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What is gastritis?

Understanding your condition

Gastritis is where the stomach lining (gastric mucosa) becomes irritated, inflamed, swollen and frequently painful. It can occur suddenly and briefly (acute gastritis) or be ongoing (chronic gastritis), or occur as a consequence of another health condition.

Symptoms may include a burning sensation or pain in the upper abdomen often accompanied by burping, bloating, nausea and feelings of fullness after eating. 

young woman with gastritis nausea sitting on bed one hand across stomach other hand across mouth
melbourne functional medicine health coach holding floramyces probiotics

Gastritis natural treatment

Many people with chronic gastritis are left frustrated by short team treatments that produce unwanted side effects.

Thankfully, gastritis can be treated effectively, with safe, and natural treatments to manage not just the symptoms of gastritis but the cause and triggers underlying it. Our functional medicine gastritis specialists near you can provide a safe, natural and effective gastritis treatment for lasting relief.

Before
After
Before
After

What are the most common symptoms of gastritis

Often described as indigestion, gastritis can present with some or all of the following symptoms:

  • A burning sensation or pain in the upper abdomen/lower chest, which may get worse, or better with eating
  • Pain radiating into the upper back
  • Burping, belching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hiccups
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting / vomiting blood
  • Black, sticky stool (melaena)
  • Or, some people experience no symptoms

Investigating the cause of these symptoms is important to rule out and ensure that more serious health conditions do not develop.

What causes gastritis?

Common causes of gastritis are some medications, alcohol, smoking, microbiome dysbiosis, poor diet, autoimmunity, food allergies and intolerances, bacterial overgrowth, and poor digestion.

Gastritis can be associated with other health conditions such as rosacea, iron deficiency anaemia, B12 deficiency and pernicious anaemia and autoimmune conditions such as Type 1 diabetes and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Surprisingly, in recent research, it has been found that there is a declining incidence of infectious gastritis caused by bacterial H. pylori infection and an increase in autoimmune gastritis in western populations.

More common in older rather than younger age groups, there are a variety of causes and contributing factors of the stomach inflammation and irritation of gastritis, including:

  • Poor diet / acid forming foods
  • Medications - Non steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, aspirin, somac, naproxen
  • Infections - including viral infections, gut infections
  • Parasites - especially H. pylori - which has been shown to have a strong correlation with gastric ulcers, or Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare, herpes simplex, anisakiasis or enterococcal infection(both are rare in Australia), cryptosporidium, Strongyloides stercoralis
  • Alcohol - both excessive and long term consumption
  • Smoking
  • Coffee and other caffeinated drinks
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Microbiome dysbiosis / antibiotic use
  • Intestinal hyperpermeability
  • SIBO, constipation, IBD (Crohn's disease & ulcerative colitis), IBS
  • Food allergies / intolerances
  • Chronic bile reflux (backflow of bile into the stomach)
  • History of gastric lymphoma
  • History of pernicious anaemia
  • Autoimmune conditions, e.g. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Type 1 diabetes or Crohn’s disease
  • Stress
  • Acid reflux
  • Post surgery
  • B12 deficiency (autoimmune gastritis)

Left untreated, gastritis can lead to the following complications:

  • Nutritional deficiencies, B12, Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and folic acid (Vitamin B9) and magnesium - which can contribute to other health conditions
  • Gastric / peptic ulceration (stomach or upper digestive system ulcers)
  • Duodenal inflammation and ulcers
  • Gastric / internal bleeding and iron deficiency anaemia
  • Gastric perforation
  • Atrophic gastritis - a condition where the secretory glands of the stomach become damaged by chronic inflammation and no longer produce gastric acid and enzymes necessary for digestion. Atrophic gastritis has been linked to the development of stomach cancer
  • Lymphoma of the mucosa associated lymphoid tissue (MALT)
  • Gastric cancer

What causes eczema?

