Mon | May 29, 2017

DO YOU HAVE GASTRITIS?

Published:Tuesday | June 23, 2015 | 6:00 AM

EATING IS usually a very pleasant experience, not to mention necessary for life. Anything that takes the pleasure out of eating makes life very miserable indeed. Gastritis not only takes the pleasure out of eating, it actually can make it painful.

By way of definition, gastritis is inflammation of the lining of the stomach. Inflammation is associated with increased activity of the immune system, where it produces substances and actions aimed at repelling a perceived attack. An inflamed area of the body is like a war zone and often 'innocent bystanders' and harmless structures get damaged.

There are different causes of this inflammation such as infection (bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungus), medications, allergic reactions, stress, alcohol, chemicals, and certain foods. The most common causes are infections and medications.

Gastritis usually causes upper abdominal pain. This pain is usually burning and/or cramping. Nausea and vomiting frequently accompany gastritis as well. There may also be loss of appetite, belching and bloating.

tests to verify

If you go to the doctor with the above symptoms and you are exposed to any of those factors that can cause it, then chances are the doctor will diagnose you with gastritis. However, if the diagnosis is not certain enough, investigations may be done such as a Barium meal X-ray, upper gastro-intestinal endoscopy, blood tests for helicobacter pylori (a bacterium that infects the stomach), and a biopsy of the stomach wall.

Part of the reason it is so important to know about gastritis is because of the serious complications it may cause. These include stomach ulcers, bleeding, strictures, scarring, dehydration, and even death. Strictures result from scars, causing shrinking of part of the stomach, which blocks the flow of its contents.

The high levels of acidity in the stomach may prevent it from healing, so treatment is usually aimed at reducing it. This is done by using antacids that

neutralise the acid (e.g. Dica); medications that reduce the production of the acid (ranitidine and lansoprazole); medications that protect the stomach wall from the acid (sucralfate); and antibiotics where it is suspected that H pylori is present. Aloe vera may speed up healing. If there are any complications, then they are treated accordingly.

It is important to know, though, that the treatment for gastritis can also cause problems. Prolonged acid suppression may cause anemia and even osteoporosis. And interestingly enough, treating H pylori may increase the risk of GERD, asthma, and other allergic conditions.