When you have stomach inflammation, known as acute or chronic gastritis, you may not feel like eating anything at all. But it's important to stay nourished, and many foods can actually help heal the stomach lining. Here's how to include them in your diet.
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Acute vs. Chronic Gastritis
"Gastritis" is a general term that simply means inflammation of the stomach lining, says Mayo Clinic. This painful condition can be acute or chronic — short- or long-term — and is often caused by overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), an infection from the bacteria H. pylori or periods of intense stress, it says.
When acute, gastritis comes on quickly and may pass quickly as well, Mayo Clinic explains. Chronic gastritis, on the other hand, develops over a longer period of time and can do more permanent damage to the stomach lining.
Whether you're suffering from acute or chronic gastritis, dietary recommendations for both conditions are virtually the same. The primary difference is how long you will need to avoid or include certain foods.
Foods high in fiber benefit your health in general, removing harmful cholesterol, boosting friendly bacteria and preventing constipation. But fiber may also help restore the lining of the stomach.
"Fiber acts as a buffer and reduces the concentrations of bile acids in the stomach," explains gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal, MD, an adjunct assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City. "It also reduces the time that food spends moving through the digestive tract, so there is less bloating and discomfort."
To promote recovery from gastritis, opt for high-fiber foods. Choose whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, oats and quinoa. Include fruits like apples, cantaloupe, and watermelon and vegetables like leafy greens, carrots and broccoli. And don't forget beans and legumes like lentils, black beans, soybeans, chickpeas and kidney beans.
Often, gastritis pain is aggravated by food with a high level of acidity. "Certain foods create an acidic environment in your body," says Dr. Sonpal. "Highly acidic diets mean that the body has to work harder to neutralize its acidic state."
When your stomach lining is inflamed, it's a good idea to choose more alkaline, lower-acidity foods, he says. Options that are lower in acid include yogurt, bananas, rice, green vegetables like celery, spinach broccoli and white or sweet potatoes. For low-acidity protein, choose tofu, fish or lean meats like chicken or turkey.
Foods High in Flavonoids
Heard of flavonoids? These antioxidant compounds in foods get media attention for good reason. According to August 2019 research in Scientific Reports, a number of natural flavonoids kill the H. pylori bacteria that cause gastritis.
Green tea, garlic, apples, cranberries and legumes all contain flavonoids, so try adding them to meals and snacks. A March 2017 study in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that even citrus fruits (which people with gastritis might avoid because of their acidity) can reduce H. pylori in the stomach.
There's one flavonoid-rich item probably best left out of your diet, however: red wine. Most experts agree that alcohol aggravates gastritis.
Foods to Avoid
Treating gastritis with diet often has as much to do with what you don't eat as what you do. Harvard Health Publishing suggests keeping a food diary that records what you eat and any symptoms you experience to help identify your own painful triggers. Many people with gastritis are sensitive to the same types of foods.
Menu items that are fried or high in fat, alcohol, carbonated beverages, coffee (even decaf), and high-acidity foods tend to induce pain by aggravating the stomach's already tender tissue. Steer clear of these whenever possible.
Read more: Foods to Avoid for Gastritis
Is This an Emergency?
- Scientific Reports. "Identifying Potential Novel Drugs Against Helicobacter pylori by Targeting the Essential Response Regulator HsrA"
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Effectiveness of Citrus Fruits on Helicobacter Pylori"
- Niket Sonpal, MD, adjunct assistant professor of clinical medicine, Department of Basic Biomedical Sciences, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, New York, N.Y.
- Mayo Clinic: "Gastritis-Symptoms and Causes"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Gastritis"