What Causes Gastritis?

December 19, 2023

The stomach lining protects the underlying tissues of the stomach from being corroded by its acidic contents. Gastritis is the condition where this lining becomes inflamed. Symptoms that occur due to an inflamed stomach lining may include nausea, vomiting, indigestion, bloody stool, bloody vomit, and an abnormal feeling of fullness. Diagnosis of gastritis is made with the use of a physical examination, a breath test, blood test, stool test, an endoscopy, a biopsy, and barium contrast x-rays. Treatment of gastritis is highly dependent on the underlying cause. An infection that causes gastritis would need to be treated with antibiotic medications, and gastritis caused by other conditions can be treated with proton pump inhibitors, probiotics, acid-reducing medications, and antacids.

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Bacterial Infection

An individual can develop gastritis as a complication of certain types of infections that can form in their digestive system. The most common type of bacteria implicated in the development of gastritis is referred to as the Helicobacter pylori bacteria. Helicobacter pylori live in the lining of the stomach and small intestine in some healthy individuals and do not produce any problems. However, those who have a weakened immune system may experience an overgrowth of this bacteria into the stomach lining that cannot be controlled. This type of infection can cause damage to the specialized mucous lining in the stomach. The stomach lining made of mucus protects the underlying stomach tissues from becoming damaged by the corrosive and acidic stomach contents. When the Helicobacter bacteria invade and start to break down the stomach lining, the contents of the stomach and the bacteria itself can reach the underlying tissues, producing inflammation.

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Damaged Stomach Lining

An individual who has a damaged stomach lining may develop gastritis due to the defect in their stomach tissues. Someone who eats too much spicy food can experience cumulative damage in their stomach, which produces a weakness in the lining. An individual who uses tobacco products can develop gastritis because the smoke from tobacco can cause damage to their stomach lining. Someone who experiences chronic infections in their stomach tissues from bacteria and viruses can develop gastritis from damage inflicted on their stomach lining. Gastritis can develop in patients who have undergone certain major surgeries that have caused damage to their stomach lining. The stomach lining can become damaged when an individual's immune system has an abnormal reaction and inappropriately attacks it. This mechanism is referred to as autoimmune precipitated gastritis. Chronic bile reflux can cause an individual to incur damage in their stomach lining from bile backing up into their stomach repeatedly. When the stomach lining becomes weakened due to any of these mechanisms, the acidic contents can penetrate the underlying tissues and produce inflammation (gastritis).

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Regular Use Of Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatories

An individual who regularly uses nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may develop gastritis as a result. These types of medication disrupt the mechanisms the stomach uses to keep a good balance of acid and mucus. Certain substances in the stomach stop it from producing too much acid so the stomach lining does not become damaged. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are known to stop these substances from being released, causing the individual's stomach to produce too much gastric acid. An excessive amount of gastric acid in the stomach can corrode its lining, cause tissue damage, and produce inflammation that leads to gastritis. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs cause the blood flow to decrease in the mucosal lining of the individual's stomach, making it more susceptible to erosion since it is not able to effectively regenerate or repair itself without a good supply of blood. Other substances that protect the lining of the stomach called cyclooxygenase 1 and 2 are neutralized by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, allowing for further deterioration of these tissues.

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Older Age

Gastritis is more prevalent among individuals who are in an older age group than it is in individuals in a younger age group. The surfaces in the body that produce mucus tend to wear down as a person ages. This degradation is the cumulative effect of many years of the consumption of acidic food, spicy food, drinking alcohol, smoking, taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and living with medical conditions that affect the integrity of the mucus in the digestive tract. Older individuals are more likely to develop an infection by the helicobacter pylori bacteria than those who are younger. A Helicobacter pylori infection is one of the common causes of gastritis. Autoimmune problems that can cause an individual to develop gastritis are more common among older age groups than younger ones. Older individuals are more likely to experience bile reflux due to the impaired function of other organs associated with digestive processes in the stomach. In addition, individuals who are over fifty years old are more likely to have deficiencies in nutrients imperative for the proper operation of the stomach.

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Excessive Alcohol Consumption

An individual who engages in excessive alcohol consumption can develop gastritis as a result of their lifestyle choices. The repeated consumption of alcohol can cause inflammation in parts of the stomach lining and even start to erode the tissue. The symptoms of alcoholic gastritis tend to occur most often after they have had a session of binge drinking and in between meals. Over time, alcohol disrupts an individual's natural production of compounds referred to as bicarbonate ions, which help protect the stomach tissues from damage. Depending on the location and severity of the stomach lining inflammation, the patient's symptoms can either be worsened or alleviated by consuming food. Alcoholic beverages can also cause delayed emptying of the stomach, which allows for the overgrowth of bacteria in the gut that can produce gastritis. Alcohol turns into a toxic compound referred to as acetaldehyde when it enters the body. Acetaldehyde can cause cellular DNA damage, which makes the stomach tissues more vulnerable to damage, inflammation, and carcinogenesis.

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