Gastritis is the umbrella term for a number of medical conditions that all cause a common symptom: inflammation of the stomach lining. While the causes and other symptoms of gastritis can vary widely, one factor worth taking a look at is what you're eating. Yes, a gastritis diet may help.
Read more: What's a Helpful Gastritis Diet?
Just What Causes Gastritis?
Gastritis can be traced to many underlying causes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). A common one is the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori for short.
It can also occur in reaction to medications like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin or ibuprofen) or to excessive alcohol (called reactive gastropathy), to attacks from the body's own immune system (autoimmune gastritis) or problems due to low blood flow to the stomach lining (stress gastritis).
"Gastritis can be either acute — it happens all of a sudden — or chronic — it happens over time," says Kellie Gragg, MPH, RDN, a dietitian/nutritionist and director of clinical services at Strata Integrated Wellness and Spa in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The Mayo Clinic says gastritis symptoms and risk factors also can vary. For example, some people have no symptoms whatsoever, while others experience nausea, vomiting or burning aches or pains in the abdomen. What's most important is that you get a proper diagnosis so that you can get the right treatment. This can vary from antibiotics to kill H. pylori to medications that neutralize excess acid in your digestive system.
How Food Can Work for You
Although gastritis refers to medical conditions that impact the lining of the stomach, food itself is rarely a cause, according to the NIDDK. The dietary factors that can play a role include food allergies, celiac disease, excess alcohol consumption and iron supplements — all have been linked to cases of gastritis.
Of note is that certain cases of gastritis can lead to nutrient deficiencies that may require special diets or supplements to remedy the situation. Working closely with your doctor and a dietitian can ensure that you get the nutrients you need.
On the other hand, once you have gastritis, the foods you eat can play a role in lessening the severity of your gastritis symptoms, Gragg says. She recommends the following foods for help in managing gastritis, fighting inflammation and easing the discomfort along with what to avoid, which can be just as important as what you eat:
- Low-fat foods. Keep fat intake at a healthy level by choosing lean proteins and fat-free dairy. Skip the fatty cuts of meat and foods high in saturated fat.
- High-fiber foods. Vegetables, whole grains like barley, beans, and fruits, notably berries and apples with their skins, promote overall digestive health.
- Fermented foods. "Fermented foods are generally recognized as crucial for contributing to healthy gut microbiota," says Gragg. Good choices include kombucha, yogurt, kimchi, miso and sauerkraut.
- Non-caffeinated, non-carbonated beverages.
Coffee, teas and soda can be irritating for people with sensitive stomachs.
Remember, when all else fails, water is always an excellent choice for
The Mayo Clinic cautions against eating dishes that are spicy, fried or highly acidic as well as fatty as these can all aggravate your stomach. The size and frequency of your meals count, too.
"First of all, don't overeat," says Zachary T. Weik, MHS, PA-C, a physician assistant and assistant professor of medical science at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania. "A fully expanded stomach will have difficulty breaking down the food in a timely manner and moving it along into the bowels."
"Smaller, more frequent meals would be recommended," Weik says. "Also, avoid lying down for at least 30 minutes after eating to allow gravity to work in your body's favor and avoid reflux."
Read more: 19 High-Fiber Foods for Better Heart and Gut Health
Is This an Emergency?
- Mayo Clinic: “Gastritis: Symptoms & Causes”
- Mayo Clinic: “Gastritis: Diagnosis & Treatment”
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Definition & Facts for Gastritis & Gastropathy,”
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases:: “Eating, Diet & Nutrition for Gastritis & Gastropathy”
- Kellie Gragg, MPH, RDN, CDR, dietitian/nutritionist, Strata Integrated Wellness and Spa, Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Zachary T. Weik, MHS, PA-C, physician assistant, assistant professor, medical science, Arcadia University, Glenside, Pennsylvania