Eating a lot of spicy, greasy or acidic foods can give anyone an upset stomach. If you have gastritis, eating these foods can cause severe pain, nausea and vomiting. Knowing which foods to avoid for gastritis can help to provide relief and lessen the damage to the lining of your stomach. A diet rich in foods that promote healing may also be beneficial.
People with gastritis should avoid very spicy, fatty and acidic foods, and limit coffee and alcohol consumption.
What Is Gastritis?
The interior of the digestive system is lined with a mucosal layer to protect the underlying tissue from irritants and toxins that pass through the gut. This lining is called the mucosa and is especially important in the stomach, where food is broken down by enzymes and hydrochloric acid.
The mucosa shields your stomach from the harsh acidic substances and prevents the acid from inflicting damage. Gastritis occurs when this stomach lining becomes inflamed and damaged.
Gastritis may be acute or chronic. During acute gastritis, inflammation occurs suddenly and may cause trauma to the mucosa, such as cracks or eroded areas. It often causes burning pain and nausea. Chronic gastritis is characterized by a dull pain and less severe inflammation that occurs over a long period of time.
Causes of Gastritis
A common misconception about gastritis is that it results from eating too many spicy foods. While spicy foods can worsen the symptoms of gastritis, they do not cause it.
Some general causes of gastritis include:
- Bacterial infection of H. pylori
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Crohn's disease
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Infection by other pathogens, such as viruses, fungi, parasites and other bacteria
Helicobacter pylori Infection
The most common cause of gastritis is an infection of Helicobacter pylori, a type of bacteria often referred to as H. pylori. It spreads easily, likely getting passed on in water, food or bodily fluids. As much as 50 percent of the population may be infected, but most are asymptomatic. The bacteria cause inflammation, and in some cases, an increase in stomach acid production.
Injury to the Stomach Lining
Drinking alcohol and taking anti-inflammatory drugs can damage the lining of the stomach. Over time, these injuries to the stomach lining cause you to experience the symptoms of gastritis. Crohn's disease sparks an autoimmune response that causes immune cells to attack the cells that form the lining of the stomach.
Symptoms of Gastritis
People with gastritis may experience pain in the upper portion of the abdominal area as well as nausea and vomiting. Digestive symptoms such as gas and bloating can also occur. Gastritis can also cause a decrease in appetite and subsequent weight loss. Some people are asymptomatic, despite test results that indicate gastritis.
Diagnostic Testing for Gastritis
To determine if patients have gastritis, doctors often begin by testing for H. pylori. This bacteria can be detected by analyzing a blood sample or stool sample. A breath test can also reveal an H. pylori infection when the patient drinks a liquid that contains test material, which is broken down by the bacteria.
Endoscopy can view inflammation and damage to the mucosa when a flexible tube with a camera is guided into the esophagus and stomach. The endoscope can also be used to take biopsies of the stomach lining.
Doctors can also use X-rays to look for signs of gastritis. In an upper GI series of tests, the patient drinks a barium solution that allows the stomach to appear in an X-ray image.
Foods to Avoid for Gastritis
Diet plays an important role in reducing the severity of symptoms of gastritis. Steering clear of certain foods can lessen the discomfort and damaging effects of the condition. People with gastritis should avoid food and drinks that:
- Irritate the mucosa.
- Increase inflammation.
- Increase acid production.
- Erode the stomach lining.
- Remain in the
stomach for a long period of time.
Spicy foods such as hot chili peppers and hot sauces irritate the mucosal lining of the stomach. Highly acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus exacerbate inflammation. Fatty foods remain longer in the stomach, which can also cause inflammation. Eating large meals and eating too quickly can also worsen gastritis.
What you drink can negatively effect gastritis too. Alcohol erodes the surface of the mucosal lining, eventually causing small holes or breaks in the tissue. Coffee — both regular and decaf — increase the amount of acid in the stomach. Caffeine in other beverages and foods should be avoided because it is a stimulant that causes the stomach to produce more acid. You also should not consume a lot of carbonated drinks.
Read more: Can Spicy Foods or Caffeine Cause Gastritis?
Foods to Eat With Gastritis
Vegetables that contain a group of chemicals called isothiocyanates have been shown to prevent the growth of H. pylori. Cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and radishes are good sources for this bacteria-fighting substance.
Adding color to your plate in the form of vibrant fruits and vegetables can be good for gastritis. Foods rich in vitamin A such as sweet potatoes, carrots and spinach boost the amount of mucus lining the stomach. Colorful strawberries, blueberries and cranberries are high in flavonoids, which inhibit the spread of H. pylori.
Honey is known to have antibacterial properties, thanks to its acidic and concentrated composition. Regularly eating honey can have a negative effect on H. pylori populations, especially honey made from the flowers of oak and manuka trees.
Eat Fiber to Prevent Ulcers
Without treatment, gastritis can escalate, resulting in the formation ulcers in the stomach lining. Eating plenty of fiber reduces the risk of ulcers. Oats, barley, legumes and apples are all good sources of dietary fiber. Whole grains are a good source of fiber for gastritis.
Gastritis Diet Plan
It is not necessary to eat a bland diet if you have gastritis, but you can get relief from avoiding trigger foods and increasing beneficial foods in your diet. Plan meals with plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables and avoid eating greasy or high-fat foods.
Read more: Diet for Gastritis Sufferers
Flavor your food with herbs and mild seasonings rather than spicy peppers and hot sauces. Incorporate honey in your diet as a sweetener, stirred into yogurt or as a topping for toast.
Include flavonoid-rich beverages such as green tea and cranberry juice cocktail to fight an H. pylori infection. Smaller meals eaten more frequently prevent too much acid from being secreted in the stomach.
- Medical University of South Carolina: Gastritis
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Indigestion (Dyspepsia)
- Gastroenterology Review: Diet and Helicobacter pylori Infection
- GI Society: Canadian Society of Intestinal Research: Diet for Ulcer Disease
- NCH Healthcare System: Gastritis
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders: Gastritis