Gastritis is an umbrella term that refers to inflammation of the lining of the stomach. Gastritis may occur suddenly (acute gastritis) or slowly over time (chronic gastritis), and can lead to other complications like stomach ulcers and even increased risk for stomach cancer. The inflammation that underlies gastritis can be caused from several different factors, such as bacterial infection, injury and regular use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID pain relievers). Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to gastritis. Although gastritis is not typically considered a serious condition, it may progress if it’s not addressed properly. Common signs and symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and a gnawing or burning ache in the upper abdomen. When the stomach’s protective layer becomes weakened or damaged, the body responds in an immune reaction, causing the stomach to become inflamed. The protective layer is a mucus barrier that functions as a protective wall against the acids necessary for proper digestion. Weaknesses in this barrier allow the stomach’s acidic juices to damage the stomach’s lining, which the immune system recognizes as an attack. Gastritis caused by bacterial infection occurs when the patient is infected with Helicobacter pylori, the same bacteria that’s responsible for causing ulcers. H. pylori is capable of breaking down the stomach’s protective layer. However, not everyone who is infected with H. pylori develops gastritis or ulcers, and researchers believe that genetic discrepancies and lifestyle choices make some individuals more vulnerable to developing inflammation than others. Also, older adults are more vulnerable because as we age, the protective lining that coats the stomach becomes thinner—making it susceptible to bacterial and medication-related damage. Another type of gastritis, autoimmune gastritis, is based solely on genetic make-up. This type of gastritis occurs when the body attacks the healthy cells that make up the stomach’s protective layer. This faulty immune reaction is usually seen in patients who have other autoimmune conditions, like Hashimoto’s disease and even type 1 diabetes Perhaps the most interesting gastritis risk is stress, which demonstrates the significance of the gut-brain axis, and how the brain can directly affect digestive system through emotion. Gastritis caused by stress even has its own name (stress-related erosive syndrome), and can even cause hemorrhages in patients who are already critically ill or under extreme physiological stress. Researchers note that stress causes decreased blood flow to the protective lining of the stomach, which can ultimately lead to its destruction. Depending on the cause of gastritis, methods for treatment often vary. For H. pylori-related cases, antibiotic medications to kill the bacteria are typically prescribed. Other medications that are utilized in gastritis treatment include drugs that block acid production in the stomach, and antacids for neutralizing stomach acid. All of the above listed drugs may cause adverse side effects, such as digestive upset, constipation and diarrhea. Because there are no standard therapies available that are free of side effects, many people choose to take a holistic approach. Lifestyle modifications may be used to help heal the stomach when gastritis is not caused by bacterial infection. These modifications often include dietary changes and stress management, as well as herbal supplements. Systemic enzyme therapy is a great option for those suffering from gastritis, because it provides powerful anti-inflammatory effects, which offers relief without further compromising the protective lining of the stomach. As an all-natural remedy, systemic enzymes are free of adverse side effects and have been proven to work specifically well on areas of localized inflammation.