Acute and chronic gastritis, along with gastro-oesophageal reflux, are common gastrointestinal disorders that can impair the quality of life of those affected. Gastritis, characterised by inflammation of the gastric mucosa, can occur in an acute or chronic form, while gastro-oesophageal reflux occurs when gastric contents back up into the oesophagus, causing unpleasant symptoms.
Gastritis and reflux: Origins and Symptoms
Acute gastritis can be triggered by stress, infection or taking irritating drugs, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In particular, there is a temporary imbalance between gastric acidity and mucosal defence systems that leads to violent and sudden inflammation.
Chronic gastritis, on the other hand, is often linked to factors such as Helicobacter pylori infection or autoimmune disorders. In this case, there is a gradual, less aggressive but protracted inflammation.
In both cases, the frequent occurrence of these conditions can lead to the development of ulcers, and thus erosion of the gastric mucosa accompanied by bleeding, or the development of neoplasms.
Associated symptoms include abdominal pain, burning, nausea and vomiting that may vary depending on the specific condition.
Gastro-oesophageal reflux, or the rising of acid content from the stomach into the oesophagus, occurs as a result of altered activity of the structure separating the oesophagus and stomach, namely the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES).
The LES is a structure with contractile activity which, under physiological conditions, opens upon swallowing to allow the passage of food down the oesophagus towards the stomach and, after this passage has taken place, closes again, thus preventing the acidic contents from rising from the stomach towards the oesophagus. When its functioning is altered, acid material is able to reach the oesophagus, damaging and inflaming the mucosa.
This impairment can be due to several factors, including obesity, predisposition or poor eating habits.
Symptoms associated with this condition include heartburn, acid regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, chronic coughing and/or hoarseness if the damage has extended to the larynx, the site of the vocal cords.
Pharmacological treatments for these conditions include antacid medications, proton pump inhibitors and H2 antacids. However, patients also often resort to natural remedies to alleviate symptoms. These remedies can be used as monotherapy or as a supplement to conventional therapy and, as they have no long-term side effects, are a healthier choice for chronic treatment.
Natural Remedies: Between Tradition and Innovation:
Some natural remedies have shown great efficacy in reducing the manifestations of these conditions and associated symptoms.
Baking soda and alginate are among the most common and well-known natural remedies for the management of gastritis and reflux. Bicarbonate neutralises gastric acidity, while alginate creates a protective barrier in the upper part of the stomach, preventing acid material from rising. However, it is important to use them in moderation, as excessive use can lead to acid-base imbalances.
Chamomile is known for its anti-inflammatory and soothing properties on the gastric mucosa. Thanks to the different active ingredients it contains, it has been shown to have emollient, soothing and analgesic properties. These characteristics make it useful for soothing irritation, reducing pain and inflammation of the mucosa.
On the other hand, we have melatonin which, in addition to its known role in sleep regulation, has been shown to have protective effects on the gastric mucosa, helping to manage gastritis and reflux.
Melatonin has been shown to act as a physiological regulator of the entire gastrointestinal tract.
In particular, by regulating the production of hydrochloric acid, prostaglandins, mucus and bicarbonate at the level of the gastric mucosa, it allows a ratio between these molecules that is useful and functional for digestion but does not damage or irritate the mucosa.
In addition, melatonin induces the release of gastrin, a molecule essential for the proper functioning of the lower oesophageal sphincter, or LES, which, as we saw earlier, is often impaired in gastro-oesophageal reflux.
Finally, it promotes the healing of lesions and/or ulcers, and protects against drug-induced gastritis (e.g. NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
These characteristics demonstrate that melatonin is a valuable molecule capable of comprehensively regulating the gastrointestinal tract. These activities make it a viable option for the management of conditions such as gastritis and reflux.
In future articles, we will go into more detail on the studies that demonstrate these activities and justify its use.
In conclusion, the approach to the management of gastritis and gastro-oesophageal reflux should be customised, taking into account the severity of the symptoms and the underlying causes. The use of natural remedies such as chamomile and melatonin can be an effective complement to traditional therapy, offering targeted relief and minimising side effects.
Remember that it is always essential to consult a professional for a personalised diagnosis and indication of the most suitable therapy for your condition.