“My doctor informed me that I had gastritis and prescribed me medication. Are there foods I can eat or herbs I can take that will help heal my stomach lining?”
There are indeed. Some people are going to chime in:
But before we get to that, a more important question to ask is, what’s CAUSING gastritis? After all, the medications prescribed for this condition and all of the natural remedies mentioned above are just symptom relief.
They don’t actually do anything to alleviate the real problem.
In Functional Medicine, a diagnosis is certainly helpful, but it doesn’t tell you anything about why you have the problem or what’s causing it. For example, “gastritis” is a very nonspecific term for “an inflammation (irritation and swelling) of the lining of the stomach”. That’s a good place to start, but what’s causing the inflammation in the first place? Most conventionally-trained practitioners don’t attempt to look for the cause. But until we’ve uncovered the underlying cause(or causes), all that can be done to band-aid the symptoms. By getting to the root cause, we can knowledgeably determine the most appropriate course of action so that the problem can be corrected from the ground up.
The reason it’s so important to identify the root cause is, a single symptom or disease can have several widely different root causes, and each of those causes must be addressed differently. In this case, gastritis has two extremely common underlying causes, and I see both of them all the time in practice.
- Reactive intolerance to certain foods – namely gluten, but definitely not limited to gluten only!
- Intestinal microbes – these can include parasites (hookworms, pinworms, etc), yeasts/fungi (candida and others), and/or bacterial infections (Helicobacter pylori or opportunistic bacterial overgrowth).
Practically every single patient I see in my office has BOTH of these problems! They are both incredibly common. They are also both incredibly overlooked or worse, met with skepticism by most conventional practitioners if a patient attempts to bring up the subject.
In this case, there are some diagnostic tests that can be ordered to figure out why your digestive lining is inflamed.
One is a gluten intolerance/reactivity test. This isn’t the same as some of the tests a specialist would usually order, such as an endoscopy, which often produces “false-negative” results). There are several ways to test for various aspects or evidence of gluten intolerance, and there are several different specialty laboratories that each offer their own versions of testing options. A variety of testing methods are available.
The other test I typically order is a digestive analysis with microbe screening. This is actually a combination test panel that offers an abundance of information about any microbes you might be carrying around (as mentioned above, these can be yeast, bacteria, and/or parasites. The average patient comes into my office with no less than 3 separate species of these microorganisms!). In addition, the version of this test I order tells us a lot about the environment of your digestive tract and it offers some indirect evidence of how well you’re absorbing nutrients.
It’s especially important to order these tests because for four main reasons. They are:
Reason #1: Practically everyone has these problems. Out of hundreds of tests I’ve ordered, only one single initial test come back “clean”, which means the incidence of these issues is extremely high.
Reason #2: Other types of doctors are NOT checking for these and in the rare instance that they do, the types of tests utilized are very invasive, outdated and unfortunately, not very reliable. The results may appear “normal” or “negative” even if something is wrong. It’s crucial that sensitive, relevant test methods are used to ensure accurate information.
Reason #3: These issues wreak havoc until they’re effectively resolved. Intestinal microorganisms don’t go away by themselves, and neither do food intolerances. Intolerance reactions build with time and may become severe enough to promote the the destruction of your own tissues, organs, or glands. Intestinal microbes act like squatters on your gastrointestinal “property” until they’re forcibly evicted.
Reason #4: Treatment approaches for these issues are very different. Many people make the innocent mistake of attempting to treat themselves using information gleaned from a Google search (I used to be That Person myself), but until we have the test results in hand, how do we know which approach to take? After all, symptoms of Candida can be very similar to those of H Pylori, but the former requires antifungal agents, and the latter needs an antibacterial approach.
If the problem lies behind Door Number 1 (the intestinal bugs), effective healing often requires a highly individualized plan that may include potent synergistic blends of herbs, nutrients, enzymes, probiotics, and/or prebiotics to manage and help resolve intestinal imbalance. But there’s no way to know what your specific needs are until your digestive function has been evaluated. More importantly, without testing before and after the intervention, there’s no way to know for sure whether or not the efforts were successful.
If the problem lies behind Door Number 2 (the food intolerance), one must eliminate that food, including the infinite number of possible hidden sources, and this dietary modification could be for life, especially in the case of gluten. Some of my patients choose to forgo the testing and simply eliminate the reactive food, but this approach is only successful if the person adheres to the elimination very strictly and consistently.
Maybe the problem lies behind an unforeseen Door Number 3, such as an autoimmune disorder involving the gastrointestinal system. In that case, even if the first two tests I discussed above were truly negative, the effort and investment were not wasted, because it’s beneficial to have ruled out those very common ailments so that we can begin to look at other possible issues without having wasted time or energy elsewhere.
Once we know what’s going on, we can address the root cause of the problem so that we can give you a permanent solution and real, long-term RELIEF with an approach that we know is going to truly make a difference!