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What Is Stomach Inflammation?

By Rebecca Harkin
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Inflammation of the lining of the stomach is called gastritis. The most common symptoms of stomach inflammation are nausea and vomiting, burping, bloating, a burning sensation in your stomach, and weight loss. Erosive and nonerosive are the two types of gastritis.

A protective mucous layer lines the stomach insulating it from the strong acidic gastric juices used to break down food. The lining is constantly being naturally destroyed by gastric juices and replenished, but if this process is disrupted, the mucous layer of the stomach can become inflamed. In erosive gastritis, stomach inflammation results from the inability of the stomach to repair the eroding mucosal lining and is caused by long term, regular use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), excessive alcohol use, and physiological stress. Nonerosive gastritis involves a variety of mechanisms which damage the mucous lining. It is caused primarily by infection of the stomach by Helicobacter pylori, but can also be caused by the inability to absorb B12 through the stomach, a condition called a pernicious anemia, or bile reflux disease.

Stomach inflammation is confirmed using one or more of four possible tests. An upper endoscopy involves passing a camera through a tube into the stomach and examining the health of the stomach lining, and if stomach bleeding is observed an endoscopic hemostasis can be performed to control it. A blood test can be carried out to test for pernicious anemia and the presence of Helicobacter pylori. A stool test can also be used to identify the presence of Helicobacter pylori and to test for blood in the stool, a sign of advanced gastritis. Finally, a urea breath test is a rapid test for Helicobacter pylori detection before and after treatment.

A variety of medications can help the symptoms of stomach inflammation. Antacids can help by balancing the stomach acids, making them less corrosive to the damaged stomach lining. Acid blockers and proton pump inhibitors slow the pumping of hydrogen ions into the stomach, preventing the combination of hydrogen ions with chloride ions to make the hydrochloric acid component of the gastric juices. The result is a less acidic stomach.

When stomach inflammation is caused by the over-use of NSAIDs and alcohol, the typical course of treatment is to stop or reduce the NSAIDs or alcohol to give the delicate mucous lining time to heal. Sometimes an antacid, acid blocker, or proton pump inhibitor is used to control symptoms until the lining is healed. Stomach inflammations, caused by an infection of Helicobacter pylori, is typically eradicated using a combination of two or three antibiotics along with a proton pump inhibitor.

What Causes Stomach Inflammation? 

Stomach inflammation (also referred to as gastritis) can cause discomfort even to the point of disrupting your ability to work or even relax. While it is relatively common, it can be a painful symptom to experience. What exactly causes this issue?

Helicobacter Pylori 

One of the causes of stomach inflammation is a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori. If this bacteria isn't treated properly, it can also cause ulcers in the stomach. However, it is a very common bacteria that typically doesn't cause major problems for most people.

Viral Infections 

Viral infections, such as the common cold, can also cause stomach inflammation. It's worth noting whether you are experiencing other typical symptoms of a viral infection in addition to your stomach discomfort, such as a fever or headache.

Excessive Alcohol Use 

Simply having a drink or two every once in a while probably won't cause stomach inflammation, but excessive alcohol use certainly can. Inflammation caused by excessive alcohol use is sometimes referred to as "alcoholic gastritis."

Stress 

Stress can be another cause of stomach inflammation. This is not surprising, as it can be the cause of a whole host of painful physical symptoms. Sometimes taking steps to reduce your stress can be a significant part of the solution.

Poor Dieting 

If your metabolic system is worked too hard, it can contribute to inflammation in your stomach. This is one of the most important reasons to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. If your diet is poor and tends to have excess amounts of processed food and sugar, there's a good chance that it is playing a part in your stomach discomfort.

Be sure to tell your doctor about your symptoms and any potential ties you have noticed to any of the causes above.

How Do You Know if You Have Stomach Inflammation? 

You might be wondering whether you have stomach inflammation or if your discomfort is being caused by something else. It can be hard to discern what exactly you're experiencing, but typical symptoms of inflammation of the stomach include:

  • Pain in your stomach, especially between your belly button and your ribs 
  • Excessive burping or hiccups 
  • Indigestion 
  • Blood in your excrement 
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Fatigue and shortness of breath when you're active 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or a combination of them, call your doctor and set up an appointment to help determine what exactly is going on and how to proceed.

Your doctor may test you for H. pylori by using a blood or stool test. Other methods of diagnosing your stomach inflammation are the performance of an endoscopy (the insertion of a lens down your throat to actually look at the inside of the stomach) and getting an X-ray of your digestive tract. The latter method might involve you drinking a special fluid that has barium in it to help identify ulcers in the X-ray images.

How To Reduce Stomach Inflammation 

If you are experiencing stomach inflammation, the vital question of how to reduce it and improve your symptoms depends greatly upon what the cause or causes are. For this reason, seeing your doctor is an important first step in the process so you can get professional guidance.

Some treatments that your doctor might prescribe or recommend for you to reduce inflammation are:

  • Antibiotic medications (if the cause of your inflammation is bacterial, such as H. pylori) 
  • Antacids (which help to reduce stomach acid) 
  • H-2 blocker medications 
  • Proton pump inhibitor medications 
  • B12 vitamin shots 
  • Dietary changes 

Reducing stomach inflammation can be a gradual process, and it may take some lifestyle adjustments to relieve your symptoms. You'll thank yourself (and your doctor) later when you're feeling better and are able to get back to focusing on the things you love.

How To Get Rid of Stomach Inflammation 

If you've been struggling with chronic inflammation and are wondering if there's any hope for long-term freedom from it, take heart: Some people are able to fully recover even after a long bout with stomach inflammation. Again, treatment should be pursued with the help of your doctor.

Sometimes the process of healing from inflammation can take a long time and involve multiple factors. You might need a combination of treatments to get things under control. For example, if your stomach inflammation is bacterial, antibiotics will likely be an integral part of your treatment, but you should also do what you can to avoid foods that can irritate your stomach and make your recovery harder than it needs to be.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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