There isn’t one single cause of eczema but a range of potential contributing factors that are unique to each person. These include:

Genetics

Research has found people with the ‘atopic triad’ have a defective barrier of the skin and upper and lower respiratory tracts.

These genetic alterations cause a loss of function of filaggrin (filament aggregating protein), which is a protein in the skin that normally breaks down to create natural moisturisation and protect the skin from penetration by pathogens and allergens.

Filaggrin mutations are found in approximately 30 percent of people with atopic dermatitis, and also predispose people to asthma, allergic rhinitis (hayfever), keratosis pilaris (dry rough patches and bumps on the skin), and ichthyosis vulgaris (a chronic condition which causes thick, dry, scaly skin.)If one parent carries this genetic alteration, there is a 50 percent chance their child will develop atopic symptoms. And that risk increases to 80 percent if both parents are affected. 

Food allergy and sensitivity

Food hypersensitivity has been found to cause or exacerbate atopic dermatitis in 10-30% of cases, and 90% of these are caused by eggs, milk, peanuts, soy and wheat.

Compromised gut health

The connection between the gut microbiome and skin health is complex, however, research has found the microbiota contributes to the development, persistence, and severity of atopic dermatitis through immunologic, metabolic and neuroendocrine pathways.

Nutritional deficiencies

Deficiency of Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA) has been linked with the increased incidence of atopic dermatitis, along with the inability for the body to efficiently metabolise EFA’s to gamma linoleic acids (GLA) and arachidonic acids (AA).

Weather and environment

Changing weather conditions can certainly aggravate eczema symptoms, but the triggers are subject to change among individuals.

Hormones

Hormones also play a role in the course of atopic dermatitis, including the stress hormone cortisol which triggers an inflammatory immune response affecting all organs of the body, including the skin.

Mould exposure

Mould exposure and susceptibility to mould can cause Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), of which dermatitis is a manifestation.

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Gastritis treatment - the conventional approach

Your GP may first refer you to a gastroenterologist for examination and testing to exclude other causes, and look for signs of inflammation and irritation to the gastric lining. The gastroenterologist may perform:

Gastroscopy - A gastroenterologist may perform a gastroscopy (endoscopy), where under sedation a tiny camera on a long flexible tube is passed down the oesophagus and into the stomach to look for stomach inflammation, irritation or damage such as ulcers. A biopsy may be taken.

Blood tests - to check your red blood cell count, and your iron levels. This may indicate gastric blood loss.

Faecal occult blood test - to check for blood in the stool as a sign of bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.

Breath test - testing for H. pylori can be revealed by the production of particular gas by-products and detected on the breath. Your GP can also arrange for this test.

Following this testing your GP may recommend dietary changes such as avoiding spicy or hot foods, and eliminating alcohol consumption and smoking as part of your treatment. They will recommend avoiding over the counter and prescribed anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen as they can aggravate gastritis. In addition, treatment will likely include medications such as:

  • Antacids - either over the counter or prescribed, they neutralise stomach acid, providing symptomatic relief. Side effects can include diarrhoea and constipation and can inhibit the absorption of nutrients and minerals such as B12, calcium, magnesium and zinc. With reduced stomach acid - a necessary part of the innate immune system - ingested pathogens are not destroyed and can result in increased infections
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) - directly block the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach providing short term relief, and may contribute to your risk of wrist, hip and spine fractures. Similar to antacids, they can also contribute to nutrient deficiencies and increased infections. Manufacturers recommend only short term use of no more than 2 weeks at a time, and for no longer than 3 months of 2 week cycles
  • H2 receptor antagonists - reduce the amount of acid released into the digestive tract and can reduce pain. As with other acid-reducing or neutralising medications, these too can contribute to nutrient deficiencies, increased fractures and infections
  • Antibiotics - are often prescribed to treat H. pylori and whilst this may be successful, antibiotics are non-selective, therefore, can create significant disruption to both the detrimental and the beneficial gut species

If gastritis is detected in asymptomatic patients (by chance) during endoscopy and provided there is no sign of H. pylori or other features, then no treatment may be given.

