At some point in our lives, we have had gastritis or reflux acidity, expressed as burning in the stomach or in the throat when swallowing saliva. Although both are reactions of our stomach to our daily activities and food, it is difficult to recognize which of the two is affecting us at a certain moment.
To begin with. What is the difference between gastritis and reflux acidity?
Gastritis occurs when the gastric mucosa lining the stomach becomes inflamed in response to a bacterial process, medication or excessive alcohol consumption, damaging the state of the tissue, damaging it and triggering the characteristic symptoms.
It presents as erosive gastritis due to excessive wear of the stomach lining or as non-erosive gastritis, where instead of wear of the lining it only becomes inflamed and may not generate symptoms.
On the other part, stomach acid reflux, which causes gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when the acid in our stomach rises up into the esophagus and causes a “burning” sensation in the chest.
It is normal that at least once a month you suffer from reflux sensation, however, when it is more than twice a week, you may be suffering from GERD.
Main causes of gastritis and reflux acidity
Triggers of gastritis
As mentioned above, the main factor that causes gastritis is the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which is usually part of our normal flora and lives in the stomach because it is resistant to the acid pH of the organ and when faced with harmful factors it becomes pathogenic against the organism.
After a prolonged period of illness, it causes peptic ulcer, common in H. pylori infection.
Gastritis caused by drugs is attributed to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids.
They are often used to control chronic pain in the body, and when administered in excess they damage the gastric mucosa of the stomach.
Other causes of gastritis are excessive alcohol consumption, which irritates and damages the lining that protects the stomach.
Biliary reflux, which occurs when bile generated at the liver level and stored in the gallbladder, is directed upwards towards the stomach instead of acting at the level of the small intestine.
Autoimmune diseases and stress are rare but equally important factors.
Gastric reflux triggers
Heartburn caused by reflux acidity also has various origins and occurs at any age, but is more common in adults and older adults.
In general, eating habits are the key point to cause reflux, such as excessive consumption of coffee, acidic beverages and alcohol, adding table salt to food and having a low fiber diet.
Another equally important factor is hiatal hernia, which is due to a process in which the upper part of the stomach protrudes above the diaphragm abnormally, where the patient may be asymptomatic or with symptoms of reflux and chest pain.
Reflux also occurs from administration of drugs, such as the aforementioned NSAIDs, and from calcium channel blockers, antihistamines, antidepressants and sedatives.
Smoking, obesity and pregnancy are associated with an increased risk of heartburn due to reflux.
How to recognize the symptoms of gastritis and reflux acidity?
Some of the symptoms present in both pathologies often appear in other diseases.
For the same reason, timely medical attention is essential to rule out other diseases.
On the part of gastritis, the main symptoms are postprandial fullness (feeling of fullness after eating) and early satiety, nausea and vomiting with or without blood, presence of ulcers in the stomach, dark stools and weight loss.
It may be asymptomatic or also be mistaken for an episode of indigestion, which is the manifestation of stomach discomfort that goes hand in hand with difficulty in swallowing.
If the patient is not treated in time, he/she will suffer from the complications associated with the pathology, such as anemia caused by H. pylori.
Pernicious anemia due to autoimmune gastritis; peritonitis caused by severe ulcers that perforate the stomach, providing a habitat for more bacteria.
In the manifestation of gastric reflux acidity or GERD, patients present with persistent dry cough, wheezing, nausea and vomiting, laryngitis, hoarseness, pain on swallowing, dental erosion, bad breath and pain in the chest or abdomen due to the presence of acid, which worsens when bending over or lying down.
Likewise, GERD presents its most severe complications after not being medicated, such as suffering from Barret’s esophagus after the severe presence of acid at the esophagus level and which causes the change of the cells that line it.
Esophagitis due to irritation and inflammation of the esophagus; stenosis, when the esophagus is not fully functional and does not allow the correct flow of food.
And in the same way, in the long run, they contribute to originate stomach cancer in the case of gastritis and esophageal cancer in reflux acidity or GERD.
Prevention of both diseases
Age is the biggest influencer in the development or prevention of both gastritis and reflux acidity.
In part because older people lose mucosal resistance with the passage of time.
The above mentioned alludes to the correct medication, balanced diet and abuse of alcoholic beverages or cigarettes.
In the case of gastritis and H. pylori, it is important to maintain good hygiene especially to avoid acquiring an infection.
The following points should be taken into account to reduce the risk of gastritis and reflux acidity:
- Moderate consumption of irritating foods (spicy, acidic, soft drinks, caffeine, among others).
- Reduce the intake of alcohol and cigarettes.
- Avoid self-medication and control the administration of NSAIDs.
- Regulate body weight and exercise.
Both pathologies have similar treatments, but in the case of gastritis, antibiotics may be necessary to control the infection.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as omeprazole, lansoprazole and pantoprazole will regulate the overproduction of gastric acid in gastritis and reflux acidity.
Also, antacids such as sodium bicarbonate, calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide alkalinize the pH of the stomach, leveling the excess stomach acidity.
In some situations, the correction of hiatal hernia needs to be by surgery when PPI treatment is ineffective.
For this reason, surgery is performed in order to rearrange the protruding part of the stomach. It can be combined with gastric sleeve surgery to avoid future relapses.
On the part of Grupo PACS and Teleradiology of Mexico it is necessary for us to help in the understanding of both diseases due to their recurrence.
At the same time, we make a call for those people with higher risk of acquiring them by consuming too much food with few nutrients, not doing physical activity or abusing alcoholic beverages and cigarettes.
Remember to go to the doctor when you have any warning signs to avoid further complications.