Every year, digestive disorders affect 25% of Italian adults. The most common ones are gastritis, dyspepsia and gastroesophageal reflux. How can one tell them apart and recognize their symptoms? Professor Silvio Danese, gastroenterologist and Supervisor of the Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases Center at Humanitas, spoke about this in an interview.


Gastritis is the inflammation of the inner lining of the stomach due to an excess secretion of hydrochloric acid. This is a digestive acid, whose increase depends on an incorrect diet, anti-inflammatory drugs, alcohol abuse or stress. These factors increase the production of cortisol, the hormone that slows down the normal bowel movements. Gastritis is characterized by a burning sensation in the pit of your stomach or heartburn, together with bloating, nausea and appetite loss.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should go to your doctor and have them give you the most appropriate medication.
You may use antacids, over-the-counter drugs that contain sodium citrate and have to be taken approximately two hours after a meal, or proton pump inhibitors, that can keep excess gastric acids under control. In addition to this, you should try to relax and fight stress, for example by practicing activities such as yoga.

Helicobacter Pylori

Helicobacter Pylori infection may also cause gastritis. It is a microbe that settles between mucous membranes in the stomach. It is possible to ascertain its presence via a urea breath test. A diagnostic test that requires the gathering of expired air samples after the administration of a solution containing carbon-marked urea. If there is Helicobacter pylori in the stomach, urea gets divided into ammonia and carbon dioxide. Thus, if these are in the breath, Helicobacter pylori is present in the body. Patients get treated with antibiotics, together with proton pump inhibitors.


Dyspepsia (or bad digestion) may be due to stress, wrong diet or the habit of eating too fast. In fact, these factors overwork the stomach, slowing its emptying and thus causing heaviness and tension.
Typical symptoms are bloating and heaviness after meals, sometimes together with sleepiness and difficulties in concentrating. Those who suffer from dyspepsia may burp constantly and have bad breath. These people should eat slowly, chewing well, avoiding chatting during meals. Prokinetics are useful medications, because they accelerate and modulate peristalses (the movements of bowels), thus restoring the correct timing of gastric emptying. Also in this case, you should ask your doctor for advice.

Gastroesophageal Reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux is a sensation of burning in the stomach that appears both after meals (with acid regurgitations and abnormal heartbeat) and during the night. Patients often report having dry cough (especially when waking up), being a little hoarse, and a sensation of pain in the pit of the stomach or the feeling of a foreign body in their throat.

The reflux depends on the incomplete closure of the cardias, a valve whose function is keeping the stomach shut during the digestion. Ingested food thus mixes with acids and goes back up, irritating and inflaming the walls of the esophagus and making the patient cough. Moreover, the stomach dilates and interferes with the activity of the heart in such a way that an abnormal heartbeat arises.

If you suffer from reflux, you should avoid lying down after meals, wearing too-tight clothes or belts, and straining yourself too much. You should instead go for a short walk and go to bed at least two hours after having dinner. Pharmacological treatments include antireflux medications, that create a sort of film around the walls of the esophagus, and proton pump inhibitors, that contribute to blocking the gastric acid secretion.