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Gastritis and Bloating

Posted 4 years ago by Brendan

Bloating can be a sign of inflammation of the lining of the stomach, known as gastritis. A number of factors can cause the moist inner lining of the stomach to become irritated, inflamed and even erode over time. This can be short-lived (acute gastritis) or ongoing, lasting months or even years (chronic gastritis). Not just irritating, prolonged gastritis can also interfere with the digestive process (causing issues like bloating or diarrhoea) and increase the likelihood of developing other digestive and general health issues.

woman suffering gastritis

Gastritis causes

The stomach lining responds to harm or irritation with inflammation, just like the rest of the body. This is a normal protective process that involves the site of injury becoming swollen with extra blood, fluid and immune cells, all of which are focused on eliminating invading pathogens and kick-starting the process of healing. Without it the body would have a very difficult time protecting and healing itself. This process is tightly controlled, so without ongoing stimulation (once the threat or damage has been dealt with) inflammation quickly diminishes. However, where it is prolonged, due to an ongoing problem or confused immune system, inflammatory changes will slowly but surely damage the tissues in and around the area. Take coeliac disease, for example, where an allergic reaction to the presence of gluten triggers inflammation, which over time damages the intestinal villi so much that nutrient absorption is impaired.  

Infection (bacterial, viral, parasitic or fungal); irritation (from alcohol consumption, taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as aspirin or ibuprofen over a prolonged period, excessive vomiting, smoking, consuming caustic or corrosive substances, trauma, an overly acidic diet, etc); stress; autoimmune disorders; bile reflux; and pernicious anaemia can all initiate inflammation within the stomach [1] and cause gastritis.  

Helicobacter pylori

Helicobacter pylori is the most common infectious cause of gastritis. A spiral shaped species of bacteria that can reside in the human mouth and gastric mucosa, H. pylori is recognised as the most prevalent bacteria to infect humans worldwide; found in over 50% of those aged 60+ [2]. Unlike the other microbes that make up the gut flora, H. pylori is no longer widely considered a commensal microbe or friendly gut resident. The body responds with gastritis to the presence of H. pylori living deep within the stomach lining where it is protected from stomach acid. Damage to this sensitive lining brought on by chronic gastritis can predispose the individual to digestive issues, ulceration and ever stomach cancer [1].

Gastritis symptoms

Like most digestive conditions, gastritis symptoms vary greatly among different individuals. Chronic gastritis can persist for many years without any noticeable symptoms, while others report constant irritation. The most common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the upper part of the stomach or abdomen

  • A burning or gnawing sensation in the stomach between meals or at night

  • Recurrent indigestion, nausea or stomach upset

  • Abdominal bloating or distension

  • Loss of appetite or difficulty eating

  • Vomiting black or coffee-ground like material

  • Passing black or tarry stools

  • Hiccups

Bloating sufferers who also experience any of these gastritis symptoms should get it checked out with their doctor. Click here for more about the causes of bloating.

Gastritis prevention and treatments

Removing the cause of inflammation soon eases gastritis allowing the stomach to heal in most cases. Antibiotics & probiotics should kill off a H. pylori infection, while avoiding alcohol, NSAIDs, tobacco, coffee, drugs, dietary irritation or whatever other cause, can be all it takes to correct gastritis. Be careful with your diet and avoid high fat or processed foods in favour of healthier eating, increase anti-inflammatory flavonoid rich foods (onions, garlic, apples, celery, etc), essential-fatty acids and dietary fibre, drink plenty of water, take a probiotic to help regulate the balance of good (e.g. lactobacillus) and bad (e.g. H. pylori) microbes in the digestive system (click here for more on how probiotics work) and try to reducing your levels of stress! 

References
[1] A.D.A.M Medical Encyclopaedia, 2011, “Gastritis”, A.D.A.M Inc, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002135/
[2] English, J., et al. 2011, “New research links H. pylori infection and gastric cancer”, Vitamin Research News; 15(11).

About Brendan O'Loughlin

Brendan is a integrative naturopath, nutritionist and yoga teacher. He has completed training in Naturopathy, Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Yoga, Iridology and Live Blood Analysis.

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