Many of these approaches simply mask the symptoms rather than provide lasting solutions. This is why many people with gastritis turn to functional medicine specialists for more comprehensive treatment.

Gastritis - functional testing considerations

Our experienced holistic gastritis specialists Rebecca Hughes, Vicki van der Meer and Mark Payne may use the following tests to help determine the factors contributing to your health picture:

  • SIBO hydrogen/methane breath testing
  • H. pylori test
  • Food allergy, intolerance or sensitivities
  • Gut microbiome testing - GI map, or GI 360
  • Digestive function and nutrient absorption testing
  • Testing for parasites such as Enterococcus, Klebsiella, H. pylori, E.coli
  • Organic acid test (OAT)
  • Other tests, such as required for your specific symptoms.

Treatment of gastritis - the functional medicine approach

Our functional medicine gastritis specialists will take a thorough case history, considering your full medical history, genetic and family history, diet and lifestyle. From there, a personalised treatment plan will be created which seeks to resolve the underlying factors involved in causing gastritis.

Natural gastritis treatments will aim to restore the digestive tract back to a healthy state, and may include repairing digestive tract lining, reducing inflammation, restoring healthy microbiome species and diversity and restoring the pH of the stomach. To achieve these goals, the following natural, evidence-based treatments may include:

  • Dietary changes - to avoid trigger foods, reduce / eliminate artificial food additives such as nitrates, acid producing, refined and highly processed, spicy and fatty foods and any suspected food allergens / intolerances
  • Increasing whole, unprocessed foods; fibre intake, especially soluble fibre to support motility and microbiome diversity and make up; anti-inflammatory, and phytonutrient rich foods to reduce inflammation and support microbial production of short chain fatty acids and beneficial metabolites that restore gut linings; brassica vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts to support
  • Lifestyle medicine such as eating smaller meals, not eating close to bedtime, improving stress resilience, and reduce / quit alcohol, smoking and coffee, and reducing exposure to environmental toxins
  • Herbal medicines such as Slippery elm bark, Marshmallow & licorice to soothe and repair gastric mucosa; Curcumin, Boswellia to reduce inflammation; Goldenseal, cinnamon, wormwood, thyme, pomegranate husk, garlic, and barberry as antimicrobials; Calendula, goldenseal, yarrow, green tea to restore gastric mucosa
  • Supplementation with glycine, glutamine, zinc, magnesium, and/or vitamin C to improve epithelial integrity of the gut lining; omega 3 - essential fatty acids to reduce inflammation; precision probiotic strains - choosing the right strains at the right time is essential; B12 and any other nutrients that are shown to be deficient due to poor absorption or other health conditions.

Functional medicine is a holistic, personalised practice based on the latest scientific research and years of skilled practitioner experience. At Melbourne Functional Medicine, our gastritis naturopaths are functional medicine trained specialists. We treat the whole person, so not only the symptoms of your gastritis - we aim to treat any other conditions or symptoms you are experiencing.

We combine this deep knowledge of gastritis and health in a unique 6-month program that provides you with effective treatment and ready access to your practitioner and health coach team. Your health coach will provide you with the tools to implement the change to become a healthier you. They’ll empower, educate, and support you through your tailored treatment program back to health again.

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See how functional medicine is helping our patients achieve better health and richer lives.

Click the button below to find out how, then book a discovery call today!

FAQs

Why does my stomach hurt after I eat? I have pain in the upper abdomen, could it be gastritis?

Always rule out heart problems first, and if in doubt seek urgent medical assistance, as gastritis and reflux pain can be confused for cardiac pain.

If the area below the base of your sternum hurts after eating it may be gastritis, due to irritation and inflammation of the stomach lining. If you’re feeling burning up higher in your chest then it may be acid reflux. Often gastritis pain is described as indigestion - though, this is a broad description for general pain in the upper abdomen.

