Gastritis: A Disorder that Intersects With IBS
About eight years ago, my stomach started acting up in the worst way. I found myself constantly besieged by reflux and heartburn, to the point where I wasn't sleeping much of the night due to it. Eating also again became a chore in a different way it had not been since the early years of my IBS diagnosis.
How my gastritis started
I have had intermittent bouts of both reflux and heartburn since high school. Usually, I could just take some Tums or, in cases where it was a little worse than usual, I would then take a histamine (or H2) blocker like Zantac or Pepcid AC. And when that didn't work, as I became an adult, I would take a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) daily for a week or two and that would usually be enough to set my stomach straight again for a good long while. Eventually, a doctor diagnosed me with GERD and I kept up with the aforementioned protocols when experiencing a flare. Yet in 2011, nothing I did assuaged the pain and symptoms of my GERD, which had reached a peak.
GERD treatments stopped working
H2 blockers not only didn't alleviate the issue but seemingly even exacerbated it. I tried several PPIs to no avail. They didn't even make a dent in offering me real relief. I finally did find a PPI that seemed to help with the help of my gastroenterologist, but its benefits were short-lived. After about 8 to 10 weeks the reflux and heartburn started rearing their heads back into my life again, despite that, I was still taking the PPI daily. I tried tweaking my diet and cutting out acidic foods. I gave up caffeine and switched from black to herbal tea, I cut down and then abstained from alcohol. I stopped eating anything with tomato sauce entirely. But these only helped a little, if at all.
I needed an endoscopy
I finally had an endoscopy – which is when they put a tube down your throat and into your stomach with a camera to view what is going on and also scrape some cells for a biopsy if needed. I was worried I had an ulcer, but fortunately, I did not. However, I did have a pretty bad case of gastritis and esophagitis, which is when both the stomach and esophageal lining are inflamed. The doctor didn't really have much advice for me other than to continue on PPIs and on my low-acid diet, even as I explained to her neither were really working anymore.
Adjusting my treatment for gastritis
I finally decided to very slowly wean myself off the PPIs (the problem with PPIs is over time they can lose their effect, requiring higher doses to stop reflux and when you go off them, you can experience a wicked rebound effect in acid reflux – so it's a terrible idea to quick them cold turkey). As I did that I also started taking tablets that contain alginic acid. This is something made from seaweed or algae. It helps reflux and heartburn in a mechanical way rather than a chemical way. In other words, rather than messing with the natural processes of your body by shutting off the proton pump that produces stomach acid (which is needed to some extent to properly digest food) or interfering with histamine production, it coats the stomach instead and creates a foam barrier where the stomach and esophagus meet, so that the acid does not rise up into the throat. I also started taking DGL tablets before many of my meals – a form of licorice root.
It made all the difference in my gastritis
Over the course of the next month or two on this new regimen, my stomach settled. I had also been going through a break-up at the time in my long-term relationship and I think finally having a resolution to that issue helped ease the immense stress I had had over that, which in turn, also aided in my recovery.
I've noticed some of my fellow advocates on this site with IBS also have gastritis and have written about their experience with it as well. This makes sense as one study that explored the overlap of IBS with other digestive disorders in a survey sample of patients found that chronic gastritis "...was diagnosed in 78.4 percent of IBS cases, whereas this ratio was 50 percent... in cases without IBS..." So, those with IBS are much more likely to suffer from chronic gastritis at some point than those who do not have IBS. While this particular study noted acid production in the stomach didn't seem to have a connection to IBS, the researchers stated in their conclusions that "we believe [chronic gastritis] is one of terminating points of the physiologic cascade of events in IBS."1
Do you have or have you ever had gastritis as well as IBS? What has helped you in managing it? Please answer in the comments below!
Do you think there is enough awareness of IBS?