Put down the Prilosec and take away the TUMS, because you just may not need those anymore! We need to talk about one of the most overlooked, misdiagnosed, and mistreated health conditions: Autoimmune Gastritis.
Autoimmune is rapidly on the rise with over 50 million Americans diagnosed and over hundreds of different autoimmune conditions.
In my hybrid practice, where I consult patients in-person and through tele-health all around the country, digestive health and its link to autoimmunity is one of the main focuses patients seek help for, looking for answers as they are often left with limited options.
There is a spectrum to autoimmune, but ultimately it involves a multi-faceted network, consisting of three main pillars that contribute to your body’s development of autoimmune: genetics, environmental toxin exposure, and gut-immune dysfunction, commonly known as leaky gut.
Gastritis is a general term given to describe inflammation in the stomach, and there can be an autoimmune component to your gastritis. In functional medicine, this means something is damaging the protective lining of the stomach – the parietal cells.
There can be many causes of this damage, ultimately leading to common health conditions such as B12 deficiency, anemia, protein deficiency, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and even stomach cancer. When your body attacks the stomach lining, it causes inflammation. Some of the main triggers are:
- Bacterial infections like H Pylori
- Medications such as long-term NSAID use like ibuprofen
- Chronic stress and an impaired gut-brain connection.
Many people suffering from chronic inflammation don’t realize it’s caused by an underlying infection or a physiological and neurological imbalance from a poor stress response. Common symptoms that can indicate gastritis:
These are just a few of the symptoms to be on the lookout for that may signal the need for testing for the root cause of your gastritis. A few of my favorite functional medicine advanced lab tests are breath tests checking for upper GI infections, antibody tests, inflammatory biomarkers like CRP, ferritin, homocysteine and GGT, as well as a comprehensive stool test checking for widespread GI infections.
In traditional medicine, symptoms like nausea, acid reflux, and indigestion all get clumped together. And with the ease and accessibility to antacids, doctors just tell their patients to continue taking them as long as they feel better. This approach can be horrifically harmful, covered in misguided information.
Would you believe me that this could actually cause more harm than good?
Continually reducing acid production reduces the function of the stomach and ignites the flames of inflammation, not addressing the root issue of gastritis. But by addressing gastritis with functional medicine, you can determine the source of the inflammation, reduce it, and improve the function of your stomach.