Article #2: Chronic Gastritis by Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
The old term, catarrh, has fallen into disuse. We no longer hear of catarrh of the nose, but rhinitis, not of catarrh of the womb, but of metritis, etc. In like manner, the old terms, dyspepsia, and catarrh of the stomach have been supplanted by the term chronic gastritis, meaning chronic inflammation of the stomach. One may have acute inflammation of the nose, as in what we used to call nasal catarrh. In like manner, inflammation of the lining membrane of the stomach may be either acute or chronic. Chronic (from chronos—time) is a term applied to lingering diseases. The symptoms of chronic diseases are commonly not as severe as are the symptoms of acute disease.
There are many and varying degrees of chronic gastritis from that which passes almost unnoticed, and manifest only by a coated tongue, bad breath and a slight uneasiness following meals, to the case of the man who spends much of his time searching for a drug which will relieve or a food that will agree. Customary habits of eating entail so much wear and tear upon the stomach that there are but comparatively few people who do not suffer with more or less indigestion with the resultant irritation of this organ.
The almost universal practice of overeating, of eating at all hours of the day and night, of eating improper food, and of eating wrongly-combined foods, coupled with the practice of taking drugs to “relieve” the consequent discomfort and distress, is the chief, though not the only cause of chronic indigestion and chronic gastritis. The human stomach, especially in this country, is almost always overburdened by overeating and by eating in such a manner and under such conditions that digestion is retarded.
Too frequent eating is as great a source of gastric irritation as the habit of overfilling the stomach at each meal. There may be occasional exceptions (although this may well be doubted), but eating three times a day is too often. This is especially true when each meal is a banquet. Most men and women can eat a breakfast of fruit, a light lunch and a heavy evening meal, but when they eat a hearty, breakfast of bacon and eggs, toast, cereal and milk, fruit and other foods, a big meal at noon and another big meal in the evening, they are sure to overeat. Such eating does not permit the stomach sufficient rest from one meal to the next.
While, perhaps overeating and eating food combinations that impede normal digestion may be regarded as the chief causes of chronic irritation of the stomach, the habits of eating in a hurry, failure to properly masticate the food, eating hot and cold foods, eating when fatigued, when emotionally stressed, when cold, and the practice of eating a hearty meal and returning immediately to work, impede the digestive process. All such abuses help to lay the ground work for disease of the stomach.
While taking such stimulants as tea, coffee, and cocoa, and such narcotics as tobacco and alcohol contribute towards the causation of gastric impairment, the habit of using condiments is often worse. Acrid sauces, burning peppers, pungent spices, stinging mustard, mordant vinegar, biting alcohol, irritation-causing salt—when, how, and why did man begin the practice of abusing his digestive system with these piercing, caustic substances? Curry and cayenne, mustard and horse radish, chili and tobasco sauce, whiskey and gin—what unfit substances to introduce into the human stomach! They have no food value, are indigestible and retard the digestion of the real foods. When taken regularly, they keep the stomach in a state of chronic inflammation. They damage the intestines and liver also. They lack a single redeeming feature and none of the defenses of their “use” are valid.
It should be understood that any act, habit, or indulgence that lowers functioning power, this is to say, anything that causes enervation, will lessen digestive function and pave the way for the evolution of chronic gastritis. Overwork, loss of sleep, lack of rest, stimulation, food deficiencies, emotional stresses, etc., by lowering the power of the nerves to maintain normal function, produce indigestion.
Chronic gastritis frequently follows upon the heels of recurring acute gastritis. This tendency of acute gastritis to become chronic grows out of the fact that the causes of the recurring acute crisis are not removed. As soon as the sufferer recovers from acute gastritis, he begins again to build the condition all over again. Both forms of gastritis are due to the same cause or causes. Acute gastritis is more common in the young; chronic gastritis is more often found in adults.
