Gastritis Post 8: Main Message

So, what should you do if you have gastritis? Here is what worked for me:

  • Eat foods that do not cause a sugar peak and dip.

I’ve found that the insulin response is critical in the amount of pain I experience with gastritis: if I’m having a sugar dip, then I also get a lot of pain in my stomach and my gastritis gets irritated. For this reason, I make sure I eat plenty of protein, enough fat, lots of vegetables, and not many carbohydrates. I only have sweet stuff as a treat once in a while because that helps my blood sugar levels stay stable. For more details about what foods to eat, read this blog post.

  • Avoid foods that irritate the stomach.

This plays a big part in letting the stomach heal. Each person will experience different foods as irritating, but for me some of the big ones are: alcohol, coffee, spicy foods, fried foods, and some raw vegetables such as lettuce. For a full list of foods to avoid, read this blog post.

  • Avoid taking acid-suppressing medications in the long term.

While medications that suppress stomach acid production can help someone with acute gastritis, they are not a solution if the condition is chronic because a) they don’t treat the condition and help the stomach heal and b) they have side effects that can be dangerous in the long term. To read about my experience with acid-suppressing medications, read this blog post.

  • Help the stomach lining heal by taking some supplements

Turmeric has fantastic anti-inflammatory properties and it really helps reduce the inflammation of the gut lining in the case of gastritis. Also, L-glutamine helps tissues rebuild themselves, so it helps the stomach lining heal. For more specific tips about how to take these supplements, read this blog post.

  • Try to reduce and manage stress

Stress contributes in major ways to numerous digestive problems including gastritis. Therefore, as difficult as it might be, it is worth it to try to reduce and manage stress in your life. For more ideas about how to do this, read this blog post.

And that’s it! Good luck and let me know how these tips work for you… I’d be curious to hear! Are there any other approaches that have worked for you?

Here are links to some of the main resources that have informed my search for answers throughout my journey with gastritis:

Robb Wolf: Lots of information about the way of eating I describe (a paleo-inspired diet) and about lifestyle in general.

Dr Brooke Kalanick: Building on that, lots of information about our hormonal system and the important role hormones play in our health.

Girls Gone Strong: Lots of information about healthy movement, our relationship to food, and self-confidence and appreciation.

Source of featured image: Real Estate Dynamics

Gastritis Post 7: The unique influence of stress

Stress is a major contributor to many health issues, and, unsurprisingly, it also plays a big role in causing gastritis. I have noticed many, many times that my stomach gets irritated when I’m stressed. Once I started paying attention to this, I could notice it very clearly: about an hour after a stressful situation occurred, my gastritis symptoms had already gotten worse. Talk about a mind-body connection! Also, when I’m tired and sleep-deprived my stomach hurts more. Alternatively, when I’m on vacation and I’m relaxed and rested, I don’t feel my gastritis much. If only I could live my life on vacation…

It’s easy to say that generally we should try not to be too stressed. This is more easily said than done, however. What this translates into practically is that we can try to minimize stressful influences on our lives. For instance, we can make sure to get enough sleep rather than live our lives in a state of sleep deprivation which acts as a huge stressor on the body. We can also choose a work environment which allows us to pick our goals ourselves, so we reduce the pressure of external expectations, or we pick a job which allows us to pick our own schedule, so we can create a daily rhythm that works for us.

Also, it’s helpful to learn to “manage” our stress, whatever that means. For some people that means exercising, going out for walks, reading on the couch, meditating, or socializing. In general, anything that makes us feel like we’ve taken time for ourselves and have taken care of ourselves is a good idea. According to research, physical activity, time for introspection, and activities that deepen our relationships with others are the most helpful ways to reduce stress. I have found meditation to be particularly helpful because it allows me to see things in perspective and thus not worry unnecessarily.

This is so good! 😀 Enough said.

Image source: QuickMeme

When a stressful situation happens, a stress response ensues in our body immediately, and it’s good to have a way to diminish that. One simple but effective technique is to breathe in for 4 counts and breathe out for 6-8 counts. Taking several breaths like this ensures that we activate the parasympathetic system (which is engaged during rest) instead of the sympathetic system (which is engaged when we are stressed). Give it a try! It’s surprising that something so simple really works.

Finally, I’ve found it really helpful to take magnesium in the evening because it allows me to sleep very well. I take it after dinner, or about 2 hours before going to bed. Some people like drinking soothing herbal infusions such as ones containing valerian or other soothing herbs. While I like this idea in principle, I try to avoid drinking tea before bed because if I do, I have to get up to pee all night 🙂

To sum up, stress contributes to gastritis a great deal. It’s much easier to heal your gastritis if you don’t have much stress, so I’d recommend you try to minimize stress as much as possible. And if you can’t minimize it much, then try one or more of the many techniques to “manage” stress.

