Gastritis is an inflammation or swelling of the inner lining of the stomach, called mucosa. This lining contains glands for production of acids and enzymes that digest the food.
It is covered by a thick layer of mucus that protects the stomach tissues from these acids.
Due to inflammation, the functioning of the stomach lining is compromised.
There may also be an erosion of this lining which may cause the digestive juices to damage the stomach tissues.
Acute gastritis occurs suddenly and lasts for a short time, while chronic gastritis develops gradually and is usually of a longer duration.
The symptoms of Gastritis include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting (with or without blood), bloating, indigestion, loss of appetite, acidity, burning feel in the stomach, black stools and hiccups. Some people with gastritis may not experience any signs or symptoms.
Gastritis can be caused by a number of reasons:
- Excessive alcohol use (Alcohol degrades and causes irritation in stomach lining)
- Chronic vomiting.
- Use of certain medications like pain killers and anti-inflammatory agents.
- Bile reflux ( Bile flows into the stomach from bile duct)
- Infections by bacteria, viruses or parasites ( most commonly by the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori)
- Injury from previous operations or burns.
- Autoimmune reactions (where immune cells wrongly attack the stomach lining and damage them)
People with the above-mentioned conditions are at a higher risk of getting gastritis.
Old age increases the risk of gastritis as the stomach lining thins and immune response to infections weakens.
If gastritis is not treated, it increases the chances of getting stomach cancer, stomach bleeding and ulcers.
Gastritis can be treated by treating the specific cause. If it is caused by infection, antibiotics are used to kill the microbes.
If caused by alcohol or other medication, the person is advised to discontinue its use.
Antacids are given to neutralize the acid or other medications that stop or reduce acid production and improve healing.
It can also be treated with herbal supplements that have fewer side effects and are effective in treating the underlying causes of Gastritis.
One such herb is Aloe vera which has numerous health benefits and it has been used traditionally for treating various ailments and improving health.
Aloe barbadensis miller, as it is taxonomically known, is rightly called the healing herb. Now, it has been scientifically proven that Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and many other properties that are just what is required for treating Gastritis.
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Aloe vera Benefits in Gastritis
Aloe Vera helps in eliminating possible causes of gastritis by it's anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, gastroprotective, healing and hydrating properties. With fewer side effects and more efficiency, it has the potential to be an effective complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for gastritis.
1. It reduces inflammation
Injury or infection in the stomach causes prostaglandins to signal the immune system and initiate tissue repair or fight against pathogens. This causes inflammation.
Several studies report the efficiency of Aloe vera in controlling inflammation. The reason behind this is the inhibition of cyclooxygenase pathway by Aloe vera that produces prostaglandins.
Gastritis leads to inflammation of the stomach lining.
Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID’s) are often used to treat inflammation and pain, but they have a detrimental effect on the mucosa (stomach lining).
These medications are also one of the most common causes of Gastritis.
Aloe vera’s anti-inflammatory effects are devoid of any such side effects. In addition to reducing inflammation, it protects the gastric mucosa by healing and stimulating the mucus and preventing gastric ulcers that can occur because of it.
Aloe vera is a storehouse of anti-inflammatory compounds like C-glucosyl chromone, sterols (lupeol, cholesterol, β-sitosterol, campesterol), polysaccharides (mannose-6-phosphate) and hormones (auxins and gibberellins).
Bradykinase enzyme in Aloe vera breaks down the inflammation causing compound, bradykinin.
It helps in the release of Nitric oxide which prevents inflammation and cancers associated with it.
What does this mean? Gastritis caused by taking NSAID’s resulting in inflammation can be dealt with Aloe vera which apart from having excellent anti-inflammatory characteristics, is free from side effects.
2. It is a natural Anti-oxidant
Chronic use of NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug can cause gastritis.
Administration of NSAID’s leads to release of neutrophils (the type of immune cell) like the TNF-α (Tumor necrosis factor- α), which damage the stomach lining by producing oxygen free- radicals .
Aloe vera gel extract decreases neutrophil migration.
