Author: Luke Sholl
The result of inflammation in the stomach, gastritis causes various acute and chronic symptoms. Ranging from mild discomfort to persistent vomiting and loss of appetite, the impact of gastritis is significant, affecting roughly 8 out of every 1,000 people. To find out what you need to know about this debilitating condition, keep reading.
Inside the stomach is a protective layer of mucus called the mucosa. Usually, the mucus protects the stomach from the acids used to break down food. However, should the mucus become compromised, the protective lining can weaken, leaving the stomach acids free to irritate and cause inflammation.
This inflammation of the stomach lining leads to a variety of debilitating symptoms. Some may only occur acutely, but it's common for cases to become chronic. With severe disruption to the entire digestive system, gastritis is a serious condition if left untreated. Fortunately, there are various treatment options, but to establish which one is most effective, you must first identify the cause.
We know that gastritis occurs from a disruption to the stomach's protective lining, but what exactly triggers this breakdown? The cause of gastritis varies from case to case, but common catalysts include:
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
• Infection (Helicobacter pylori bacteria)
• Bile in the stomach (bile reflux)
• Autoimmune disorders
As you can see, consuming certain substances is one of the main precursors to gastritis. Each is capable of weakening the stomach lining, making it easy for acids to trigger inflammation and irritation. Other causes, such as infection and autoimmune disorders, usually stem from a weakened immune system.
Gastritis symptoms are very similar to indigestion, and it's easy for people to get the two confused. However, should symptoms persist, especially without irritation from food or other substances, that's when we highly recommend consulting a healthcare provider.
• Nausea and vomiting (may include blood)
• Loss of appetite
• Stomach ulcers
• Abdominal pain
• Dark, tarry stool
• Burning sensation in the throat
Considering the sheer breadth of symptoms, there's plenty of crossover with other digestive disorders such as indigestion, heartburn, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Although there are many conflicting symptoms, there are several tests that can accurately diagnose gastritis. The least invasive options are listed below, although each one is specifically looking for traces of H.pylori bacteria.
• Blood test: A routine blood test checks for antibodies created to fight off H.pylori bacteria, a leading cause of gastritis.
• Stool test: A stool test checks for harmful levels of H.pylori bacteria, and is the primary testing method, especially if dark, tarry stool is present.
• Breath test: After swallowing a harmless radioactive material (capsule or liquid), you then breathe into a balloon-like bag. Because H.pylori increases the amount of carbon dioxide produced, the increased levels will show inside the bag.
Other diagnostic options may be more invasive, but they can help uncover the cause of gastritis, especially if H.pylori isn't present:
• GI exam: During an upper gastrointestinal exam, patients are asked to swallow a barium substance. When consumed, the liquid coats the stomach lining to provide a more accurate X-ray image.
• Upper endoscopy: Using a thin tube with a camera attached, doctors examine the inside of the stomach, looking for signs of inflammation and damage. In an upper endoscopy, the camera travels down the throat and through the oesophagus to access the stomach.
Despite the wide range of symptoms, only two types of gastritis exist, making diagnosis and subsequent treatment simpler. The primary type is erosive gastritis (also called reactive gastritis). Erosive gastritis is a reduction in the stomach lining caused by substances such as alcohol, medication, or bacterial infection.
The second type of gastritis is non-erosive, meaning inflammation is occurring without damage to the stomach lining. This type of gastritis is most common in individuals with an autoimmune disease or compromised immune system.
Before establishing a treatment plan, it's important to know how to cope with gastritis. Not only can the symptoms cause significant discomfort, but the condition can quickly lead to a variety of psychological symptoms. It may seem obvious, but limiting exposure to a potential trigger is crucial. If you haven't identified a cause, you can try the following.
When we eat, the body produces stomach acids to help us process food—the more food there is, the more stomach acid produced and the greater chance of irritation.
Consider splitting 3–4 large meals into smaller portions, eating regularly throughout the day. The type of food is also essential; whole (unprocessed) foods limit the aggravation some processed foods can trigger.
Given that both smoking and alcohol are direct causes of gastritis, it makes sense to cut them out entirely. If symptoms reduce during a period of abstinence, you’ll know that one or both could be the primary cause, or, at the very least, a significant contributor. Both substances increase the production of stomach acids that lead to greater irritation of the stomach lining.
If stomach acids are still an issue despite eliminating potential triggers, then antacids are an excellent choice for self-medicating. They won't solve the problem, but they can help keep symptoms at bay. If symptoms are chronic, you should always consult a doctor or physician. Gastritis can lead to severe health complications if left untreated.