Source of featured image: Hello Giggles

Gastritis Post 6: What didn’t work for me but might work for you

There were plenty of things I tried that seemed like a good idea but didn’t work for me. I heard lots of honest reports from people for whom these things were very helpful. I will list these options here because, since they worked for other people, they might work for you.

One of the common causes of gastritis appears to be an infection with H. pylori, a bacterium. There are plenty of substances that have antibacterial properties and could help you get rid of this little guy. Antibiotics work as well, of course, but some people prefer other approaches.

Manuka honey is known for its powerful antibacterial properties, so I tried taking that on an empty stomach several times a day. I also tried taking beeswax every morning on an empty stomach. In fact, I’ve tried many different types of honey and bees products. Since I don’t have an infection with H. pylori, however, that didn’t help my gastritis. It’s never a bad idea to take some high-quality honey, though, so you can certainly try it and see if it helps your gastritis.

Cayenne pepper is also known to help with gastritis sometimes, and I tried it, even though I was very reluctant. Anything spicy leads to lots of pain for me, and in this case I had to drink a glass of water with a teaspoon of cayenne pepper in it on an empty stomach three times a day. I was in so much pain that it wasn’t even funny. Still, I kept it up for 5 days because people had sworn to me that this had treated their gastritis. In the end, it didn’t treat mine, and it took me about a week to get back to “normal” pain levels after trying this. Since cayenne pepper has powerful antibacterial properties, I believe it can be very helpful to someone with a bacterial infection, but for me it didn’t help. Feel free to try it, at your own risk… 😉

red_cayenne_peppers

Some people swear that cayenne pepper healed their gastritis or even ulcers,

but it was not a good idea for me.

Image Source: My Pull Zone

I also received the advice to take a gut cleansing powder. This means to drink a glass of water with this cleansing powder every morning on an empty stomach, and this powder goes into the bowels and cleanses whatever might be left in there that is not so good and could be upsetting the digestive tract. This treatment goes on for 8 weeks usually, and people say it’s good to do it once a year. It’s probably a good thing to do, but it didn’t help my gastritis. I’ve heard people say it helped them heal theirs, so perhaps you could try it and see what it does for you.

Naturally, I tried various herbal infusions to soothe the stomach. There are so many of these that I’m not even going to attempt to list them. I’ve found that they mostly have a short-term effect, so if my gastritis is particularly irritated on a given day, I could use them. For long-term healing, however, I haven’t found them to be effective. Still, if you want a tasty herbal infusion to soothe your stomach, I’d suggest something with ginger or licorice since these are my favorites. If your taste preferences are different, there are plenty of other herbs that could do the job.

I also took prebiotics and probiotics to help with my overall gut health. While I can’t say these specifically healed my gastritis, they definitely improved my digestion. I certainly recommend that you augment your digestion by taking a prebiotic and/or a probiotic depending on what’s right for you. If you don’t want to take these, you could also include fermented foods into your diet such as sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, etc. which naturally improve your gut flora.

I have also taken digestive enzymes and, similarly to what I said in the previous paragraph, these didn’t heal my gastritis, but they did improve my digestion. Often people with digestive tract problems are deficient in digestive enzymes, so it’s a good idea to boost one’s digestion with digestive enzymes. Perhaps you can try and see if this is a good idea for you.

While all of these products sounded like a good idea for something to treat gastritis, they didn’t specifically do that for me. I do recommend taking a good probiotic and perhaps a prebiotic if your gut flora is damaged. Digestive enzymes can also really help boost your digestion. These products may not heal your gastritis, but they will improve your digestion which is usually suboptimal in someone with gastritis, especially if you’ve been taking acid-suppressing medications like I had. Manuka honey and beeswax have helped other people and they have powerful antibacterial properties, so they may be worth a try, particularly if you suspect you have a bacterial infection. Cayenne pepper may also rid you of an infection, but it may also terribly irritate your stomach in the process. Gut cleansing powders and soothing herbal infusions may also contribute to overall gut health, but based on my experience, I wouldn’t say they’d heal your gastritis.

Feel free to give these a try! Let me know if they do or do not work for you. Are there any remedies you’ve tried that did or did not work for you?

Gastritis Post 5: What worked for me Part 2

As discussed in the previous blog post, the thing that helped me the most with my gastritis was:

  1. Keep blood sugar levels stable: eat enough protein and healthy fats and not too many carbohydrates.

Besides that, there are several gastritis-specific things I’ve discovered that work for me.

