While many cases of gastritis are caused by the H. pylori bacterium, which attacks the stomach lining, a lot of gastritis patients are the victim of something that actually belongs in the system: stomach acid. There are a number of gastritis treatments available, which one depends on the type of gastritis.
Your stomach naturally has acids to break down and digest foods. Your stomach has a very strong lining that stops these acids from getting out into the rest of your body, where they would be corrosive and harmful. But sometimes something happens to your stomach lining that makes it weak, thus letting the acids out and causing pain and discomfort. Gastritis – which refers to an inflamed stomach lining, regardless of the cause – is the result.
If the cause of your gastritis is indeed stomach acid rather than bacteria, there are a number of ways of treating it. For mild, occasional flares of gastritis, simple over-the-counter medications such as Maalox and Mylanta – basic antacids – may alleviate the symptoms. If the problem is ongoing, however, or becomes severe, you should see a doctor to determine whether it's serious enough for a prescription.
Your doctor might prescribe an acid blocker. Some of the common brand names of acid blockers that you may have heard of are Tagamet, Zantac, Axid, and Pepcid. These drugs cause the stomach to produce less acid than usual, thus reducing your gastritis symptoms. Of course, it's neither feasible nor wise to get rid of stomach acid altogether, since you need it to digest food. But acid blockers can at least reduce it a bit, to get rid of the excess acid that's causing you trouble.
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Another way of doing this is through proton pump inhibitors. Here's how they work. The cells of your stomach have little "pumps" in them that squirt out acid. Proton pump inhibitors work to shut down those "pumps." The cells remain; they just do not secrete acid anymore. Medications that do this have names such as Prilosec, Prevacid, Aciphex, and Nexium. As an added bonus, proton pump inhibitors also seem to reduce the effectiveness of the H. pylori bacterium, thus killing two birds with one stone when it comes to gastritis.
The fourth medical way to deal with acid-caused gastritis is something called a cytoprotective agent. These are drugs that give added protection to the tissues of your small intestine and your stomach. So instead of reducing the amount of stomach acid, this tactic says, "Bring on the stomach acid. We'll just give added protection to everything it touches." Carafate and Cytotec are two brand names of cytoprotective drugs. Also, regular Pepto-Bismol has the same effect, coating the inside of your intestine and stomach and thus protecting it from acid. Cytoprotectives, like proton pump inhibitors, are also effective against H. pylori.
As with all medications, you should take these only as advised by your doctor, and report any side effects immediately. Luckily, one or more of these gastritis treatments usually easily solves the issue and the symptoms gradually disappear.