If you have stomach pain along with excessive belching and hiccups, or bloating and gas, you might be experiencing gastritis — a condition where there's inflammation in the stomach's lining. Might fasting or diet changes help?
What is Gastritis?
The term "gastritis" actually refers to a number of conditions that share a common factor: inflammation in the stomach's lining, accompanied by swelling and irritation, according to the Mayo Clinic. You may experience one of two types: Acute gastritis is the sudden occurrence of gastritis that lasts for a short period of time, explains New York's Mount Sinai Health System., while chronic gastritis develops slowly, lasting for months or years.
Among the most common culprits that might cause gastritis is Heliobacter pylori, a bacterial infection that lives in the lining of the stomach, notes the Cleveland Clinic. This infection can lead to peptic ulcers and increase the risk for stomach cancer, but it can be treated. If you've been experiencing stomach pain for more than a week, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
Other causes of gastritis include excessive use of certain medications, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) at high doses, and consuming too many alcoholic beverages, reports Harvard Health,. And in some cases, it says, gastritis could possibly be an autoimmune condition where the cells lining the stomach are attacked by your immune system.
Read more: Foods to Avoid for Gastritis
Common Symptoms of Gastritis
Gastritis can be tricky because sometimes eating can make your symptoms better, and other times eating can make your symptoms worse. According to Mayo Clinic and Harvard Health, the most common gastritis symptoms include:
- Burning stomach pain in the upper abdomen.
- Feeling full in the upper abdomen after a meal.
- Persistent pain between the lower ribs and the navel.
- Poor or no appetite.
- Nausea sometimes accompanied by vomiting.
- Belching, bloating and gas that worsens after eating.
Harvard Health also notes that severe gastritis can damage the stomach's lining and lead to ulcers and black stools — an indication of bleeding in the stomach. Should this occur, make it a priority to see your doctor as soon as possible.
Diagnosing and Treating Gastritis
Gastritis is diagnosed through a number of tests that will first confirm whether you are infected by H. pylori., explains Mayo Clinic. These may include testing your breath, blood or stool. Another test typically used is an upper endoscopy — a thin tube with an attached camera on the end that's inserted into your mouth and down to your stomach. During the endoscopy, the doctor might take a biopsy of your stomach to test if you're infected by the H. pylori bacterium, according to Cedars-Sinai.
If H. pylori is present, Harvard Health notes that your doctor will prescribe what's called a triple therapy treatment — one that includes a proton pump inhibitor, which decreases the production of acid in the stomach and helps the stomach heal, along with two different antibiotics during a two-week period.
Among alternative treatments, fasting has been recommended to detoxify and cleanse the gut, but according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there is no conclusive research that supports this argument. Before you decide to try fasting to alleviate gastritis symptoms, discuss it with your doctor.
Read more: Foods That Will Not Irritate Gastric Ulcers
What the Nutritionist Says
Lifestyle choices — things like reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption and avoiding spicy foods and over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen — should help with the inflammation in the stomach's lining. According to dietitian Kelly Krikhely, RD, a clinical nutrition coordinator at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, there's no blanket diet that can be applied to any single person. "We need to see which foods they're tolerating or not, and based on our assessment, eliminate those foods," she says.
Diet modifications that Krikhely recommends when inflammation is present include:
- Eat smaller meals instead of larger ones.
- Eat foods that are soft in texture.
- Avoid foods that are rough and hard to digest.
- Avoid spicy and heavily seasoned foods.
She offer this tip: chew your food thoroughly. As she says, "the more you chew, the less work your body has to do, so it makes it easier to digest."
Is This an Emergency?
- Mayo Clinic: “Gastritis”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Gastritis”
- Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School, “Gastritis”
- Cedars-Sinai: “Gastritis”
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: ““Detoxes” and “Cleanses”: What You Need To Know”
- Kelly Krikhely, MS RD CND, clinical nutrition coordinator, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City.
- Mount Sinai Health System: "Gastritis"
- Mayo Clinic: "Gastritis: Diagnosis & Treatment"