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Health Answers

What causes gastritis and how is it treated?

Q. What causes gastritis and how is it treated?

A. Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining and is usually experienced as a serious stomach ache. “The stomach sits right above the belly button,” says Harmony Allison, a gastroenterologist at Tufts Medical Center. “People feel pain right there.” Other symptoms can include bloating, feeling full more quickly at meals, and weight loss.

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Sometimes gastritis comes and goes quickly, but
other cases are chronic and require intervention. Drinking alcohol or taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin can irritate the stomach lining and cause gastritis, says Allison, even in some people who take just a baby aspirin daily for heart health. A rarer cause is an autoimmune disorder such as pernicious anemia, a condition caused by an inability to properly absorb vitamin B12. Removing the irritant or treating the underlying condition can often cure the
gastritis, and medications that reduce stomach acid can also help.

A common cause of gastritis is infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which lives in the stomach lining of many people and in some cases causes disease, including chronic gastritis, ulcers, and stomach cancer.
A blood test can determine whether you’ve been exposed to H. pylori, but a diagnosis of an infection requires a breath or stool test, or an upper endoscopy (an examination of the stomach using a camera on a small tube down the throat). Most H. pylori infections can be cured with a combination of antibiotics and an acid-reducing drug.

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