2. Eat vegetables that don’t irritate your stomach

There are plenty of vegetables that I don’t eat in large amounts because they irritate my stomach. For instance, lettuce, raw spinach, raw kale, raw tomatoes, and raw peppers. Instead, I eat vegetables that I can handle well, such as cucumbers, zucchini, mushrooms, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

3. Eat cooked vegetables instead of raw

Raw food is more difficult for the stomach to process, and for someone with gastritis raw food can be problematic. For this reason, unfortunately, salads usually aren’t a good idea unless they contain lots of protein and lots of cooked veggies in addition to some raw greens. I mostly steam my vegetables, which means that they are cooked and my stomach can process them without getting irritated, but because the vegetables weren’t boiled in water, they still retain the majority of their vitamins and minerals.

Steamed vegetables have become my (almost) best friend!

Image Source: Betty Crocker

 

4. Avoid eating too much fruit

Ah, I love fruit and I wish I could eat more of it, but I just don’t do well with it. There are two main issues with fruit: either they spike my blood sugar and give me a sugar dip or they irritate my stomach. On the one hand, if a fruit is nice and starchy such as a banana or a mango, my stomach can handle it well, but then I get a sugar dip, intense hunger, and strong gastritis pain again. On the other hand, if a fruit is more fibrous such as an apple or a pear, it irritates my stomach and it gives me pain. Citrous fruits such as oranges or grapefruit are an absolute no-no because they irritate my stomach a lot and immediately give me pain. So it may not come as a surprise that I don’t eat many fruits. From time to time I have peaches, apricots, cherries, or mango since those are my favorites, but I eat them rarely. If I do eat them, I treat that as a dessert or I try to have some source of protein with them, so they don’t spike my blood sugar too much. But I consider them more of an indulgence than a staple food in my diet. In case you’re concerned that I am not getting enough nutrients by avoiding fruits, don’t worry: I eat plenty of vegetables with every meal, and those are very high in nutrients.

5. Avoid eating too many nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are a versatile snack, and I used to eat them in between meals, but they irritate my stomach. In fact, I used to eat almonds with an apple, but my stomach really didn’t like that. Nuts and seeds are difficult for the stomach to process, and they easily irritate one’s gastritis. For that reason, I’ve brought them to a minimum for now. Sometimes I have brazil nuts or almonds with an avocado or cucumber, but it’s not a staple snack.

6. Avoid eating grain

Grains are a topic of huge discussion now, and I am not claiming that gluten is everyone’s enemy, but I have noticed that I do better without grains. White bread and pasta are low in nutrients but relatively high in calories, so I don’t see why I should eat them. Whole grains and whole-grain pasta are richer in nutrients, but because of their “whole-graininess” they are more difficult to process for the stomach and they give me pain. Also, fresh vegetables still have way more nutrients than whole grains, so I am not worried that I am missing out on anything by avoiding grains. I feel a lot better having excluded them from my diet.

7. Avoid eating junk food

Duh. This should be an obvious one. There are so many things in junk food that irritate even a healthy person’s stomach that for someone with gastritis it should be a clear choice to avoid that. Enough said.

8. Avoid spicy food

Spicy (as in “hot”) foods really irritate the stomach, and they make my gastritis hurt so bad it’s difficult to explain… It’s a pretty clear choice to avoid those.

Spicy food is a definite no-no.

Image source: Healthy Eating – SFGate

9. Avoid fried food

Fried food also irritates the stomach, so anyone with gastritis should avoid it. Especially deep fried food is really irritating in this case, which is unfortunate because it is so delicious. For me, it doesn’t cause as much pain as spicy food, but it’s still pretty unpleasant.

10. Avoid highly acidic food

This refers to mainly salads with lots of vinegar or lemon juice. As tasty as those may be (to some people; luckily for me, I never liked vinegar very much), they make my stomach hurt very much. I can tolerate a liiiiiitle bit of lemon juice but not more.

11. Avoid drinking alcohol

Ah, yes… This is a tough one. In the past, I could feel my gastritis hurt after even a single glass of wine. Still, I couldn’t imagine not drinking in certain social situations, so I kept on doing it. A little over a year ago, I stopped drinking altogether. I feel so much better and my stomach is doing so well, it’s actually uncomparable. I know it may be a difficult change to make, but it’s worth it. Even if you don’t quit alcohol altogether, it is a good idea to reduce the amount of alcohol you consume if you’re trying to heal your gastritis.

12. Avoid drinking coffee or very strong teas

Coffee also irritates the stomach, so it may be tough on someone with gastritis. Strong teas such as black teas can also be irritating. I don’t drink coffee, so that wasn’t a particular problem for me, but I have a little bit of an issue with strong black teas. For that reason, I drink mostly green tea and usually after a meal.

13. Drink soothing teas (herbal infusions)

Some specific herbal infusions can be really soothing to the stomach. My personal favorites are herbal infusions with licorice or ginger. They taste amazing and they soothe my gastritis if it was irritated. I really enjoy those types of drinks.

