Gastritis, inflammation of the stomach lining, has several symptoms – though it also could be asymptomatic. The most classic one is abdominal pain that feels likes a burning sensation in the upper abdomen. But sometimes it may also cause symptoms that don’t seem to be related to your stomach. For example, it might become severe enough to cause shortness of breath.
What causes shortness of breath?
Also known medically as ‘dyspnea’, shortness of breath is a frightening, uncomfortable condition in which it’s more difficult to get enough air or fully enough oxygen into your lungs. It may last for short periods of time (acute) or become long-lasting (chronic).
Though it may vary from person to person — in general, it might cause you to have feeling breathless, take frequent small-short breaths (difficulty to breathe deeply), feel air hunger, or/and feel tightness in the chest.
And how it’s treated will depend on the underlying cause of your dyspnea. Since it can be caused by many factors and conditions, a number of tests are usually required to find out the exact cause of the problem.
Some of common conditions that can cause acute dyspnea are as follows:
- Problems of the lungs, such as; pulmonary infections (pneumonia for example), collapsed lung (pneumothorax), and pulmonary embolism (blood clot that occurs in the lungs).
- Problems that affect other structures of your respiratory system, such as chocking (a blockage in the respiratory tract).
- Problems of the heart, such as; heart failure, heart attack, and excess fluid that buildups around the heart (cardiac tamponade).
- Hypotension (low blood pressure).
- Exposure to toxins or other harmful substances, such as carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
- Allergic reactions.
- Acute, sudden blood loss.
- Sometimes pregnancy may also cause dyspnea.
For chronic dyspnea, it’s commonly linked to the following conditions:
- Bronchospasm (asthma).
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as emphysema (a pulmonary disease in which the alveoli, the small air sacs at the end of bronchioles, get damaged).
- Pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs).
- Scarring of the lungs called ‘interstitial lung disease’.
- Heart dysfunction, like cardiomyopathy (thick, stiff, swollen heart muscle).
- Deconditioning (being out of shape).
- Being obese.
How about gastritis?
The classic symptoms of gastritis include:
- A burning pain in the upper portion of the abdomen.
- Nausea or/and vomiting.
- A feeling of fullness or bloating, even after eating a smaller meal.
How about dyspnea or shortness of breath?
Dyspnea is not specific symptom of gastritis. But as mentioned earlier, sometimes dyspnea can also be a consequence of gastritis, especially if the disease has become advanced (severe).
Why and how does gastritis cause shortness of breath? The answer may vary from case to case. But in general, gastritis symptoms (upper stomach pain and bloating) could be powerful enough to affect the diaphragm, an important dome-shaped muscular partition in your breathing process.
The diaphragm is located between the abdomen and chest. As the main muscle of your respiration, it expands when you take a breath so you can fully enough air (especially oxygen) into the lungs. In other words, it plays a vital role in your respiratory system. If something goes awry with your diaphragm, you can take small, short-breaths.
Dyspnea associated with gastritis may get worse with stress, alcohol, large meals, or after eating irritating foods (acidic, fatty, processed foods for examples). It might also come with other symptoms of severe gastritis such as; tightness or pain in the chest, foul-smelling bowel movements, severe abdominal pain, anemia symptoms (like pale skin and fatigue), or even vomiting blood.
What you can do?
Lifestyle changes may help manage gastritis symptoms, including for dyspnea. The following are a few examples:
- Avoid any irritating foods that can make the inflammation of your stomach lining worse!
- If you’re a smoker, stop smoking – at least until your gastritis heals completely! Tobacco smoke, including from second hand smoke, can hurt your lungs and stomach lining. If you continue smoking, this can inhibit your healing process and will make your dyspnea get worse over time.
- Instead of eating 1-2 large meals, try with 3-4 smaller meals a day. This can help ease your abdominal bloating and dyspnea.
- If you’re obese or overweight, lose your weight gradually!
- Exercise regularly! Getting active regularly is a good way to improve your overall health, including your lungs and stomach health.
- Protect your lungs from allergens, pollutants, or other environmental toxins.
- Stress management. Stress is often inevitable, but you can manage it. Uncontrolled, high levels of stress are bad for the prognosis of gastritis and its symptoms for various reasons. For instance, certain chemicals released during stress may impair some mechanisms of the body’s immune function.
- Try to get enough sleep every day. Your optimum healing process occurs during sleep. So without adequate sleep, the inflammation of your stomach lining will take longer to heal.
- Certain body positions may help ease dyspnea. For instance, when it flares up, sit up straight to help reduce pressure in your diaphragm. Also, avoid lying down right after meal!
Here are some possible complications of gastritis:
- Over time gastritis may escalate into more serious conditions. For example; chronic, left untreated gastritis can cause increased risk of stomach ulcer.
- Sometimes it could also be severe enough to cause stomach bleeding and anemia.
- Even in rare cases, it may have a role to increase the risk of stomach cancer.
If you experience any signs and symptoms of severe gastritis, get check out right away!