Chronic gastritis often follows acute diseases, such as typhoid fever and dysentery. In these instances the gastritis, except the initial acute gastritis that is sure to be present, is most likely caused by the drugging for dysentery and typhoid. Drugging in acute disease frequently so impairs the stomach that chronic gastritis evolves. Feeding in acute disease doubtless assists in the development of chronic gastritis. In like manner, the chronic gastritis that is said to be caused by arthritis, gout, etc., is due, in large measure, to the drugging. Aspirin, for example, has a very irritating effect upon the stomach. When chronic drugging is added to the wrong feeding and other causes of disease in these diseases, chronic gastritis is almost inescapable.
The drugs employed in treating acute and chronic diseases are not the only ones that damage the stomach and cause chronic gastritis. The drugs commonly used with which to smother the effects of big dinners and other common abuses of the stomach—bicarbonate of soda,, milk of magnesia, Alkaseltzer, Rolaids, Turns, Pepto-Bismol, etc.—as well as those drugs usually employed in the treatment of chronic gastritis, damage the function of the stomach, occasioning irritation, exhaustion, and impeding the work of digestion. The temporary “relief” they afford is paid for at a fearful price, even including in its costs gastric ulcer and cancer.
Belching (eructation) of gas, sour and fermenting foods, bitter substances, a condition commonly called “heart burn,” the gases often searing the throat and nose, a bad taste in the mouth, a coated tongue, foul breath, discomfort in the stomach, often a frontal headache, diarrhea or constipation or both, alternately, weakness, an “all gone feeling,” a finicky appetite or no desire for food at all, a feeling of fullness, bloat after meals—these symptoms continuing, often for years, make the life of the man or woman who has chronic gastritis one of misery.
A capricious appetite, inability to eat certain foods that do not “agree,” periods of excessive hunger, loss of weight from malnutrition, palpitation of the heart from gas pressure, pains in the chest from the same cause, sometimes difficulty in breathing from gas pressure, weakness, inability to sleep, mental depression, melancholia, “nervousness,” even in some cases, mild mental symptoms, the degrees and combinations of symptoms varying with individuals, almost completes the picture of the misery of what our grandfathers called the “dyspeptic.”
To carry the picture a bit further, however, let us briefly think of the case in which thickening of the pyloric membrane results from the long-continued irritation and inflammation. This obstructs the pyloric valve (the valve opening to let the digested food pass into the intestine), thus preventing normal emptying of the stomach, with the resulting pains of obstruction. The treatment of this is usually the gastroenterostomy, or the formation of a fistula between the stomach and the duodenum, thus bypassing the pyloris.
This is the same of medico-surgical malpractice. It is as easy to reduce a thickened pyloric mucosa (membrane) by fasting as it is to reduce a thickened membrane in the nose that obstructs the nasal passage and compels mouth breathing. We can watch the process in the nose; we can “see” it in the stomach only symptomatically. We can see the symptoms of pyloric obstruction clear up and normal emptying of the stomach take place.
Perhaps no state of impaired health is more responsive to the physiological rest than chronic indigestion. It should not be necessary to have to say that all causes of enervation, all causes of impaired digestion, all causes of stomach irritation should be removed. No recovery of health is possible so long as these remain. Remove these causes and provide the disabled stomach with a much-needed rest and it will repair its damages, recuperate its forces and begin to function normally again.
Do not get the idea from this that the process is simple in long-standing cases. Some of these victims of abuse recover slowly and with many “set-backs,” so that much skill is required to pilot them back to good health. Feeding after the fast is specially important and often presents problems. Blanket diets, cut-and-dried feeding formulas, feeding programs based on the laboratory fallacy that every man and woman, regardless of his or her peculiarities, occupation or digestive capacity, should eat a certain amount of certain kinds of food each day, all meet their Waterloo in chronic gastritis.
Eating must be moderate, sometimes but two meals a day and in occasional cases, but one meal a day. Correct combinations must be rigidly adhered to, the meals should be simple and all articles of food with which the individual has difficulty must be excluded from the diet. Rest and sleep are highly important, as is exercise at the right time and in keeping with the strength and endurance of the sufferer. Fresh air and sunshine and a peaceful, poised mental atmosphere help immensely.
Reprinted from Dr. Shelton’s Hygienic Review, Feb. 1966