Gastritis is a condition that comes on suddenly or gradually. It can trigger bloating, indigestion, nausea and gastric pain. The two main types of gastritis are erosive and non-erosive. Erosive gastritis leads to an erosion and inflammation of the stomach lining, whereas non-erosive gastritis inflames the stomach lining but doesn’t compromise the mucous membrane.
Understanding Gastritis from the Experiences of Two People with the Condition
Recognising the reasons behind gastritis in people helps with ascertaining the right treatment options and improving quality of life. Here are two first-hand accounts of people who’ve found ways to manage the condition effectively.
“At its worst, it was happening at least once a week” – Nia, 30
30-year-old writer Nia was 24 years old when she had her first gastric attack. Initially, a physician diagnosed her with gastritis after learning that she often had indigestion. To make matters worse, she also suffered gastric pain whenever she fell sick. Hence, the physician prescribed her strong medications that protect her stomach and intestines.
“Years later, I also found out that I was gluten and lactose intolerant. Also, my pancreas wasn’t producing any enzymes, so I was malnourished,” recalls Nia. She believes that a lifestyle involving missed meals, anxiety disorders, and a stressful working environment contributed mainly to the condition’s development.
When a gastric attack does occur, she’d present with a combination of symptoms, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Acid reflux
- Occasional vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Pain or burning sensation in the stomach
To attain relief, she ingests a number of medications, such as antacids, Domperidone, Esomeprazole, and Rabeprazole. She also takes a vitamin B12 supplement to address a deficiency of this nutrient.
Separately, she uses a herbal formula that consists of ingredients like cinnamon, lavender, nutmeg, thyme and star anise. In addition, she replaced her consumption of Indonesian and Western foods with a strict gluten-free diet, whilst limiting her lactose intake. To promote better digestion, she also consumes a glass of warm water with lemon and honey on a daily basis.
“I was writhing on the floor in pain” – Harold, 32
Harold was diagnosed with gastritis at the young age of 16. The most prevalent sign of his condition is intense pain in the abdominal area. “I remember one specific gastric attack during my late 20s. I hadn’t eaten the whole day, and the pain took me completely by surprise. When I did try to eat something, I found it difficult to chew and swallow. I then admitted myself into emergency care, whereby the doctor administered an injection that almost immediately relieved the pain,” says Harold.
To calm acid reflux or indigestion, he consumes antacid – a class of medication that neutralises stomach acid – in liquid form. He has also found milk thistle to effectively ease these symptoms. Like Nia, he also switched up his eating pattern to lower his risk of gastric episodes. Notably, he maintains consistent mealtimes daily and refrains from eating too many inflammatory foods.
Identifying the Triggers of Gastritis
Clinically, gastritis is believed to stem from various factors, such as:
- Bacterial infection – H. pylori bacteria is a common cause of gastritis and peptic ulcers. The bacteria break down the stomach’s protective lining and cause inflammation.
- Medications – regular use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids can harm the stomach lining
- Autoimmune disease – provokes a person’s immune system to attack healthy cells in the stomach lining
- Bile reflux – happens when bile juice doesn’t move through the small intestine but instead flows back into the stomach
- Physical stress – Injury to other parts of the body can give rise to this condition. For instance, brain injuries or severe burns
- Excessive alcohol consumption – irritates and erodes the stomach lining
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the condition arises from Liver qi (vital energy) Stagnation, Blood Stasis, Stagnation or Dampness Heat in the Stomach, Spleen and Stomach qi Deficiency, or a complication of Heat Cold mixture.
Though, Eu Yan Sang TCM Physician Kong Teck Chuan cautions, “Do check for a condition known as Barrett’s oesophagus as it can increase the risk of cancer of the oesophagus. Jaundice or pain in the upper right abdomen may indicate gallbladder inflammation, and require hospitalisation or surgery. Lower right quadrant pain is suggestive of appendicitis. Meanwhile, extreme epigastric pain during pregnancy can point to serious preeclampsia, and be life-threatening. Chest pain, on the other hand, may reveal a cardiac disorder.”
Ways to Do Away with Gastric Pain
The prescription of treatment modalities for gastritis relate to its individual origins. Alternatively, a TCM diagnosis for the condition are based on an observation of a person’s symptoms. Practitioners of this medicine system regard stomach pain as ‘epigastric pain’, epigastric distention – swelling due to internal pressure – as ‘distention and fullness’ and the absence of neither symptom as ‘acid regurgitation’.
Use distinct types of medications
Generally, some medications can help kill bacteria, whereas others suppress the signs of indigestion. Examples of these are:
- Antibiotics – This medication is highly effective against bacterial infections. You may need to take more than one type of antibiotics for approximately two weeks.
- Antacids – Medications formulated from calcium carbonate can neutralize the acid in the stomach, help reduce inflammation and stomach acid exposure. They can also treat heartburn.
- Histamine blockers and proton pump inhibitors – These medications are capable of minimising stomach acid production.
Consume herbal formulas or ingredients
Bupleurum (chai hu, 柴胡), liquorice (gan cao, 甘草), peonies (mu dan, 牡丹) and tangerine peel (chen pi, 陈皮) can be beneficial for regulating Liver qi and harmonising the Stomach. A soup called huang lian wen dan (黄连文丹) is helpful for clearing Heat and removing Dampness. Ingredients like jujube (zao, 枣), Poria (fu ling, 茯苓) and immature bitter oranges (zhi shi, 枳實) can also have similar effects.
For a deficiency of Spleen and Stomach qi, a TCM practitioner may recommend a decoction called xiang sha liu jun zi (香砂六君子) or herbs like Atractylodes (bai zhu, 白朮) and Codonopsis (dang shen, 党参). The aim of these remedies is to reinforce qi to strengthen the Spleen.
Undergo acupuncture and moxibustion therapies
The combination of these two treatment options can primarily help people with intermingled deficiencies and excess syndrome. People with qi Stagnation and Blood Stasis syndrome should stimulate the he gu (LI4, 合谷), tai chong (LR4, 太衝) and xue hai (SP10, 血海) acupoints. Likewise, people with qi Deficiency and Blood Stasis should activate the ge shu (BL17, 膈俞) and xue hai (SP10,血海) points.
Relook how and what you eat
“It’s advisable that people who are prone to indigestion consume smaller meal portions more frequently. Taking these meals on time and not skipping meals can also condition gastric juices to release optimally. Also, quit smoking, limit alcohol consumption and avoid foods that irritate the stomach”, says physician Kong.
Holistic treatment of gastritis can help prevent gastric pain. If you wish to consider the use of herbal or traditional treatments, speaks to a physician and licensed TCM practitioner beforehand. In doing so, you’ll be able to receive a plan that works for you but doesn’t prompt any negative implications.