Sure Signs Your Stomach is "Inflamed"
Gut health is something that's been talked about much more lately and with good reason. While our stomach is a powerful organ that's vital purpose–to store and digest food, is essential for our overall health, it's also very delicate. 60 to 70 million Americans suffer from GI issues according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease and about 8 out of every 1,000 people experience acute gastritis, the Cleveland Clinic states, which is when the stomach's lining becomes inflamed. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with gastroenterologists who share what to know about stomach inflammation and signs you have it. As always, please speak to your physician for medical advice. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
What to Know About an Inflamed Stomach
George Saffouri, MD Associate Program Director, Gastroenterology & Hepatology Fellowship, UC Riverside School of Medicine San Bernardino Gastroenterology Associates Dignity Health St. San Bernardine Medical Center tells us, "An "inflamed" stomach is a pretty nonspecific term. Usually this indicates that a patient is experiencing chronic upper abdominal symptoms that may include upper abdominal pain or burning, a feeling of being full early, and abdominal bloating or distension. To a gastroenterologist, an inflamed stomach usually means a patient has had an upper endoscopy (camera test down the mouth to inspect the stomach and other structures) that demonstrates inflammation of the stomach lining. This can look like redness, erosions or ulcers, or thinning of the stomach lining. If a gastroenterologist takes a biopsy of the stomach during endoscopy, this can show inflammatory cells when the pathologist assesses the biopsy specimen under a microscope. From a technical standpoint, this is probably the true definition of stomach inflammation." Dr. Max Pitman, gastroenterologist and medical director at Salvo Health says, "The lining of the stomach is normally smooth and moist, sort of like the inside of your cheek. When the stomach is inflamed, it can start to look red or irritated (like a sunburn) and can even develop scratches or cuts in the surface. When the stomach is inflamed, we call it gastritis. Scratches, cuts, or divots in the surface are called erosions or ulcers. This can happen as gastritis progresses or gets worse."
What Causes an Inflamed Stomach
Dr. Saffouri says, "Depending on how one defines inflammation (see above), it can be caused by infections such as Helicobacter pylori, medications including aspiring, ibuprofen, or naproxen, or autoimmune conditions. I want to clarify that this does not mean one should automatically stop taking a medication such as aspirin since this has clear health benefits in the right context." Dr. Pitman adds, "The two most common causes of stomach inflammation are (1) infection with H. Pylori, a bacteria that can live inside the stomach, and (2) medications like aspirin or ibuprofen (aka nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs). Other less common causes include smoking, excessive alcohol use, and high salt intake. Autoimmune conditions, other types of medications, and certain other infections can also cause stomach inflammation."
Health Complications of an Inflamed Stomach
Dr. Saffouri explains, "This may cause some of the symptoms listed above (pain, early fullness, bloating). Depending on the cause of the inflammation, this can lead to ulcers of the stomach, anemia, nutrient/vitamin deficiencies, or even stomach cancer." According to Dr. Pitman, "In most cases, gastritis or stomach inflammation is not dangerous and can be easily treated, although it may cause unpleasant symptoms. Some types of chronic gastritis, however, can be precancerous and need to be monitored over time. If stomach inflammation progresses and causes an ulcer, this can rarely lead to internal bleeding or even perforation of the stomach or intestines, if not treated."
Signs of an Inflamed Stomach
Dr. Pitman says, "Signs or symptoms can include upper abdominal / stomach pain with or without food, nausea, vomiting, and bloating. Weight loss or dark stool can also occur in more severe cases."
According to the Cleveland Clinic, "Many people with gastritis don't have symptoms. People who do have symptoms often mistake them for indigestion. Other signs of gastritis include:
Black, tarry stool.
Nausea and vomiting.
Feeling extra full during or after a meal.
Loss of appetite.
Losing weight without meaning to.
Upper abdominal (belly) pain or discomfort.
Inflamed Stomach Treatment
Dr. Pitman explains, "The treatment generally depends on what the underlying cause is. If there is infection with H. Pylori, this would be treated with a combination of antibiotics and acid blockers. If medications are the culprit, the offending medication would be removed for a period of time. Often acid reducing medicines will be used to help the stomach heal, especially if an ulcer is present. Other lifestyle interventions such as smoking cessation, reducing alcohol use, and making food and nutrition changes might be used as well."
Talk to Your Doctor
Dr. Pitman states, "Stomach inflammation is a general term used when the stomach is irritated, but it's important to figure out why the stomach is irritated so that the correct evaluation and treatment can be started. If you have frequent stomach pain or indigestion, talk to your doctor to see if any tests should be done."