I got gastritis at a time when I was dieting too forcefully, drinking too much alcohol, and experiencing too much stress. On top of that, gastritis runs in my family.
As a typical 16-year-old girl, I decided I wanted to lose weight, so I went on a diet. In fact, I had gained 4 kg during summer break, so I had gone from 55 kg to 59 kg at the height of 164 cm. It shouldn’t have been a big deal, but I thought it was. So I went all out: I made my meals about half of what I used to eat, and when I invariably got hungry between meals, I ate apples or cucumbers. It often happened that I was ravenously hungry when going to bed around 10pm (I ate a small dinner at 5pm), so I’d have half a cucumber. Oh, what an indulgence!
On the weekends, things got even more intense. I usually skipped dinner on Friday and Saturday and drank hard liquor instead. I noticed that I didn’t feel hungry then, so I just kept partying without the need for food. My favorite was the morning after a party when I’d get up and weigh myself (yes, I was weighing myself everyday at that point): the number on the scale was often 1 kg less than the day before, and I felt such a sense of accomplishment! Little did I know that that was mostly dehydration and I shouldn’t have been surprised to see most of that come back the next day.
So I combined intense dieting with alcohol, and both irritate the stomach lining and contribute to gastritis. I was also working very hard at school, experiencing lots of stress. I didn’t sleep enough and I exercised a lot (about 1.5 hours five times a week, also as a consequence of my weight loss goals). The high workload, the sleep deprivation, and the excessive exercise all led to lots of stress. And stress also leads to gastritis.
Image source: Collective Evolution
After about 6 months of my forceful dieting, I had almost reached my goal: I was 51.5 kg after having started at 59 kg. I had wanted to get down to 50 kg, but I felt that what I was doing was unsustainable. So, thankfully, I decided to stop at 51.5 kg. I went out and celebrated and bought new jeans. Afterwards, I started eating a bit more, but I was still restricting myself. Eventually, I went back to about 55-56 kg (which was also where I was before I gained those 4 kg after summer break). My body went back to the weight that was normal for it, so in the end my dieting didn’t really have an effect. No surprises there.
The only real effect was that now I had gastritis. I felt sharp pain in my stomach whenever I was hungry, and I had to eat immediately. I had my meals carefully planned out, and I got irritable and upset if a meal was delayed. This gave me extra stress because I was constantly thinking about when I would eat next, so I don’t feel pain but also so I don’t eat too much and end up gaining weight. For more details on my struggle, read my previous blog post.
As I spoke to people about gastritis, I found out that more people had it than I had expected. Almost everyone around me knew what it was and had either had it themselves or knew someone who had it. Most importantly, many of my family members had had it: my mother, her brother, and her father, as well as my grandmother on my dad’s side of the family. A few years later, my cousin developed gastritis and my brother had it for a while as well. It became pretty clear to me that gastritis ran in our family, and apparently I was genetically predisposed to it.
You may have noticed that I referred to some of these people as having gastritis in the past tense. Yes, they didn’t have it anymore: somehow, they had healed. Interestingly, when I asked them how they managed to get rid of their gastritis, they couldn’t tell me exactly. They all had their horrific stories of unbearable pain, but after a while it just disappeared on its own. They hadn’t really noticed how their stomachs had healed, but they had. It appears that for some people gastritis is acute and it heals once the irritating stimulus is gone, while for others it’s a chronic condition. I was definitely in the camp of those for whom it was chronic (12 years…).
To sum up, in my case several things combined and led to gastritis: dieting, alcohol, stress, and a genetic predisposition. (Note that I didn’t have an infection, but for other people that can certainly contribute as well.) Now that I know more about gastritis, I am not particularly surprised that I developed it given those things. Still, I wish it was easier to heal it. In my next blog posts, I will describe what I tried as medications and remedies (and there’s a lot!) and what actually worked.
Source of featured image: Medical Daily