My Mother died aged just 60. When doctors performed her autopsy, they reported that she had been suffering severe gastritis and bleeding of the stomach and small intestine. In ten years of medical care, nobody had bothered to check her stomach for the presence of damage.
My Mother died as a result of septicemia: an infection developed in her psoas muscle, burst and allowed the infectious bacteria to enter her brain. It is fairly clear to me that the infectious organisms that caused the sepsis broke into her circulation through her damaged stomach and intestine.
This is a serious topic!
Gastritis simply means “inflammation of the stomach”. H pylori infection is the leading – but not the only – cause of gastritis.
In fact, any word that ends in ‘itis’ means inflammation. For example, colitis is inflammation of the colon, arthritis is inflammation of joints, uveitis is inflammation of the eyes.
Most of the pain people experience is caused by inflammation. If tissues in your body are inflamed, you’ll tend to feel pain there.
However, inflammation does not always cause pain and this is one of the most important lessons you can learn regarding your health because “silent” inflammation causes most of the diseases that afflict the Western population.
Chronic, long term inflammation can lead to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, IBS, autoimmune disease and many other disease processes. These diseases don’t appear over night, they are the result of a long term process.
H Pylori, Gastritis & Stomach Pain
H pylori infection always causes inflammation. This inflammation is generally located in the stomach and small intestine, where it is known as gastritis and duodenitis, respectively.
In some folk, gastritis and duodenitis will cause them to experience pain consciously, but other folk will not feel this pain. This is similar to the situation in celiac disease, where some people feel extreme pain upon eating gluten, whereas others feel no discomfort whatsoever, even though the gluten causes huge amounts of inflammation in the intestine.
Individual differences in the way we react to the H pylori infection, in addition to the specific strain of H pylori involved, seem to be the primary reasons why some folk develop stomach pain, heartburn and other uncomfortable symptoms while others do not.
The most common symptom of gastritis is a burning pain that occurs between the breastbone and the bellybutton. The pain can either be worsened or made better by food.
Nausea, loss of appetite, bloating and other common digestive symptoms may also be signs of gastritis. Severe gastritis can lead to stomach ulcers or bleeding, both of which must be treated by a medical professional.
If you have severe pain, burning, nausea, vomiting – especially if you vomit blood or coffee-like granules – or if your bowel movements are unusually dark, seek medical attention immediately as you may have bleeding in your stomach or intestines.
Three Main Causes Of Gastritis
There are three major causes of gastritis:
First, H pylori infection is believed to be the number one cause of gastritis.
Second, NSAIDS such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), Naxopren (Aleve, Naprosyn) are used to treat pain syndromes such as arthritis and headaches. They are available over the counter, without prescription.
They work by decreasing the formation of some of the body’s pain signalling chemicals, known as prostaglandins. Gastritis and bleeding of the stomach are known to be side effects of using NSAIDS. For example, in one study it was found that the use of one adult strength aspirin per day triples a person’s risk of being hospitalised for a major gastrointestinal bleed.â€¨
Third, several diet and lifestyle factors may cause or contribute to the development of gastritis. Here are some of those factors:
• Alcohol consumption (alcohol is a major irritant of the GI tract)
• Cigarette smoking
• Eating smoked, pickled and processed foods, for example bacon, salami, pickles, vinegar). Processed meats that contain nitrates and nitrites are preservatives are especially problematic.
• Spicy foods such as chilli
• Greasy foods containing processed vegetable oils
• Consuming gluten-containing foods (from wheat, rye and barley)
• Cow’s milk products, especially when they are pasteurised
• Sugar consumption
• Coffee drinking
• Food allergies: common triggers include cow’s milk, wheat, corn, yeast, nuts, eggs
• Stress (yes, stress has been shown to directly cause inflammation)
Overcoming gastritis is not difficult. If you have digestive pain above your bellybutton, the chances are that you have gastritis.
So first, check your lifestyle against the factors listed above and correct any of these that need correcting. Remove problematic foods, stop smoking and talk to your doctor about whether you need NSAIDs.
If this does not relieve your symptoms, make sure that get a test for H pylori. You can get a test from your doctor. We recommend that you two tests: a stool antigen test and a urea breath test.
If H pylori is detected in your testing, you must take steps to eradicate the infection using triple therapy antibiotics or a well-designed herbal protocol such as the one I used when I had H pylori.
Once H pylori has been successfully eradicated, substances that are helpful in healing a damaged stomach and intestinal lining include DGL, zinc-l-carnosine, l-glutamine, cysteine or n-acetyl cysteine, gamma-oryzanol, colostrum and probiotics.
If you are experiencing very severe symptoms, I recommend that you ask for an endoscopy examination from your doctor or specialist. The endoscopy procedure can help you identify how severe your gastritis is. It can also determine whether you have developed stomach, or peptic ulcers, Barrett’s esophagus, atrophic gastritis and other conditions, including cancer. A biopsy can also be taken during the endoscopy procedure to identify H pylori infection.
Do not underestimate your body’s messages. If you have pain in your digestive system it means there is something wrong. H pylori can cause stomach cancer if it is left untreated. So what begins as simple gastritis can end up causing very serious problems.
Please don’t take chances. Alter your diet and lifestyle habits and, if this does not bring relief, seek medical attention immediately.