Gastric pain is the main presenting feature of acute gastritis and it is often described as a gnawing or burning pain that is localized to the upper central part of the abdomen. Gastric pain can present as mild abdominal discomfort or severe, excruciating pain that requires medical attention. Besides gastric pain, acute gastritis is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as heartburn, bloating, belching, nausea, and vomiting. In extreme cases, patients may also present with vomiting blood or with black, tarry stools. This article will discuss the causes of gastritis and ways you can relieve gastric pain. Read on to learn more about this.
What causes acute gastritis?
Gastritis is the medical term used to describe inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining. This happens when the mucosal barrier is damaged by certain factors, allowing the acidic digestive juices to erode and inflame your stomach lining.
Some of the risk factors that contribute to gastritis include :
- Spicy food
- Drinking excessive coffee and alcohol
- Taking anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen regularly
- Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) infection
- Autoimmune disorders such as Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus and Hashimoto’s disease – This type of gastritis is classified as autoimmune gastritis
How is gastric pain relieved?
When you experience gastric pain, your doctor may prescribe some medications for symptomatic relief depending on the cause of gastritis. Some of the medications commonly prescribed include :
- Medications that block and reduce the production of stomach acid such as :
- Proton pump inhibitors. These drugs irreversibly block the H+/K+ ATPase enzyme found in the parietal cell which then stops the secretion of gastric acid. Examples include omeprazole, pantoprazole, and lansoprazole.
- Histamine H2 antagonists such as ranitidine help in reducing gastric acid secretion.
- Antacids are a group of medications that are used to neutralize the acid in the stomach. They can provide rapid relief in gastric pain and are available as chewable tablets and liquid form. Examples include milk of magnesia (magnesium hydroxide), calcium carbonate, and aluminium hydroxide.
- Antibiotic therapy
- In cases of gastritis caused by H.pylori infection, a course of antibiotics is usually prescribed as part of a triple therapy regime. This triple therapy regime consists of a proton pump inhibitor, clarithromycin, and amoxicillin or metronidazole. This antibiotic therapy is given for at least 7-14 days, depending on the severity of the illness.
These medications are great in relieving symptoms of gastritis in the short term. However, the most efficient way to treat and prevent gastric pain in the long term is through lifestyle modifications. You can follow these steps to get some relief from gastric pain.
- Eat smaller but more frequent meals in a day
- Avoid foods that can trigger gastric pain especially spicy, acidic, fried, or fatty foods
- Avoid consuming too much alcohol and coffee
- Talk to your doctor about switching to an alternative painkiller
- Reduce stress by practicing relaxation exercises such as yoga and meditation
- Quit smoking
- Taking foods that can help relieve gastric pain such as broccoli, garlic, and probiotics
What happens if gastritis is left untreated?
Gastritis is a condition that can be easily treated. Long-standing gastritis that is left untreated can bring about some complications such as :
- Dehydration due to vomiting
- Weight loss due to poor appetite
- Gastric ulcers
- Gastrointestinal bleeding due to peptic ulcers
- Peritonitis caused by perforated peptic ulcers
- Pernicious anemia due to Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Stomach cancer
- Gastric outlet obstruction
In conclusion, mild gastric pain can be easily treated with over-the-counter medications like antacids, but if you suffer from extreme gastric pain, it is advisable to book an appointment with a doctor for a long-term management plan that includes diet and lifestyle changes in addition to medications.