A little indigestion is one thing and probably nothing to worry about, especially if it is only occasional. But gastritis is a horse of another color. Damage and inflammation to gastric mucosa, the lining of the stomach and gastrointestinal tract, causes the digestive condition gastritis. As the stomach acid erodes the stomach lining, it creates the pains and burning sensations and can eventually lead to nutrient malabsorption. Symptoms can include burning sensations in or above your stomach, stomachaches or pains, feeling nauseous or vomiting, and even constant burping. Gastritis symptoms can be similar to stomach ulcers, but gastritis primarily affects the stomach while ulcers can damage other digestive organs. Severe gastritis, known as chronic gastritis, can actually be more harmful than ulcers and lead to other issues, such as anemia or cancer. Luckily, gastritis is often treatable.
Diet is both a leading cause and treatment of gastritis. Gastritis can be exacerbated and incurred as a result of medications, like pain relievers in the NSAIDs class, smoking, alcohol use and stress in addition to poor immune function. Foods can also trigger gastritis especially if they are very spicy or acidic. Alcohol, caffeine, and processed and packaged foods are also common culprits. These foods can make symptoms worse because they are difficult to digest, promote inflammation and release stomach acids.
Risk factors for gastritis include being overweight, eating poorly, drinking large amounts of alcohol, smoking, having nutritional deficiencies and a history of autoimmune disorders and viruses. Often people who have gastritis or ulcers use over the counter medications and antacids to alleviate symptoms. These methods do not address the underlying cause of the inflammation that leads to gastritis and can actually cause further digestive issues, like constipation and diarrhea.
By removing irritants that exacerbate gastritis, such as acidic foods, alcohol and smoking, you can help the symptoms dissipate within weeks. Eating small meals, not eating a couple of hours before bed, staying hydrated, lowering stress and taking supplements can also help.
Foods to avoid if you have gastritis include acid foods, such as citrus and tomatoes, juices, alcohol, coffee, spicy foods and inflammatory foods, like processed baked goods and fried foods, milk and dairy. Fermented dairy, like yogurt and kefir, may be exceptions for some but try small amounts to determine whether or not you find them tolerable
In addition to avoiding foods, be sure that you add certain food groups to help heal. Antioxidants help reduce inflammation in the body and can be found naturally in many berries, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, ginger, turmeric and supplements. Probiotics found in fermented foods, as well as dairy, can help restore bacteria and reduce inflammation in your gut. High fiber foods, healthy fats and lean proteins can also help. Some foods may irritate so it can be helpful to use an elimination diet to determine which foods exacerbate your gastritis.