Some scoff at making dietary changes, but drinking tea for gastritis, a condition involving inflammation of the stomach lining, can be an easy way to find relief. Though gastritis requires proper care, research shows that diet and lifestyle changes may help control it and alleviate some symptoms.
Certain compounds in tea, called polyphenols and flavonoids, may be especially beneficial. Of course, always make sure to talk to your doctor before implementing any new dietary changes.
What Is Gastritis?
Your stomach is lined with a thick layer of mucus, called the mucosa or mucosal layer. This layer contains glands that produce pepsin, an enzyme that helps break down the proteins you eat, and stomach acid, which breaks down food in general. Normally, the mucus lining of your stomach provides a barrier that protects it from damage from the highly acidic digestive juices.
Gastritis is a general term that describes the inflammation of this stomach lining. With gastritis, not only does the mucosa become swollen and red, it also produces less pepsin, stomach acid and mucus. When production of mucus goes down, the mucosa becomes more susceptible to the damage that stomach acid can cause. This can lead to symptoms like pain in the upper abdomen, nausea and vomiting. Some forms of gastritis can also cause ulcers.
Gastritis is divided into two major categories: acute and chronic. Acute gastritis comes on suddenly and lasts for only a short period of time. Chronic gastritis is long-lasting. It can persist for years and even last a lifetime if left untreated. Acute gastritis affects around eight in 1,000 people, while chronic gastritis plagues two in every 10,000.
Causes of Gastritis
The most common cause of both types of gastritis is a Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori, infection. Many people have H. pylori bacteria in their stomach without even realizing it, but when numbers of the bacteria get out of hand, it can cause gastritis. H. pylori bacteria produce an enzyme called urease. As the infection spreads and the number of bacteria grows, the amount of urease in the stomach also grows.
Urease makes your stomach acid less acidic, which weakens the mucosal layer and makes your stomach lining more susceptible to damage from the strong digestive fluids in it. The bacteria also cling to the cells in the stomach lining and trigger the stomach to make more acid, although experts don't fully understand how this happens. All of these factors together lead to the redness, swelling and inflammation associated with gastritis.
Although H. pylori infection is the most common reason for the development of gastritis, there are other potential causes too, like:
- Overuse of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDs)
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Traumatic stress
- Autoimmune diseases
- Crohn's disease
- Radiation treatment
- Other infections
Tea for Gastritis
Treatment for gastritis depends on the underlying cause. Your doctor will work with you to manage symptoms while looking for the reason behind the inflammation. If H. pylori is uncovered as the cause of gastritis, antibiotics are generally prescribed to help control and get rid of the infection. However, there's some research that shows that tea may be a helpful addition for gastritis treatment at home.
According to a May 2015 report published in Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Disease, both green and black tea may help reduce the prevalence of H. pylori in people who are experiencing signs of stomach trouble, like indigestion. The effect was even greater when the tea was combined with manuka honey.
Another study, published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in August 2014, explained the mechanisms behind this. According to the researchers, certain compounds in tea, called polyphenols and flavonoids, may protect the mucosal lining of the stomach by blocking the action of the urease enzyme and preventing it from breaking down the lining of the stomach and causing inflammation.
Another compound, called MeONQ, which is a catechin — a type of antioxidant found in high amounts in green tea — enters the cell membranes in the stomach and produces chemical reactions that neutralize free radicals and kill off H. pylori bacteria.
Tea for Other Gastritis Forms
But it's not just the gastritis caused by an H. pylori infection that may benefit from drinking tea. A study published in the Korean Journal of Gastroenterology in March 2018 found that supplementing with a green tea extract combined with artemisia, an herb used to make wormwood tea, may help improve gastritis associated with drinking too much alcohol.
Earlier than that, in April 2015, Molecular Nutrition and Research reported that kaempferol, the most abundant polyphenol in tea (and fruits, vegetables and beans) may help stop the inflammation from both alcohol-induced gastritis and aspirin-induced — or NSAID-induced — gastritis.
According to all of this research, adding a cup of tea to your daily diet may be beneficial in helping to alleviate gastritis symptoms and may even help reduce inflammation to control the condition.
Other Dietary Changes
In addition to including tea in your diet, there are other dietary changes you can make to help alleviate the symptoms of gastritis. The first thing you need to do is stop consuming alcohol and any beverages that are too acidic, like coffee, citrus juices and carbonated drinks, including seltzer water.
You may also want to avoid high-fat foods, which can make inflammation in the stomach lining worse. If you have gastritis, foods to avoid include:
- Fried foods
- Fatty cuts of meat
- Full-fat dairy (cheese, yogurt, cream)
- Baked goods and desserts
But it's not just about what you're not eating, it's also a good idea to include some other beneficial foods and drinks in your diet in addition to tea. Like tea, onions, garlic, apples, celery and cranberry juice contain a lot of the flavonoids that can help control the spread of H. pylori bacteria. A fiber-rich diet that includes a lot of green veggies and beans may also help.
A Word of Caution
Gastritis is a complicated condition that requires proper care. If left untreated, gastritis may cause ulcers and anemia and has even been connected to cancerous growths in the stomach lining. If you suspect that you have gastritis, or you already know you do, always seek (and follow) advice from a trusted health care professional.
While research shows that drinking tea for gastritis may be helpful, it doesn't take the place of proper medical care. You should only attempt gastritis treatment at home if you get the OK from your doctor or health care team first.
- Cedars-Sinai: "Helicobacter pylori"
- Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Disease: "Honey and Green/Black Tea Consumption May Reduce the Risk of Helicobacter pylori Infection"
- The Korean Journal of Gastroenterology: "Combined Extracts of Artemisia and Green Tea, Mitigated Alcoholic Gastritis via Enhanced Heat-Shock Protein 27"
- Molecular Nutrition and Food Research: "Kaempferol, a Dietary Flavonoid, Ameliorates Acute Inflammatory and Nociceptive Symptoms in Gastritis, Pancreatitis, and Abdominal Pain"
- World Journal of Gastroenterology: "Medicinal Plant Activity on Helicobacter pylori Related Diseases"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Gastritis"
- Cedars-Sinai: "Gastritis"
- Lee Health: Gastritis
- Inflammatory Intestinal Diseases: "Different Pathophysiology of Gastritis in East and West? A Western Perspective"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Gastritis"