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Gastritis and Shortness of Breath: Are They Related? [Answered By Gastroenterologist]

Published By: Dr. Jeffrey Mark
Date: November 28, 2023

Gastritis is a common digestive condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While it's primarily associated with stomach discomfort, nausea, and indigestion, some individuals with gastritis also experience an unexpected symptom: Shortness of breath.

In this blog post, we will explore the potential connection between Gastritis and Shortness of Breath, shedding light on this less-known aspect of the condition.

Key Points:

Significant gastritis can cause shortness of breath from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Anemia, and Stress.

Medications including antacids, acid reducers, and acid blockers may help. Addressing nutritional deficiencies, lifestyle, and stress is often required.

Seek medical help for frequent or severe shortness of

  • Breath.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Paleness or fatigue.
  • Blood in stools.
  • Or vomiting.

What is Gastritis?

Gastritis

Gastritis is the inflammation of the stomach lining. The risk of developing this problem is caused by various factors, including bacterial infections (like H. pylori), excessive alcohol consumption, prolonged use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and stress. if this problem goes untreated, it may result in serious issues such as stomach cancer that you don't have to face.

The inflammation can lead to various digestive symptoms, such as stomach discomfort, bloating, and heartburn.

  • H. pylori Infection: This bacterium is a common culprit in gastritis.
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Heavy drinking (Or even moderate 2-3 wine glasses) can irritate the stomach lining.
  • Prolonged NSAID Use: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen can lead to gastritis or gastric ulcers when used over an extended period (even as just 2-3 doses).
  • Excess or refluxing bile: Causes a chemical burn-type injury to the stomach lining.
  • Stress: High levels of stress can contribute to the development of gastritis.

Common Symptoms of Gastritis

Common Symptoms of Gastritis

Before exploring the link between gastritis and shortness of breath, it's important to understand the common symptoms of gastritis. They may include:

  • Stomach discomfort.
  • Indigestion.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Bloating.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Black or tarry stools.

It's important to recognize that the effects of gastritis are not limited to the digestive system alone.

The Unusual Symptom: Shortness of Breath

While gastritis primarily affects the stomach, it can indirectly lead to shortness of breath for several reasons:

  1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Gastritis or infections can increase the risk of GERD, a condition where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, potentially reaching the lungs with aspiration and causing respiratory symptoms.
    Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
  2. Inflammation and Anemia: Gastritis can result in chronic inflammation that affects the absorption of nutrients, including iron and B vitamins. Iron deficiency anemia, a common consequence of gastritis, can lead to fatigue and shortness of breath.
  3. Stress and Anxiety: Gastritis can be exacerbated by stress and anxiety, both of which can lead to shortness of breath.Stress and Anxiety

Investigating the Connection

The connection between acute gastritis and shortness of breath often requires a thorough evaluation. 

Lab tests may reveal anemia, targeted questioning may lead to a diagnosis of GERD, and a review of symptoms may bring out the role of stress and anxiety.

Diagnostic Tests:

Blood tests can assess hemoglobin levels, iron levels, and B12 levels.

Endoscopy with a small camera on the end of a flexible tube, barium x-ray studies, and measurements of acid or motility in the esophagus can diagnose gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). A HPA Axis Questionnaire can explore the role of stress and anxiety.

These tests can help pinpoint the underlying causes of shortness of breath related to gastritis.

Medical History:

Medical History

A detailed medical history can help uncover any underlying conditions or medications that may be contributing to both gastritis and shortness of breath. Your doctor may give you treatment based on your history.

Certain medications such as anti-inflammatory medications can cause stomach lining damage and gastritis. 

Food sensitivities/allergies, excessive bile, and infections like Helicobacter Pylori can damage the stomach lining as well.

Physical Examination:

A thorough physical examination, including listening to the heart and lungs, can help identify any signs or symptoms of respiratory distress.

Wheezing, fluid, or other changes in the respiratory breath can be heard with a stethoscope.

