T1D & Gastritis

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Editor’s Note: This content has been verified by Marina Basina, MD, a Clinical Associate Professor at Stanford University. She’s a clinical endocrinologist and researcher with a focus on diabetes management and diabetes technology. Dr. Basina is an active member of multiple medical advisory boards and community diabetes organizations, and she is on the Beyond Type 1 Science Advisory Council. 


What is Autoimmune Gastritis?

Autoimmune gastritis, which can also be called Autoimmune Metaplastic Atrophic Gastritis or Type A Gastritis, is a chronic inflammatory disease. Having Type 1 diabetes increases the probability of being diagnosed with autoimmune gastritis 3-5 times more than the average person; an estimated 6%-10% of the Type 1 diabetes population also has autoimmune gastritis. It is more common in older adults and is more common in women than men.

Autoimmune gastritis is an autoimmune disease in which the stomach deteriorates because the immune system attacks the healthy cells of the stomach lining. It affects the upper two-thirds of the stomach because the antibody that the body is mistakenly producing binds to a specific cell in that area of the stomach’s inner lining. These cells, the parietal cells, loose their ability to effectively produce the hydrochloric acid that they are supposed to. This means that people with gastritis are unable to efficiently absorb the vitamin B12 and iron, which results in iron-deficiency anemia and vitamin B12 deficiency and can ultimately lead to pernicious anemia.

Signs and Symptoms of Autoimmune Gastritis:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anemia, which is characterized by the following symptoms:
    • Weakness
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Shortness of breath
    • Leg cramps
    • Headache
    • Heart palpitations
    • Insomnia
    • Paleness
  • In severe cases, severe B12 deficiency, which is characterized by the following symptoms:
    • Paresthesia
    • Stiff muscles
    • Peripheral neuropathy
    • Dementia

Getting a Diagnosis

Many different factors can contribute to a doctor’s diagnosis of autoimmune gastritis. Your doctor will want to order blood tests in order to determine if you are anemic by checking iron and vitamin B12 levels. They may also want to perform an endoscopy or a gastric biopsy to determine if the stomach looks damaged due to an autoimmune attack.

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no treatment of autoimmune gastritis that directly targets the autoimmune attack. However, anemia, which is a byproduct of gastritis, can be treated by taking an iron and/or vitamin B12 supplementation. If carcinoid nodules have developed, your doctor may want to monitor this and potentially remove the nodules. Carcinoid nodules develop when the loss of hydrochloric producing parietal cells leads to a lack of acid in the stomach. This stimulates the growth of the G-cells producing the hormone gastrin. Gastrin promotes the growth of certain cells in the stomach’s lining. Small tumors form, called carcinoids.


Read about other autoimmune diseases.