Gastritis is a condition of inflammation of the stomach lining. It is usually diagnosed by endoscopy in which a tube is inserted into the stomach.
Redness or swelling indicate inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection of the lining of the stomach is the most common cause of gastritis.
The second most common cause of gastritis is the overuse of PPI (proton-pump inhibitor) medications. Another common cause of gastritis is the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin.
H. pylori is treated with antibiotics.
Conventional medicine relies heavily on acid-suppressing medications to alleviate the symptoms associated with gastritis. PPIs and other acid suppressants are used to block acid production and reduce acid secretion in the stomach.
However, these medications have been associated with numerous side-effects, including increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures, increased risk of GI infection, incomplete protein digestion and a number of nutritional deficiencies, including calcium, iron, vitamin B12, folic acid and magnesium.
Functional Medicine Management of Gastritis
The Functional Medicine approach to gastritis is, as always, to dig deeper into the cause of this condition and how it may have arisen.
H. pylori is the most common cause of gastritis and treatment with antibacterial herbs have been shown to effectively eliminate this bacteria from the lining of the stomach, avoiding the need for antibiotics.
The extended use of both PPI and NSAID drugs as well as chronic stress can damage the stomach lining and contribute to this condition.
However, gastritis is the outcome of many possible failures in gastric function, including:
- H. pylori infection (H. pylori is a bacteria that burrows into and irritates the stomach lining.)
- Inadequate gastric secretions from chronic stress
- Overuse of NSAID drugs
- Overuse of PPI drugs
- Atrophic gastritis (chronic inflammation of the gastric lining causing tissue changes)
- Autoimmune gastritis (an autoimmune condition against the lining of the stomach)
Patient history and extended lab tests, including assessment for H. pylori, help identify the cause of the gastritis. Assessment for associated conditions, such as leaky gut, may also be recommended.
A management protocol is then developed to address the causes and help the body to restore the stomach to normal stomach function.
Management depends on the specific cause of the gastritis. H. pylori infection is eradicated with zinc carnosine and anti-bacterial herbs. NSAID-induced gastritis is managed by eliminating intake of NSAIDs and supplementing with nutrients to restore the stomach lining.
Nutrients to regenerate the stomach lining
As well as focusing on overall diet and stress management, there are a variety of plant compounds such as deglycyrrhizinated licorice, L-glutamine, mastic gum and aloe vera and minerals such as zinc carnosine that have been shown to help regenerate the damaged stomach lining, stimulate mucus secretion, reduce inflammation and promote gastric healing.