If you have gastritis, this means the lining of your tummy (stomach) is inflamed. It’s often not serious and can improve quickly if it’s treated promptly. But if you don’t get treatment, it can last a long time.
Gastritis is a common condition with many causes, though it’s often caused by infection with a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). It’s not clear how you pick up a H. pylori infection, but it may be spread through contact with an infected person’s saliva, poo or vomit.
If a bacterial infection is causing your gastritis, you may not have symptoms. But gastritis can make you feel or be sick, leave you feeling full after eating or give you tummy pain.
Being careful with your diet is important if you have gastritis. Some foods can make gastritis worse, and avoiding them may help ease your symptoms.
So what should you avoid?
Foods to avoid if you have gastritis
Certain types of food and drinks are known to irritate the tummy and can make gastritis symptoms worse. These include:
- spicy foods – these can irritate the tummy lining
- acidic foods (for example, tomatoes) – these increase stomach acid
- acidic drinks, like tomato juice or coffee
- fatty or fried foods – these can further irritate the stomach lining
- alcohol – this can irritate the tummy lining
- fizzy drinks, like soda – these also increase stomach acid
If you have gastritis, you should aim to limit how much alcohol you drink, or avoid it, especially if you think it may be contributing to your symptoms.
If you notice you get symptoms of gastritis after eating a certain food or gluten, speak to a doctor to find out if you may have a gluten intolerance or a food allergy. But don’t remove anything from your diet before speaking to a doctor.
What can you eat on a gastritis diet?
You may not feel like eating much if you have gastritis, but you may find certain foods help to settle your tummy and don’t make symptoms worse. For example:
- foods which contain flavonoids – if your symptoms are caused by a H. pylori infection, foods which contain a natural substance called flavonoids can actually help control or prevent the growth of H. pylori bacteria. Foods which contain flavonoids include apples, celery, broccoli and onions
- foods high in fibre – these can also help prevent the growth of H. pylori bacteria. High-fibre foods include lentils, pinto beans, wholegrain bread, seeds and nuts.
- probiotics – these are foods containing living microorganisms that are often called ‘good’ bacteria. They can help bring balance to the bacteria in your gut, including your stomach and some studies suggest they help to clear H. pylori bacteria. Probiotics can be found in foods like yoghurt, a fermented milk called Kefir, sourdough bread or acidophilus milk, which is a probiotic drink
Common causes of gastritis
Gastritis is often caused by infection with a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
Other causes of gastritis may include:
- smoking – the chemicals in cigarette smoke can irritate your tummy lining
- drinking a lot of alcohol (also known as alcoholic gastritis) – this can irritate or damage your tummy lining and leave it more sensitive to acids produced in the tummy when food is broken down
- taking anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) – these can irritate the tummy lining
- an illness, injury or operation that may reduce blood flow to the tummy
- damage to the tummy lining from the immune system attacking its cells (autoimmune)
- an allergic reaction to certain foods
- coeliac disease – this is a disorder where your immune system reacts when you eat a protein found in rye, barley and wheat called gluten. It can damage your small intestine
When to see a doctor for gastritis
You should see a doctor if:
- you’re in a lot of pain
- your symptoms continue for a week or more
- you’re taking a medication like NSAIDs and think this may be the cause
- there’s blood in your poo
- you bring up blood when being sick
Depending on the cause of your gastritis, a doctor may give you a medicine that helps reduce the amount of acid in your tummy (antacids). Speak to a pharmacist or doctor for further guidance about this or other medicines and how to get and use them.
If you’re taking a medication called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), a doctor may recommend that you take a different type of painkiller. A doctor may also advise you to find ways to manage any stress you may be feeling, as stress can make symptoms of gastritis worse.
- gastritis is where the lining of your tummy (stomach) is inflamed
- it has many causes, but the most common is a H. pylori bacterial infection
- food doesn’t usually cause gastritis unless you have an allergy or a condition like coeliac disease, but certain foods can make symptoms worse
- if you have symptoms, try to avoid acidic, fatty or fried foods, along with alcohol, coffee and fizzy drinks as these can either increase stomach acid or irritate your tummy lining
- certain foods may help your symptoms, such as high-fibre foods like lentils, and probiotic yoghurt