What Is Gastritis?

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Gastritis is a condition that causes inflammation and damage to the stomach lining. Symptoms include nausea and stomach pain in earlier stages and signs of vitamin deficiencies in later stages. The most common gastritis cause is an infection with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori.

Gastritis can be serious if left untreated, potentially progressing to become gastric cancer. Because gastritis doesn't always cause symptoms early on, you may not recognize that you have it. Fortunately, gastritis is usually curable. There are various treatment and management methods for gastritis, depending on what's causing it.


Gastritis is divided into three types:

  • Acute: Acute gastritis comes on suddenly, causing symptoms such as nausea and stomach upset.
  • Chronic: Chronic gastritis appears slowly over time, usually due to an untreated H. pylori infection or untreated acute gastritis. Autoimmune diseases can also cause chronic gastritis, and these conditions can damage otherwise healthy cells in the stomach.
  • Special (sometimes called distinctive): This type is called distinctive because the cells in the stomach typically take on an unusual appearance under a microscope. Conditions that cause distinctive gastritis are rare and include eosinophilic conditions as well as graft-versus-host disease, which is when the body rejects an implanted organ or tissue.

Acute gastritis can commonly lead to chronic gastritis, which is why it's a good idea to treat underlying causes as quickly as possible.

Symptoms of Gastritis

Symptoms of gastritis can vary from person to person. The symptom presentations are different for acute and chronic gastritis.

Acute Gastritis

When you have acute gastritis, you experience a sudden onset of symptoms. These often closely resemble other stomach viruses and include:

  • Epigastric pain (pain in the upper part of your stomach)
  • Nausea
  • Stomach fullness, even when you haven't eaten that much
  • Vomiting

Some people with gastritis don't experience symptoms at all, which healthcare providers call asymptomatic gastritis.

Chronic Gastritis

Acute gastritis can progress to chronic gastritis. Those with autoimmune-related disorders also tend to experience chronic gastritis, which is called autoimmune gastritis. The most common symptoms related to chronic gastritis are iron-deficiency anemia (low red blood cell count) and symptoms related to low vitamin B12 levels.

Gastritis affects how the stomach absorbs nutrients. Chronic gastritis can result in the vitamin deficiencies mentioned above. Anemia symptoms can include:

  • Cold hands and feet
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Fatigue
  • Pale-appearing skin

Talk to your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms as you may need testing for anemia and other related conditions.

What Causes Gastritis?

Gastritis has many potential causes, but often healthcare providers cannot identify an underlying reason. The most common known gastritis cause is the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori. Nearly every person infected with H. pylori will experience chronic gastritis.

Other potential causes of gastritis include:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Autoimmune disorders, such as sarcoidosis
  • Infections with other organisms, such as cytomegalovirus and the herpes simplex virus (HSV)
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen)

Rarer causes of gastritis include gastritis related to conditions such as Crohn's disease, vasculitis, and Menetriere disease (a rare disorder causing overgrowth of mucosal cells), which all cause ulcers to develop on the stomach lining.


For a healthcare provider (usually a gastroenterologist, or a doctor who specializes in digestive conditions) to make a definitive gastritis diagnosis, they would need to perform a biopsy—or take a small sample of stomach tissue to examine. They do this by endoscopy, a procedure that involves inserting a thin instrument with a light and camera on the end to see your stomach lining.

Other diagnostic measures a healthcare provider may use to diagnose gastritis include:

  • Medical history: A healthcare provider will take into account conditions you may have that increase your gastritis risks, such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease, or sarcoidosis.
  • H. pylori test: This includes testing your breath or stool for the presence of H. pylori.
  • Blood tests: A healthcare provider may order blood tests to measure inflammatory markers in the blood, such as a fasting serum gastrin level, which indicate gastritis when levels are significantly high.

Endoscopy is the most exact (but also invasive) way to diagnose gastritis.

Gastritis Treatment

Gastritis treatments depend on the underlying cause, if your healthcare provider can identify one. If there is a known underlying cause for chronic gastritis, such as Crohn's disease, your healthcare provider will prescribe treatments for that as opposed to treating gastritis directly. They may also recommend supplements to help minimize your symptoms and side effects, such as iron and vitamin B12.

Cases of acute gastritis caused by an H. pylori infection is treated with antibiotics and/or proton pump inhibitors (such as omeprazole, pantoprazole, and lansoprazole). For most people, this treatment should eliminate H. pylori and, with it, gastritis. Some people may have to take several rounds of antibiotics to fully eliminate the bacteria.

Lifestyle modifications may help those with acute and chronic gastritis. Examples include:

  • Avoiding spicy foods that may worsen your symptoms
  • Managing stress through physical activity, meditation, rest, and other interventions
  • Refraining from smoking and consuming alcohol
  • Pausing or reducing use of NSAIDs (per your healthcare provider's instructions)


You cannot prevent all gastritis causes, such as autoimmune disorders. However, you can take steps to reduce your likelihood of H. pylori infections. These infections are transmitted via fecal-oral routes, much like common stomach viruses are. Excellent hygiene methods can help reduce H. pylori, including:

  • Practicing good hand washing, such as after going to the restroom, before and after preparing food, and after changing a child's diaper
  • Maintaining excellent oral hygiene
  • Disinfecting toilets regularly and after someone has been ill with a diarrheal disease
  • Refraining from sharing foods and drinks
  • Drinking clean water and well-cooked foods

Adults can easily pass H. pylori to their children. Using good hygiene practices can prevent this from occurring.


Gastritis can cause a number of complications, and some are more severe than others. Less-severe complications include vitamin deficiencies, such as iron, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and vitamin D.

Gastritis can also increase your risks for more serious complications, including:

  • Peptic ulcer, or open sore on your stomach that is painful
  • Atrophic gastritis, which causes damage to cells that secrete mucus that protects the stomach's lining
  • Gastric bleeding, often due to bleeding from a stomach ulcer
  • Gastric cancer, which is when cancer cells form on the stomach lining
  • Neuroendocrine tumors (cancer that begins on neuroendocrine cells), which can be a complication of autoimmune gastritis

In children, gastritis can lead to poor growth because a child has difficulty absorbing necessary nutrients.

Living with Gastritis

Gastritis can be a common occurrence because H. pylori occurs in about 35% of the population of the United States. Gastritis has many treatments, including antibiotics to eradicate the H. pylori infection as well as lifestyle changes. If you have gastritis risk factors or symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider about testing and treatments.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What drinks help gastritis?

    Avoiding excess alcohol intake can help reduce your gastritis risks and symptoms. No other drinks have been found to reduce gastritis symptoms other than avoiding alcohol.

  • What can I eat with gastritis?

    If you have a peptic ulcer due to gastritis, you may find your symptoms worsen when you eat spicy foods. However, most other foods won't help or hurt your gastritis.

  • Will gastritis heal on its own?

    Gastritis will usually require treatment or avoidance of substances known to worsen it, such as alcohol and smoking.

  • Can you have permanent gastritis?

    You can experience gastritis due to a number of underlying medical conditions. Some are treatable (like H. pylori) while others are not, causing chronic gastritis.

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5 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Feldman M, Jensen P. Gastritis: Etiology and diagnosis. In: Lamont J, Grover S, eds. UpToDate. UpToDate; 2023.

  3. Azer S, Akhondi H. Gastritis. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2019.

  4. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Iron-deficiency anemia.

  5. Zhou M, Zeng Y, Xi Y, et al. School-based hygiene intervention to prevent Helicobacter pylori infection among children (SHIP HOPE): Protocol for a cluster-randomized controlled trial. BMJ Open. 2022;12(12): e064207. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2022-064207

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