Managing Gastritis and Alleviating Shortness of Breath

If you are experiencing shortness of breath related to gastritis, there are several strategies to manage the condition:

  1. Treatment for Gastritis: Address the underlying gastritis with medication for acid, bile, or infection. Implement dietary changes avoiding food sensitivities, excessive amounts of coffee, and foods like hot peppers that can make gastritis worse.Make lifestyle modifications avoiding excessive alcohol, anti-inflammatory medications, and smoking.
  2. Anemia Management: Anemia, if present, may be contributing to shortness of breath. Taking iron supplementation, B12 (oral, nasal, or injection), or other vitamin supplementation may be needed.Dietary adjustments to take limited acidic foods such as limited citrus or vitamin C along with green leafy vegetables may help increase the absorption of nutrients.
  3. GERD Control: Managing GERD through lifestyle changes, dietary changes, and nutraceuticals or medications can alleviate respiratory symptoms. Not eating within 4 hours of lying down for sleep, avoiding spicy and fatty foods, and raising the head of your bed by at least 6 inches may help. Some doctors may also also recommend H2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors but you need to consult with them first. Making lunch rather than dinner as your largest meal, intermittent fasting, and weight loss may also be helpful.
  4. Stress Reduction: Engage in stress reduction techniques. Practice mindfulness, and meditation, and participate in regular exercise to manage anxiety and stress that may exacerbate gastritis symptoms.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Seek Medical Attention

While shortness of breath related to gastritis can often be managed, there are cases where it might signal a more severe condition, like anemia or severe GERD. It's crucial to seek medical attention if you experience:

  1. Frequent or Severe Shortness of Breath: If you're experiencing frequent or severe shortness of breath, it's important to seek help from a healthcare provider for a comprehensive evaluation.
  2. Chest Pain or Discomfort: Chest pain or discomfort, particularly if it's accompanied by shortness of breath, should never be ignored. Seek immediate medical attention in such cases.
  3. Unexplained Weight Loss: Unexplained weight loss can be a sign of an acute underlying condition, and it should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
  4. Paleness or Fatigue: If you notice persistent paleness or fatigue, particularly in combination with shortness of breath, it's important to seek a medical evaluation.
  5. Blood in Stools or Vomit: The presence of blood in stools or vomit should never be disregarded. This may indicate gastrointestinal bleeding, which requires prompt medical attention.

Conclusion

Gastritis and shortness of breath are indeed related, though the connection might not be immediately apparent. Understanding this association is crucial for maintaining your well-being and addressing any potential underlying conditions.

By recognizing the interplay between these two seemingly distinct health issues and taking a proactive approach to managing them, you can significantly improve your quality of life and overall health.

If you suspect that your gastritis is linked to respiratory symptoms, a medical evaluation with a healthcare provider is recommended for guidance, diagnosis, and appropriate treatment. A holistic approach to your health is the key to a happier and healthier life.

Resources for Further Information

To delve deeper into gastritis, shortness of breath, and related health topics, consider these trusted resources:

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the root cause of gastritis?

The following can be the root cause of gastritis: Infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria, alcohol, medications like anti-inflammatory medications, bile, and stress.

What are the alarming signs of gastritis?

You should seek an evaluation and help from a medical professional if you experience the following: frequent or severe shortness of breath, chest pain, abdomen pain or discomfort, unexplained weight loss, paleness or fatigue, blood in stools, or vomit.

What are the psychological causes of gastritis?

Stress and anxiety can cause gastritis by the production of cortisol and other stress hormones which can decrease the blood flow to the stomach and result in damage in the stomach lining.

How can I stop my shortness of breath due to gastritis?

Address the underlying gastritis with medication for acid, bile, or infection. Implement dietary changes avoiding food sensitivities, excessive amounts of coffee, and foods like hot peppers that can make gastritis worse. Make lifestyle modifications avoiding excessive alcohol, anti-inflammatory medications, and smoking. Manage GERD and stress.

Does gastritis get progressively worse?

If gastritis is not addressed and treated it may progress to a gastric ulcer. Basic laboratory studies to measure hemoglobin blood count, iron, and B vitamins may be needed. If medications such as antacids, acid reducers, or acid blockers do not help further evaluation with an exam inside the stomach by a specialist like a gastroenterologist may be needed.

Can you live with gastritis for years?

Chronic gastritis may be caused by Helicobacter Pylori bacteria, continued alcohol use, or chronic anti-inflammatory pain medications. Gastritis can progress to a gastric ulcer but often continues as chronic gastritis which can result in long-term stomach discomfort, bloating, and heartburn.

Dr. Jeffrey Mark
With over thirty years of experience, Dr. Mark is a leading expert in holistic gut health. His integrative approach combines conventional medicine, functional and regenerative medicine, and advanced therapies to heal the gut and transform patient health. Holding 5 board certifications, Dr. Mark offers the comprehensive expertise of five medical specialists during each patient visit. He is dedicated to optimizing wellbeing by addressing the gut-related root causes of chronic health issues.
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