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The stomach is lined with mucous cells that protect it from concentrated stomach acid (HCl).
If you have stomach pain after drinking alcohol, you may have an inflamed gastric mucosa (stomach lining). This condition is known as gastritis.
Alcohol triggers gastritis pain when it comes into contact with an inflamed stomach lining.
Alcoholic gastritis symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and gastric bleeding, especially in people who drink heavily.
When alcohol causes gastritis, it’s known as alcoholic gastritis.
Alcoholic gastritis occurs when alcohol use damages the stomach lining. This leaves the delicate lining vulnerable to other irritants such as spicy foods, smoke, or drugs.
Studies show that 100 percent of people who drink chronically are at a higher risk of gastritis.1
Although symptoms of alcoholic gastritis might not occur immediately, they can worsen over time.
For example, when the inflamed mucosal tissue of the stomach lining is eroded away, an ulcer forms. This can cause further pain, stomach bleeding, and discomfort.
According to research, continued stomach lining inflammation due to alcohol increases the risk of esophageal and stomach cancer.2
The 2 main types of alcoholic gastritis are acute and chronic:
Acute gastritis occurs suddenly and is short-lived. In some cases, it’s more painful than chronic alcohol gastritis.
Diagnosing acute gastritis is difficult without a medical check-up. If you vomit blood, seek emergency care immediately.
Common symptoms include:
Chronic gastritis is when stomach inflammation lasts for a long period.3 The condition worsens with time as the stomach acids eat away the exposed stomach lining.
The symptoms may be minimal, making it less likely for someone to address it compared to acute alcoholic gastritis.
Gastritis is erosive if the stomach lining is worn and ulcerated, exposing the tissue to acids and other irritants. This may cause bleeding.
Several factors put you at risk of alcoholic gastritis, including:
Below are additional reasons behind stomach pain after drinking:
Frequent, ongoing alcohol use can destroy the stomach mucosal lining. This can lead to painful open sores, also known as ulcers.
Ulcers can cause severe gastrointestinal tract (UGI) bleeding. They may also develop into gastric cancer.5
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic digestive system disorder. There are many causes of IBS, including auto-immune and hereditary.
IBS can be severe in some people with specific types and may require ongoing medical care and even surgery. However, it doesn’t usually cause severe symptoms and can be managed through lifestyle changes.6
For people with IBS, drinking alcohol can flare up symptoms such as:
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive condition that affects the muscle between the stomach and esophagus, the tube connecting the mouth and stomach.
If you have GERD, stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. This can cause irritation and pain that usually worsens when you drink alcohol
Pernicious anemia is caused by the stomach’s inability to absorb vitamin B12.7 The lack of enough intrinsic factor (IF) causes this.
The intrinsic factor is a special protein that binds with vitamin B-12 to enable absorption by the ileum.
Alcohol can be harsh to your stomach lining. It causes the stomach to produce more acid.
When you drink on an empty stomach, stomach acid mixed with alcohol can cause inflammation to the stomach lining. This can be painful.
Occasional episodes of mild abdominal discomfort from stomach inflammation is normal. Usually, symptoms are short-lived and don’t require medical attention.
Call your doctor if your symptoms last for more than a week. If you’re vomiting blood or have black tarry/sticky stool, seek immediate medical attention.
There are multiple ways to diagnose alcoholic gastritis. Some methods include:
Alcoholic gastritis can pose complications, which include:
Alcoholic gastritis and alcoholism are different conditions and are treated differently.
However, they may occur together, and treatment options are similar:
Treatment for alcoholic gastritis depends on age, symptoms, and overall health.
The first and most important treatment for alcoholic gastritis is to stop drinking alcohol.
Continuing to drink alcohol will make the gastritis worse and unlikely to heal. Other options include:
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, antacids, Histamine (H2) blockers, or Proton pump inhibitors to alleviate the symptoms or eliminate bacteria that may cause or worsen gastritis.
For instance, the H. pylori kit treats H. Pylori bacteria, while Histamine (H2) blockers treat and reduce stomach acid production.9
Spicy foods and acidic drinks can irritate the stomach. Avoiding them will prevent the progression of and help manage the severe symptoms of gastritis.
In particular, stopping alcohol use is critical to prevent ongoing stomach irritation and damage.
Reparative surgery may be required in cases of severe stomach lining damage. Some ulcers or tumors require surgical care to repair or remove them.
The most effective way to treat alcoholic gastritis is to reduce alcohol consumption. This starts with identifying and preventing triggers.
Alcoholism increases the risk of gastritis and prevents healing. Symptoms of alcoholism include:
Treatments include the following:
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