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Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining. It’s a common condition that has several possible causes – find out about the symptoms and how it’s treated.

What is gastritis?

Gastritis is a common condition where the lining of the stomach becomes inflamed or irritated. It’s not usually serious and generally clears up quickly, but if it’s not treated properly it can last for a long time and sometimes lead to complications like a stomach ulcer.

What causes gastritis?

Most gastritis cases are caused by a common bacterial infection called H. pylori. These infections don’t usually cause symptoms, but sometimes they can cause inflammation of the stomach lining, leading to symptoms like recurrent indigestion.

Other possible causes of gastritis include:

  • Regular use of over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen (called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs)

  • Smoking

  • Drinking too much alcohol

  • Cocaine misuse

  • A stressful life event or an increase in general stress

  • An autoimmune reaction, where your immune system attacks your body's cells and tissues by mistake

Gastritis symptoms

If gastritis is caused by an H. pylori infection, there will often be no symptoms.

If you do experience symptoms, they may come on quickly and powerfully (known as acute gastritis) or go on for a long time (chronic gastritis). Symptoms include:

  • Pain in the abdomen that comes and goes

  • Indigestion

  • Bloating or feeling very full after eating

  • Feeling sick and vomiting

In severe cases, the stomach lining can erode, exposing it to stomach acids and causing complications like bleeding or stomach ulcers.

Gastritis diagnosis

If you’re in a lot of pain or discomfort, or you’ve had ongoing indigestion problems it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Always seek medical advice if you notice blood in your poo or vomit blood.

The doctor will usually be able to diagnose gastritis by asking about your symptoms and doing a short physical examination of your abdomen. If tests need to be taken, they might include:

  • Stool (poo) test – This can detect the H. pylori bacteria and show any blood in the poo

  • Breath test – Another way to detect the H. pylori infection, this involves drinking a liquid that contains radioactive carbon and then blowing into a bag

  • Endoscopy – This test feeds an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube) down the throat and into the stomach to see if there’s any sign of infection

Gastritis treatment

Gastritis treatment aims to heal the stomach lining by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach.

Self-care steps to ease symptoms

Before taking medical treatments, you may benefit from trying other ways to reduce your symptoms. For example:

  • Switching to painkillers that aren’t classed as NSAIDs (e.g., paracetamol) if you think this is the cause of the gastritis

  • Avoiding the kind of food that can irritate your stomach, like acidic or spicy food

  • Eat little and often, rather than three big meals

  • Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink

  • Stop smoking

  • Find ways to manage your stress levels

Medical treatment for gastritis

  • Antacids – Rapid pain relief medication that you can buy over-the-counter to help neutralise stomach acids

  • Histamine 2 (H2) blockers – Available over-the-counter or on prescription, these help to reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach

  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) – Another type of medication that reduces acid production

Gastritis complications

Gastritis isn’t usually a serious condition, but occasionally it can cause complications if it lasts for a long time. These include:

  • Stomach ulcers

  • Polyps in the stomach (small, abnormal tissue growth)

  • Tumours in your stomach that may or may not be cancerous

Reviewed by:

Dr Rhianna McClymont

Lead GP at Livi

Last updated: