When my Mother died, aged only 60, her autopsy revealed severe gastritis and bleeding of the stomach and small intestine. She died as a result of septicaemia – an infection developed in her psoas muscle (in the hip, upper leg and lower back), burst and became systemic. 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 (e.g. colitis is inflammation of the colon, tendonitis is inflammation of tendons, vasculitis is inflammation of blood vessels, oesophagitis is inflammation of the oesophagus or ‘food pipe’).
Pain is usually caused by inflammation, so 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.
Hidden, silent inflammation is seen in our Functional Medicine community as the ‘Mother of All Disease’. Chronic, long term inflammation leads to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, IBS, autoimmune disease and many other disease processes. These diseases don’t appear overnight, they are the result of a long term process.
H Pylori, Gastritis & Stomach Pain
H pylori infection ALWAYS causes gastritis. Not sometimes, or when it feels like it, but ALWAYS. Whether you experience symptoms from H pylori infection or not the bacteria always cause inflammation in your stomach and/or small intestine.
In some people, gastritis will cause pain, in others it won’t. That’s just the way it is. But it does make things a little confusing, I’m sure you’ll agree. Individual differences in the way we react to the H pylori bacteria seems to be the main reason why some of us 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 symptoms may also be signs of gastritis. Severe gastritis can lead to stomach ulcers or bleeding, both of which must be treated medically.
If you have severe pain, burning, nausea, vomiting (especially if you vomit blood or coffee-like granules), or if your stool (bowel movement) is very dark, seek medical attention immediately as you may have bleeding in your stomach or intestines)
The Three Main Causes Of Gastritis
There are three main causes of gastritis:
Let’s look at these individually:
Gastritis and stomach bleeding are well known side-effects of using these medications. A large study found that the use of one adult strength aspirin (325mg) per day TRIPLES a person’s risk of being hospitalised for a major gastrointestinal bleed.
Aspirin and NSAIDs are dangerous.
Phew – take a deep breath. Some or all of this information may be new to you and I appreciate it may be a little overwhelming.
If you have digestive pain above your bellybutton, the chances are that you have gastritis (or duodenitis, which is inflammation of the small intestine).
The gastritis that is causing the pain is likely being caused by H pylori or other bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection, food, dehydration, alcohol, NSAIDs if you’re taking them and stress.
Therefore, if you want to get rid of the pain and reduce your risk for developing severe complications such as ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding, you need to focus on the above elements.
Taking medical drugs like antacids won’t suffice and you may well end up doing far more damage to yourself. You need to get to the root cause.
Here’s a quick gastritis-relief checklist:
If you have severe symptoms, ask for an endoscopy examination from your doctor. The endoscopy can help you identify the level of gastritis you have, whether you have developed ulcers, Barretts Oesophagus, Atrophic Gastritis and other conditions. A biopsy can also be taken to identify H pylori infection.