A high number of free radicals causes oxidative stress as the antioxidants in the body are not able to neutralize them.
Aloe vera reduces this oxidative stress and prevents gastric damage.
Aloe vera juice provides various types of antioxidants.
This antioxidant property of Aloe vera is due to the presence of many compounds like phenols, flavonoids, ascorbic acid, β-carotene and α-tocopherol.
What does this mean? Antioxidant nature of Aloe vera helps in Gastritis by protecting the stomach from damage by free radicals.
3. It promotes healing
Gastritis sometimes leads to erosion of the mucosal lining in the stomach. This exposes the stomach tissues to damage by the digestive acids.
These tissues help in the secretion of enzymes and digestion. Thus, they need to be repaired at a fast rate to regain functionality.
Aloe vera, being a natural healer, helps in healing bodily tissues.
It protects the gastric lining from injuries and has anti-secretory activity against gastric acid.
What does this mean? Aloe vera juice is capable of healing the damaged stomach tissues in gastritis.
4. It is a natural anti-microbial agent
Gastritis is often caused by the infection with several bacteria, fungus, viruses, and other parasites. One of the most common bacteria that causes Gastritis is Helicobacter pylori.
The flavonoids, quinones, phenols present in Aloe vera have shown anti-H.pylori activity.
A recent study shows that Aloe vera demonstrates antibacterial activities against both susceptible and resistant species of H.pylori and can be used in combination with antibiotics for treatment for gastric infections caused by it.
The polysaccharides present in Aloe vera stimulate the leucocytes (a type of immune cell) which have the phagocytic ability, using which they ingest and digest the bacteria.
Due to the presence of anti-septic agents like Lupeol, salicylic acid, urea nitrogen, cinnamonic acid, phenols and sulfur , Aloe vera inhibits the growth of microbes.
Anthraquinone in Aloe gel extract inactivates any enveloped viruses it encounters.
What does this mean? Gastritis caused by infection with microbes can be treated with Aloe vera that fights and kills the microbes and prevents infection.
5. It protects stomach health
Gastritis is treated with antacids that neutralize the acids or with medications that stop or decrease the acid protection. Aloe vera helps in doing just the same.
In a study, the patient has given Aloe vera as a supplement for treating gastritis which helped in resolving the disease.
Treating with Aloe vera juice modulates gastrointestinal problems by decreasing gastric acid levels. This is attributed to the presence of lectins in aloe vera.
It inhibits secretion of gastric acids and thus protects the stomach from damage.
A recent research studies the possibility of manufacturing tablets containing an antibiotic and Aloe vera gel powder against gastric abnormalities caused by the bacteria H.pylori.
What does this mean? Aloe vera decreases the gastric acid production and helps in containing the disease. It also prevents gastric ulcers that may occur in severe cases of gastritis.
One can know the optimum dosage by consulting a medical professional, who can advise based on the severity of disease and symptoms.
However, initially, one can start with 1-2 tsps of Aloe vera juice daily and later can increase to 2-4 tsps.
Aloe vera juices and pills are available commercially and one can also prepare it at home from Aloe plant.
Herbal supplements can interact with medications and other drugs.
So if one is already taking some medications, it is important to inform your doctor before starting it.
Aloe vera may not suit people with certain conditions like diabetics, pregnant women or people having trouble with laxatives.
Anthraquinone in Aloe vera has a strong laxative effect, which causes diarrhoea, abdominal or intestinal pain, cramps, and dehydration. To avoid this, make sure the juice is free of latex found under the skin of the aloe leaf.
Aloe vera can cause allergic interactions in certain people. As it belongs to Lilacae family, it should be avoided by people who are allergic to plants of this particular family.
Aloe vera is a boon for patients with gastritis. The multiple health benefits offered by Aloe vera make it a must-have supplement for the treatment of gastritis.
It helps in eliminating all possible causes of gastritis by it's anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, gastroprotective, healing and hydrating properties.
With fewer side effects and more efficiency, it has the potential to be an effective complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for gastritis.
Like any other medicine, it should be taken with care and precaution.