. According to the GI Soiety, some studies have shown that colorful fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk for gastritis and ulcer disease.
The reason for this is best understood when you know that the main cause of both gastritis and ulcer disease is a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), says NIDDK. These bacteria can live in your stomach without ever causing a problem, but in some people, H. pylori damages the mucosal barrier. Colorful berries and other fruits and vegetables may inhibit the growth of H. pylori, reducing the risk for gastritis, says the GI Society.
"Berries and other colorful fruits and vegetables have phytochemicals called flavonoids," explains Dr. Rubman. "Flavonoids help antioxidants reduce the toxicity of H. pylori damage. Although about 75 percent of people have H. pylori in their guts, most never get an ulcer. Flavonoids may help keep these bacteria stable and nontoxic."
The Bottom Line
When it comes to gastritis and ulcer disease, the best plan is to get the right diagnosis and treatment. Your diet may help you prevent these conditions or reduce your symptoms, but it's no substitute for proper treatment. If you have dyspepsia, it's time to see your doctor.
- Andrew L. Rubman, ND, naturopathic physician and director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut
- American College of Gastroenterology: "Peptic Ulcer Disease"
- Mayo Clinic: "Gastritis"
- GI Society, Canadian Society for Intestinal Research: "Diet for Ulcer Disease"
- National Institutes of Health: "Gut Feelings About Gastritis"
- Mayo Clinic: "Gastritis - Diagnosis and Treatment"