Stomach pain is something we can safely say everyone experiences at some point in their lives. One of the leading causes of stomach pain is gastritis. Gastritis is the inflammation of the gastric mucosa, the mucous membrane layer of the stomach, which contains the glands and gastric pits. Excessive alcohol use, NSAIDS (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), bacterial infections, older age, and stress are all factors that can cause gastritis. If you are experiencing digestive issues such as, nausea, vomiting, upper abdominal pain, bloating, weight loss, gastrointestinal bleeding or loss of appetite, you may be suffering from gastritis. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I have found a few natural remedies that can help you ease gastritis symptoms.
Treating gastritis naturally
The first approach I take with my patients is removing the agent that is causing the problem. For example, if alcohol or excessive use of aspirin is causing the gastritis it should be removed from the person’s lifestyle. Removing spicy and acidic foods from your diet will also help in easing gastritis symptoms.
Next, I start smoothing the stomach lining by introducing certain herbs to a patient’s diet. These herbs include slippery elm break, aloe, marshmallow root or deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) licorice. They all have anti-inflammatory properties and are demulcents which are substances that relieve irritation of the mucous membranes by forming a protective film. Smoothing the stomach with these herbs will coat the stomach creating a soothing effect while also healing the inflamed gut.
Other natural remedies I suggest to my patients include chamomile tea and ginger to help with nausea and sometimes bitters if they are feeling bloated or not digesting foods after eating.
Follow an anti-inflammatory diet
Consuming a diet that helps minimize inflammation may provide relief over time. Foods that commonly contribute to inflammation are processed foods, gluten, acidic foods, dairy products, sugary foods, spicy foods and alcohol. Removing these products from your diet can have a positive effect on your gastritis symptoms.
An anti-inflammatory diet will include lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins like beans and nuts, fatty fish and fresh herbs and spices.
Fruits and vegetables: Vitamin K rich leafy greens like spinach and kale can help reduce inflammation. Broccoli and cabbage also have the same effect. Fruits like cherries, raspberries and blackberries can also help reduce inflammation due to chemicals called anthocyanins which gives them their color.
Whole grains: Brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and oatmeal tend to be high in fiber. High-fiber foods feed beneficial bacteria living in the gut which in turn can help reduce inflammation.
Nuts: Walnuts, almonds, and many other nuts may help reduce inflammation. Most nuts are high in healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) as well as omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. These healthy fats can help reduce inflammation in the gut.
Fish: You should eat fish at least twice a week to help reduce inflammation. Salmon, tuna, and sardines all have omega-3 fatty acids which fight inflammation.
Herbs and spices: Turmeric and garlic should be supplemented in your diet to reduce inflammation. Curcumin is the active chemical in turmeric root, and it blocks inflammatory cytokines and enzymes. Garlic contains diallyl disulfide, an anti-inflammatory compound that limits the effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Stress is another common cause of gastritis. When experiencing stress your body will release cortisol. Cortisol works to suppress the nonessential in an emergency functions, like your immune response and digestion. The disruption to your digestion can cause inflammation in your gut resulting in gastritis over a period of time. Reducing stress levels is an important way to help manage the symptoms. Some simple techniques you can use to reduce stress include, massage, meditation, yoga and breathing exercises.
Try using probiotics
Probiotics help improve digestion and introduce good bacteria into a person’s gut, which can help stop the spread of H. pylori bacteria. Try introducing foods like yogurt, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut to your diet to help ease the symptoms of gastritis.
Treating bacterial gastritis
An antibiotic for Helicobacter pylori may be necessary if your gastritis is due to a bacterial infection. H. pylori is a bacterium that grows in the digestive tract and has a tendency to attack the stomach lining. Most people with H. pylori infection will never have any signs or symptoms. This is because some people are born with more resistance to the harmful effects of the H. pylori bacteria. Signs of H. pylori infections include an ache or burning pain in your abdomen, abdominal pain when your stomach is empty, nausea, loss of appetite, frequent burping, bloating and unintentional weight loss. If you notice any of these symptoms you should consult with your personal physician.
Gastritis is a relatively common condition in older adults and can be treated easily through natural methods. If left untreated gastritis can lead to peptic ulcer disease, cancer and B12 deficiencies. It is important to recognize the symptoms of gastritis and remove the causing factors related to your symptoms. I recommend if you are experiencing gastritis pains you consult with your personal physician before implementing any treatments on your own.
Author: Stephanie Seitz MT (ASCP), ND, MPH is a licensed naturopathic doctor at Natural Kid Doc who specializes in women’s health and fertility. Seitz has spent the last 10 years at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine teaching medical students and treating patients. She graduated from Augustana College in Rock Island Illinois, with a B.A. in Clinical Laboratory Sciences in 2000. In 2010 she achieved her Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine.