Trigger warning for dieting, restrictive eating, eating disorders
You thought pain in your lower pelvis was enough, did ya? Well, guess what. You get some pain in your stomach too! At least, you do if you have gastritis.
Gastritis is a condition where the stomach lining becomes inflamed and over-produces acid, often causing a sensation like indigestion (whether you’ve eaten or not) and nausea. The pain feels like a burning right up under the base of the rib cage. It can also cause appetite loss, although I didn’t suffer that. I just didn’t want to eat because it made it hurt worse. You can also get symptoms as mild (but annoying) as hiccups, or as serious as bloody stool.
Gastritis can be acute, going after a day or two, or chronic. Although quite a minor issue in the scheme of things, the effects can be really debilitating. They can also become extremely serious if left untreated – complications from gastritis range from ulcers and anaemia to bowel obstructions, renal issues and cancer. If you are having ongiong stomach pain, therefore, particularly really intensely, it is a good idea to haul yourself to the doctor or emergency room ASAP. Unlike my endo, the emergency doctors have seemed pretty keen to treat my gastritis both times, particularly when I told them I wasn’t eating and hadn’t done so in several days. Apparently, that gets you attention in an emergency room, and they aren’t supposed to release you until you have eaten something. (Unfortunately for me and my fellow vegans, the only available food at 2am for herbivores is a fruit salad – the worst possible choice for a stomach that is already overproducing acid).
It is also worth remembering, however, that you can have gastritis with no symptoms at all, just like endometriosis. If you are having an endoscopy for another reason, for example, and the gastroenterologist says you have it, your lack of symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re wrong.
Thankfully, there are prescription medications, such as acimax and tacidine, available to relieve the symptoms.
Treatment may be relatively simple, but how do you avoid getting it in the first place? Well, if you just happen to pick it up in the form of a bacterial infection you may just be unlucky. However, you can also get it from extended use of painkillers such as ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin, which can inflame and irritate the stomach. If you are prone to stomach upset from these drugs and can use panadol effectively instead, try that. Alternatively, switch to natural alternatives such as turmeric. However, if you need one of these drugs, speak to your doctor about giving you a prescription for an anti-gastritis drug alongside it if you know you are prone to gastritis when you take them. Also ask for advice about minimising side-effects, such as taking them only on a full stomach.
In terms of dietary triggers, most things that trigger endo, such as caffeine and alcohol, have the capacity to increase your likelihood of suffering from gastritis as well. Unfortunately, so can onions, garlic, berries, certain greens such as kale, celery, and broccoli, and soy-based foods. Upsettingly, spicy, fatty and fried foods are bad ideas too. Because I’ll be your diet wasn’t restricted enough. Smoking is also a bad idea as that can really upset things internally. I’ve also been advised by my local GP to avoid drinking around meals as the interaction of fluid and food can cause issues. No word on what to do when you’re having soup.
A reverse dietary trigger, so to speak, is excessive vomiting, so if you’ve had a gastro bug, or suffer from an eating disorder that compels you to purge, you may find yourself with gastritis.
Like literally every disease ever, doctors also tell you to avoid stress, as gastritis can be triggered by excessive stress. If they could tell us how to not stress, that would be great. I’d have to quit my job, be cured and have a guaranteed income of $2k per week to never stress again, at a minimum.
Some unlikely souls, such as those with an autoimmune disease or pernicious anaemia, may also suffer gastritis as a result of that illness. Sorry folks. Not much you can do to safeguard except be really scrupulous in relation to all other triggers.
Have you suffered from gastritis? Is there anything not listed in this article that you found helpful for reducing the symptoms or preventing it? Let me know in the comments.