What Is Reflux Gastritis?

An illustration of a human stomach. In reflux gastritis, bile backs up into the stomach, causing inflammation.
Reflux gastritis can lead to the development of stomach ulcers.
Symptoms of reflux gastritis may include stomach cramps and pain.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Reflux gastritis is a condition in which the lining of the stomach develops inflammation as a result of exposure to bile from the pancreas. This condition can lead to the development of stomach ulcers and might cause complications for the patient. Treatments are available and might be supervised by a gastroenterologist, a medical specialist who focuses on care of the stomach and intestines. It is important to receive treatment, because this problem can become chronic and progressive.

In healthy individuals, a one-way valve at the bottom of the stomach releases the stomach contents into the intestines but blocks the contents of the intestines from going the other way. Some patients develop a problem with this valve in which it does not close fully, allowing bile into the stomach. Bile is strongly alkaline, unlike stomach acid, and it can eat into the lining of the stomach.

Gastritis can have many causes, and if a patient presents with the symptoms of stomach lining inflammation, the doctor might request some tests to learn more about the situation. In the case of reflux gastritis, patients might notice symptoms such as cramps, nausea, vomiting and poor digestion. Some foods might trigger acute episodes of stomach pain, and basic control measures such as altering the diet might not resolve the problem. The doctor can use a gastroscopy procedure to look inside the stomach, evaluate the valve at the base and take samples from any lesions in the stomach so that they can be inspected by a pathologist.

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This condition is also known as bile reflux or biliary reflux gastritis, to avoid confusion with acid reflux. In acid reflux, stomach acid rises up into the esophagus because of poor control of the valve at the top of the stomach. This condition causes different symptoms, such as heartburn. It is possible for a patient to have both acid reflux and bile reflux, which can complicate treatment in addition to making the patient feel very uncomfortable.

The most conservative treatments for reflux gastritis include dietary modifications to reduce bile production and medications that will limit the body's production of bile. If the patient does not respond to treatment, the doctor might recommend surgery. During surgery, it is possible to repair the valve or to bypass the problem area to limit the change for reflux gastritis episodes in the future. Surgical recovery can be lengthy, and there are risks, so this usually is not recommended unless it is clearly necessary.

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stoneMason
Post 3

@turquoise-- Actually, a proton pump inhibitor is one of the medications that my dad is taking for bile reflux gastritis. He is also taking a medication for ulcer treatment and a medication for bile buildup.

So technically, a PPI medication may help reduce symptoms of reflux gastritis. It's not really possible to diagnosed reflux gastritis by symptoms. My dad's doctor thought that he had acid reflux in the beginning as well. He was diagnosed with an endoscopy about a year after his symptoms started. He also had several acid tests to see if acid was reaching his esophagus. It was not, so that's how they crossed off other potential causes like GERD from the list.

turquoise
Post 2

@simrin-- Have you tried over-the-counter acid reflux remedies such as anti-acids or proton pump inhibitors?

If you try these remedies and don't see any improvement in your symptoms, it may be reflux gastritis. Antacids and proton pump inhibitors keep stomach acid under control which is the cause of acid reflux. But reflux gastritis is caused by bile, so these medications won't have any effect.

SteamLouis
Post 1

I've been having indigestion, nausea and stomach cramps for several months. My symptoms seem to match symptoms of acid reflux as well as bile reflux gastritis. Is there a way to know what the cause may be without medical testing?

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