Signs of gastritis:

  • If eating relieves the pain, or makes it worse
  • Burping / belching after eating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hiccups
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Signs of reflux / heartburn:

  • Pain above the base of the sternum, which can radiate up to the neck, jaw and throat
  • Acid taste in mouth
  • Hoarse voice
  • Sore throat

See our acid reflux page for more information

What foods help heal gastritis? Is banana good for gastritis?

Relieving the symptoms of gastritis may not be the same as healing it. Some medications reduce stomach acid to relieve the symptoms, but this does not address the cause of gastritis.

Bananas can be soothing as they can neutralise stomach acid and provide a fibre source that can help digestion.

Identifying any food allergies and intolerances and eliminating them from the diet can also relieve gastritis symptoms.

Slippery elm powder can provide relief and also is a food source (prebiotic fibre) for gut microbial species, and can help in recovery from gastritis. Identifying and treating the underlying cause is the most effective way to relieve symptoms of gastritis.

How to cure gastritis permanently?

No-one can guarantee you a cure for anything, but there are a number of positive steps you can take to achieve your best health. Seeing a specialised practitioner with the time and the skills to drill down and identify the root cause of your gastritis would be a great start.

Next would be identifying the triggers, such as food allergies/intolerances, dysbiosis of the microbiome, other digestive conditions, medications, and stress - to name a few (see above for the full list of potential causes). Once the root cause and other contributing factors are identified, a treatment plan that treats the ‘whole’ person and not just the symptoms is essential to long term healing.

Some changes will be required, such as quitting smoking or alcohol, dietary changes, and / or learning stress resilience techniques - and this is where a health coach can help. They support, educate and empower you to make the changes necessary, to regain optimal health.

Can gastritis cause back pain?

In some people gastritis pain can radiate around to the upper back. It may feel like a sharp, burning or stabbing pain in the chest and back. This is due to an overlap of the nerves between the digestive system, and is called referred pain.

Like pain in the upper abdomen, the back pain of gastritis is generally worse after eating.

How long does gastritis take to heal?

It depends on how long the symptoms have been occurring and what is causing gastritis. Identifying and treating the root cause and all contributing factors is essential to long term symptom relief from gastritis.

Is aloe vera good for gastritis? Is there a diet for gastritis? Are there foods to avoid in gastritis?

Aloe vera may provide some relief, provided it is a pure aloe vera product. Some drinks available contain aloe vera, but also sugars, flavours and additives that may contribute to symptoms. It is important that a product that contains 100% gel from the inside of the leaf is used, as the outside of the leaf contains astringents that may contribute to symptoms.

Everyone is different, and so the best diet is the one that is best for you. Often gastritis can be triggered by food intolerances and allergies, and these are different for every person. Eliminating these foods, either short or long term may be part of a gastritis diet. A diet for gastritis would include foods that restore nutrient levels, help to support healthy gut linings, digestion, transit times, microbiome diversity and make-up and reduce inflammation are important.

As this approach forms a part of our gastritis naturopathic treatment, one of our gastritis naturopaths, trained in functional medicine can help you identify and treat your gastritis symptoms naturally, and effectively.

How to treat gastritis naturally. Is there an alternative treatment for gastritis?

3 teaspoons of slippery elm powder mixed in a glass of water, drunk quickly after mixing can relieve symptoms of gastritis. It is essential to ensure that with any fibre supplement, you drink plenty of water - ideally 2 litres per day, to avoid constipation.

Eating a banana may help reduce the acid and the symptoms of gastritis. Eating a diet of fresh, whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables instead of fast, spicy, fatty and highly processed foods can help to reduce symptoms of gastritis.

Identifying your gastritis triggers with the help of a functional medicine gastritis specialist will help you to be symptom free and achieve optimal digestive health.

Is there a gastritis specialist near me?

Yes! At Melbourne Functional Medicine we have functional medicine gastritis naturopaths who can treat you in our beautiful South Melbourne clinic, or via our telehealth service.

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Reach out to the team directly – we’ll be happy to assist.

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