Three main things usually cause gastritis: over-intake of NSAIDs, H. Pylori infection, and excessive alcohol consumption. However, none of these things fit my lifestyle. Therefore, when I had an endoscopy and received a gastritis diagnosis, I was very confused. All my research never cited stress as a cause of gastritis, yet I knew stress caused my stomach erosions––why else would I always feel my stomach tighten after I became very stressed? Why else could I eat a lot more when I hung out with friends or family and didn’t worry about school? Why else did this problem develop only during my most stressful year of undergrad?
Surely enough, I healed from gastritis after I stayed with my parents this summer and removed myself from an academic environment. As soon as I returned to school, I started feeling that stomach tightening again (although only mild because my erosions healed at this point).
So, why is it so hard to find conclusive research on stress-induced gastritis? Perhaps it’s because our society thinks therapy or stress-management can cure everything––people don’t understand how you can become so anxious about something that you literally drive your body into a constant state of adrenaline and panic. However, that’s exactly what happened with me. I battled severe panic attacks––one every other day for the entire month of March 2017, when my gastritis was at its worst.
My doctor believes I produce an excess of stomach acid and because I hardly ate anything, my stomach constantly churned because it needed food. My love for swimming didn’t help either because it only revved up my metabolism, so I eventually had to give that up.
Anyways, gastritis is hard to understand, and stress-induced gastritis is a mystery unless you or someone you know has lived with it. So, since pictures speak volumes, I’ll share my endoscopy results.
Yeesh. This is my stomach. See that black spot? That’s an erosion on my stomach! Crazy stuff. My doctor described it perfectly––it’s as if a bomb went off in my stomach. Very accurate. According to Medscape, stress-induced gastritis (AKA stress-related erosive syndrome) occurs from extreme physiologic stress. I literally became so stressed, anxious, and exhausted that I eroded my stomach.
Anyways, through more extensive research, I eventually discovered acute stress gastritis is a thing––but it’s very rare and occurs in 5 percent of the population, according to Mereck Manuals.
How do you get rid of all that acid and reverse the erosions? First, my doctor gave me a PPI (proton pump inhibitor), which helped reduce stomach acid production, and second, I followed a low-acid diet. For those of you with gastritis, you MUST follow this diet. Yes, giving up coffee, chocolate, citrus, spicy stuff, and more is difficult, but you’ll thank me later.
Those pictures from my scope convey the devastating effects of stress on the body. All those stress-management warnings your professors, parents, friends, etc; give you have a purpose behind them. Don’t toy with stress. It can literally eat you alive.