When trying to establish a possible cause of gastritis, it's important to keep a record of when symptoms flare up. Try to remember what you ate or took, and see if a pattern emerges. But, again, if symptoms persist without an identifying trigger, it's essential you consult a healthcare professional, as there may be an underlying issue.
The first course of action for any gastritis treatment is to reduce stomach acids and promote healing. This usually happens via antacids, medication, vitamin B12, or antibiotics.
Medications (proton pump inhibitors) and antacids work to reduce the production of stomach acid so the body can begin to repair its stomach lining naturally. Both options are standard in cases of gastritis caused by triggers such as food, alcohol, or smoking.
If gastritis results from another health condition (such as pernicious anaemia), some doctors may suggest supplementation with B12. Pernicious anaemia causes a lack of healthy red blood cells, which compromises the effectiveness of the body's immune response. In cases where H.pylori is the leading cause of gastritis, doctors can prescribe antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection.
In very mild cases, doctors may simply recommend minor changes to diet or lifestyle. It's in these cases that supplementation with natural vitamins and minerals can give your body the boost it needs to deal with gastritis.
When searching for supplements to use for gastritis, many people come across CBD. However, before we see what the research says about the efficacy of CBD in this regard, it's worth covering the fundamentals of the cannabinoid.
CBD is an all-natural compound found inside industrial hemp. It makes up a small portion of the plant's chemical structure alongside lots of other organic compounds. Once carefully extracted from plant material, manufacturers add CBD to various oils, capsules, edibles, and cosmetics.
However, it's not only CBD's versatility that's caught the eye of researchers, but the compound's unique influence over the human body. When consumed, CBD interacts with receptors located throughout the body to promote a state of balance. Maintaining the body's homeostatic state is crucial for those suffering from gastritis, as a balanced body leads to a stronger and more robust immune system.
The benefit of CBD for gastritis may be twofold, affecting both the immune system and the digestive system. First, we know that inflammation is the primary mechanism for gastritis, so any compound that can help the body regulate its immune response is hugely impactful.
Researchers believe CBD may be beneficial due to its influence over anandamide levels. Anandamide, or AEA, is an internally produced compound that supports our body's inflammatory response. However, AEA is broken down quickly by a fatty acid called FAAH. Fortunately, scientists have identified that CBD can block FAAH, leading to greater levels of AEA in the body, and a potentially more robust immune response.
The second possible benefit of CBD is its impact on the stomach. We don't know the exact mechanism of action, but preclinical studies suggest a mix of cannabinoids (including CBD) could have a stomach-strengthening effect by modulating cannabinoid receptors linked to the digestive system.
Finally, there's the psychological impact of CBD to consider. Gastritis brings a lot of disruption to daily life, which can quickly lead to anxiety and depression. Because CBD bolsters our internal systems, regular intake may affect processes such as sleep, mood, appetite.
Gastritis is a condition that affects the digestive system, so CBD administration needs to target this same system. If you do choose to take CBD for gastritis, you'll want to consume it orally so the compound has an opportunity to travel through the digestive system. CBD taken under the tongue or vaped will still have an impact, but it won't focus its influence on gastritis symptoms specifically.
Stick to CBD oils or CBD capsules, as both options travel easily through the digestive system, and you can take them at intervals to suit. CBD capsules are particularly effective for a longer-lasting impact.
The ideal dosage of CBD for gastritis will vary according to the intensity of symptoms and whether the compound's effects are familiar to you. If you're new to CBD, we recommend starting with a low-concentration product (5–10%) and taking a few drops twice a day.
Once you're familiar with CBD's effects, you can increase the dose and frequency accordingly. However, it's worth considering that most gastritis symptoms are pretty severe, and if you want to use CBD for this purpose, a higher concentration may be needed. If you're unsure of where to start with dosing CBD, the Cibdol CBD Dosage Calculator gives a general starting point based on several key lifestyle factors.
According to the World Health Organization, CBD is well-tolerated in humans with "no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential". That said, everyone's experience with CBD is unique, and it's essential you go at your own pace. There is a slight chance of minor side effects such as fatigue, dry mouth, and drowsiness. However, it's important to point out that these side effects appear rare and dissipate quickly.
If you're currently taking medication for gastritis, you must discuss taking CBD alongside your treatment programme with a doctor. This is because CBD can disrupt how the body processes some prescription medications. This may not affect your gastritis medication, but it's important to discuss the circumstances with a medical professional for case-specific advice.
If the circumstances above don't affect you, the good news is that CBD is non-toxic, won't get you high, and appears safe for regular, daily consumption. Moreover, given that most gastritis symptoms are chronic, it could prove a valuable ally in managing this debilitating condition.