A reader writes:
“My doctor informed me that I have gastritis and prescribed me medication. Are there foods I can eat or herbs I can take that will help heal the lining of the stomach?”
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 the gastritis? After all, everything mentioned above is just symptom relief.
It doesn’t 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 doctors don’t attempt to look for the cause.) Until we know the underlying cause(s), all you can do is treat the symptoms; by getting to the “why” and the root cause, that’s how we figure out 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 causes, and each of those causes must be addressed differently. In this case, gastritis has two extremely common causes, and I see these 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 doctors 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 they usually run at a hospital for Celiac Disease (which usually involves an endoscopy, which often produces falsely “negative” or “normal” results). There are several ways to test for various aspects or evidence of gluten intolerance, and there are several different lab companies that each offer their own versions of testing options. Some offer lab testing services directly to patients and don’t require a doctor’s order! A variety of testing methods are available, and some results can be obtained from a simple cheek swab. Please visit my SA Gluten Free website for my free, no-strings-attached e-book on Gluten Intolerance and various testing options.
The other test I typically need to order is a digestive analysis with microbe screening. This is actually a combination test panel that offers a whole lot of info about any microbes you might be carrying around (as mentioned above, these can be any one or combination of the following: 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 run 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:
Reason #1: Everyone has these problems. Out of hundreds of tests I’ve done, I’ve had only one single initial test come back clean, which means in my clinical experience, the incidence of these issues is extremely high.
Reason #2: Other doctors are NOT checking for these and if they are, the tests are very invasive and outdated and frankly, can give you incorrect results. They may appear “normal” or “negative” even if something is going on. It’s crucial that sensitive, relevant test methods are used to ensure accurate information.
Reason #3: These issues wreak havoc until they’re dealt with. Food intolerances do not go away, and neither do intestinal microorganisms. Intolerance reactions build with time and may become severe enough to promote destruction of your own tissues, organs, or glands. Intestinal microbes act like squatters on your property (your intestines) 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 will you know which approach to take?
If the problem lies behind Door Number 1 (the food intolerance), one must eliminate that food, identifying the infinite number of possible hidden sources, and this dietary modification is usually for life. Some choose to forgo the testing and simply attempt to eliminate (or “cut back” on) the reactive food, but this approach is rarely successful and besides – why go through the trouble until you know for sure that you need to?
If the problem lies behind Door Number 2 (the intestinal bugs), it takes a very potent synergistic blend of herbs, nutrients, enzymes, and probiotics to manage and help eliminate intestinal imbalance, and it can take a considerable amount of time and expense. Again, there’s no reason to spend 3 months or more (to do it properly) and spend a heavy investment if you don’t know for sure that you need to. And more importantly, without the proper testing, there’s no way to know for sure whether or not the efforts were successful.
Maybe the problem lies behind an unforeseen Door Number 3. In that case, even if the first 2 tests I discussed above were truly negative, the effort and investment was not wasted, because it’s good to at least 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!