Myth 1: Gastritis is a minor ailment with no real health risks
The facts: Gastritis poses serious health risks. “If left untreated, it can cause a multitude of problems, including bleeding in the gastro-intestinal tract, anaemia due to the loss of iron, ulcers, stomach cancer and even death, in the case of severe bleeding,” says Cape Town general practitioner Dr Mark Stodel.
Myth 2: Gastritis is usually caused by a virus
The facts: The three most common causes of gastritis are as follows:
- Helicobacter Pylori infection: this is a bacterial infection that is contracted from close contact with others. It is transmitted via the faecal-oral route, so your best defence is regular hand washing.
- Alcohol: after a night of heavy drinking, one of the causes of nausea is inflammation of the stomach (gastritis) caused by the alcohol.
- Anti-inflammatory agents: “One of the questions all doctors should ask you, if they suspect that you might have gastritis, is 'What pain medications have you been taking?'” says Dr Stodel.
Myth 3: Only older people get gastritis
The facts: “Older people may have weakened immune systems and thinner stomach linings, which predisposes them to infection, however anyone who uses anti-inflammatories and lives in close proximity with others can get gastritis,” says Dr Stodel.
Myth 4: Stress is all in the mind. It can't make you physically sick
The facts: Stress can cause gastritis. “Large amounts of stress trigger the release of cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol decreases the amount of mucous produced by the stomach. This increases the likelihood of the stomach acid burning the lining of the stomach, thereby causing gastritis,” says Dr Stodel.
Myth 5: Over the counter (OTC) medications can't cause gastritis
The facts: “Many pain medications such as Nurofen, Voltaren and Aspirin (including Grand-Pa) can cause gastritis, by decreasing the protective mucous layer. This can even happen if they are taken with food. Speak to your Clicks pharmacist before buying any pain medication to find out whether the medication can cause gastritis,” says Dr Stodel.
Myth 6: Antacids will resolve gastritis
The facts: Your doctor may include an antacid in your treatment regime, but most cases of gastritis require treatment with proton pump inhibitors or histamine blockers and, in the case of infection with H. Pylori, a course of antibiotics.
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