14. Take turmeric (curcuma) as a supplement

Turmeric (a.k.a. curcuma) is highly anti-inflammatory and is helpful in many respects, but I’ve found it to be particularly helpful with gastritis. It really has done wonders for me! I used to take 3 tablets a day when I started the treatment, and now I take 1 tablet a day mostly for good measure because of its amazing healing and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric is available as a spice in any supermarket, but I recommend getting it as a high-quality supplement because then it’s much more potent as an anti-inflammatory aid.

I highly recommend turmeric as an anti-inflammatory aid to heal gastritis.

Image source: Organic Facts

15. Take L-glutamine as a supplement

L-glutamine is an amino acid that helps in the repair of tissues. Bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts take it to aid the recovery of their muscles after training, but for someone with gastritis it’s useful regardless of whether they train or not. The best way I’ve found so far to take L-glutamine is to put it in my water bottle and sip it throughout the day. I put one heaped teaspoon of L-glutamine in 500 – 750 ml of water and shake the water bottle well. When I started the treatment, I was having about 5 teaspoons of L-glutamine per day, while now I have about 2, mostly for maintenance (and because I like the taste 🙂 ). It is very helpful for healing gastritis, and as an added bonus it makes water taste great!

There you have it! All of my suggestions about what worked for me in healing my gastritis. I hope you try some of them! In the next blog post I will cover other things I’ve tried for gastritis that didn’t work for me but might work for you.

Source of featured image: Dr. Weil

Gastritis Post 2: How I got gastritis

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.

Constantly hungry…

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

Gastritis Post 1: My story with gastritis

I’ve had gastritis for more than 12 years now, and it’s finally healing. I find it hard to believe that I’ve gotten better, but it’s true. And I’d like to share with you how I’ve managed to do that.

I’ve tried multiple treatments and remedies, without success. Now I’ve finally found something that works, and I’d like to share that with you.

Having gastritis became normal to me. I was used to eating small portions of food 5-6 times a day. I would have a meal, feel alright for about two hours, and then double over with pain. I could barely wait for my next meal which gave me a brief relief until two hours later I was in pain again.

This made it difficult to lead a normal life. I carried food everywhere and felt weird for having to eat at very (very!) specific times. Eating a meal 15 minutes later than planned was a problem. 30 minutes later was impossible. 1 hour later was unthinkable.

I got irritable if I had to wait for a meal, perhaps understandably because I was in pain. The people around me were stressed out when planning meals with me because they knew I might get upset if a meal began 15 minutes later than expected.

I was also stressed out because: 1) I was afraid I might be in pain, 2) I was afraid other people were getting annoyed with me, and 3) because I was afraid of gaining weight. You might not see how 3) is related to having gastritis, so let me explain.

Since I was eating 5-6 times a day and I saw other girls eating much less, I was afraid I was eating too much. Thus, I tried to make these meals small. I thought that since I will need to eat in 3 hours anyway, I should eat a little bit because otherwise I’ll end up eating a lot during the course of a day.

I was told that small, frequent meals would help my gastritis heal.

Image source: Mind over Munch

Also, if I had to wait for a meal and I was in pain, people said, “Well, why don’t you just have a snack now?” What people didn’t understand is that I wanted to minimize the amount of food I was eating. An extra snack here 30 minutes before dinner was too much food according to my thinking. So I’d try to wait until dinner instead of having a snack. This made me extra irritable because of the pain and in the end if it hurt too much, I’d have a snack anyway. This led me to be even more annoyed with myself since now I was also eating more than I had planned.

Living this way is not pleasant. I experienced a constant fear of hunger and tried to incessantly plan when I would eat what. This helped when I was able to follow my plan, but it led to stress when circumstances made it impossible to follow my plan exactly.

During my 12 years of having gastritis, I tried multiple medications and remedies. I went to several doctors and followed their prescriptions. I also consulted homeopaths, naturopaths, and grandmas who have me home remedies. I read a lot online and tried different things. Some of the suggestions I received helped briefly but didn’t lead to actual improvements. Others genuinely made my condition worse.

Now I’ve finally found something that works. I have been doing this for about a year now, and I am over the moon with joy that I am finally healing my gastritis! I have been able to return to regular eating habits and to be less scared of being hungry. I eat 3 meals a day and a small snack. I can manage if a meal happens 30 minutes or 1 hour later than planned. I can barely believe it! I actually get hungry now instead of just being in pain. This may sound silly but it feels so good to feel normal again.

I’d like to go over my whole journey with you: I’ll tell you how I got gastritis and how it affected my life. Then I’ll tell you what I tried but didn’t see improvements and why you shouldn’t try this. I’ll go on to tell you what actually works! I’ll also discuss the things I tried that didn’t work for me but might work for you. Finally, I’ll also discuss the unique role of stress in this whole thing.

Image source for featured image: ltkcdn.net