A dull ache in your belly may be a sign of gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach lining. First uncover the cause. Then control the discomfort. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
Gastritis: Main Image

About This Condition

Gastritis is a broad term for inflammation of the stomach lining, also called the gastric mucosa.

This condition can be caused by many factors and, in some cases, may lead to an ulcer. For that reason, many of the same nutrients, herbs, and lifestyle changes for a peptic ulcer might also help someone with gastritis.

Bacterial infection, most notably with Helicobacter pylori,1 is a major cause of gastritis. H. pylori is the same bacterium responsible for most cases of peptic ulcer. When considering treatments for gastritis, many researchers now look for substances that eradicate H. pylori, including bismuth2 and antibiotics.3

Other causes of gastritis include intake of caustic poisons, alcohol, and some medications (such as aspirin or adrenal corticosteroids), as well as physical stress from the flu, major surgery, severe burns, or injuries. For some people, a drug allergy or food poisoning can cause gastritis. Atrophic gastritis is a form of gastritis found particularly in the elderly, where stomach cells are destroyed, potentially leading to pernicious anemia.


Acute gastritis is typically characterized by nonspecific abdominal pain. Since gastritis often occurs in severely ill, hospitalized people, its symptoms may be eclipsed by other, more severe symptoms. Gastritis that is caused by H. pylori eventually leads to peptic ulcers, which are characterized by a dull ache in the upper abdomen that usually occurs two to three hours after a meal; the ache is typically relieved by eating.

Healthy Lifestyle Tips

Gastritis is common among alcoholics.4 Both heavy smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are known causes of acute gastritis.5 While heavy alcohol intake is clearly damaging to the stomach lining, preliminary evidence suggests that moderate alcohol consumption (generally defined as two drinks per day in women or three drinks per day in men) may actually protect against the development of gastritis by facilitating the elimination of H. pylori.6 When alcohol is consumed in greater than moderate amounts, it causes a wide variety of health problems.

Many medications, such as aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen), can induce or aggravate stomach irritation.7 People with a history of gastritis should never take aspirin or related drugs without first discussing the matter with their doctor.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2018.