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Stomach Pain After Drinking

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Key Takeaways

  • Alcohol gastritis occurs when the stomach lining is inflamed.
  • There are 2 types of alcohol gastritis: acute and chronic
  • Risk factors include bacterial infection, NSAIDs, prolonged alcohol intake, smoking, and stress. 
  • Treatment for alcoholic gastritis includes medications, change of diet, and reparative surgeries.
  • Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain.
  • Complications of alcoholic gastritis include gastrointestinal tract (UGI) bleeding, anemia, severe weight loss, ulcers, and stomach cancer.

Is Stomach Pain After Drinking a Sign of Gastritis? 

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. When alcohol causes gastritis, it’s known as alcohol gastritis.

Alcoholic gastritis symptoms include: 

  • Stomach pain 
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Gastric bleeding
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What is 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 chronic drinkers are at a higher risk of gastritis.2,4

Symptoms of alcoholic gastritis might not occur immediately. However, they can worsen over time.

For example, when the inflamed mucosal tissue of the stomach lining erodes, an ulcer can form. Ulcers cause further pain, stomach bleeding, and discomfort.

Types & Symptoms of Alcoholic Gastritis

The 2 main types of alcoholic gastritis are acute and chronic:

1. Acute Alcoholic Gastritis

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:

  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting, which might contain blood
  • Abdominal pain
  • Appetite loss
  • Bloating and/or gas
  • Ulcers
  • Indigestion
  • A full feeling in the upper abdomen after eating
  • Black, tarry stool (rare)

2. Chronic Alcohol Gastritis 

Chronic gastritis is when stomach inflammation lasts for a long time.3 The condition worsens as the stomach acids eat away the exposed stomach lining.

The symptoms of chronic alcohol gastritis are minimal compared to acute alcoholic gastritis. Therefore, people are less likely to address chronic alcohol gastritis.

Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anemia
  • Appetite loss
  • Stomach irritation
  • Weight loss
  • Bleeding (in erosive gastritis)

Gastritis can be erosive if the stomach lining is worn and ulcerated. Exposing the tissue to acids and other irritants can cause bleeding.

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Risk Factors for Alcoholic Gastritis

There are plenty of factors that can increase the risk of alcoholic gastritis. Various conditions or substances can irritate and weaken your stomach lining.

Several factors put you at risk of alcoholic gastritis, including:

  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Spicy or acidic foods and drinks
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Stress
  • Bacterial infections
  • Age
  • Underlying conditions

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Other Causes of Stomach Pain After Drinking Alcohol

Below are additional reasons behind stomach pain after drinking: 

Ulcers

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)

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:

  • Vomiting 
  • Cramping 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Bloating
  • Constipation

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive condition that affects the muscle between the stomach and esophagus

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 

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. 

Drinking on an Empty Stomach

Alcohol can be harsh to your stomach lining. It causes the stomach to produce more acid. 

Drinking on an empty stomach can cause the alcohol to mix with stomach acids. When this happens, the stomach lining can become inflamed, causing pain and discomfort.

When to See a Doctor for Stomach Pain After Drinking 

Occasional episodes of mild abdominal discomfort from stomach inflammation are 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.

Diagnosing Alcoholic Gastritis 

There are multiple ways to diagnose alcoholic gastritis. Some methods include:

  • Barium meal (x-ray)
  • Endoscopy 
  • Biopsy test
  • Blood test
  • Stool test

Potential Complications of Alcoholic Gastritis 

Alcoholic gastritis can pose complications, which include:

  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Anemia due to iron deficiency, internal bleeding, or B-12 deficiency
  • Tumors or polyps in the stomach lining
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Severe weight loss
  • Peptic ulcers due to H. Pylori

Treatment for Alcoholic Gastritis & Alcoholism 

Alcoholic gastritis and alcoholism are different conditions and are treated differently. 

However, they may occur together, and treatment options are similar:

Treatment for Gastritis 

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 gastritis worse and impede the healing process. Other options include:

Medication

To alleviate symptoms, your doctor may prescribe medications such as: 

  • Antibiotics
  • Antacids 
  • Histamine (H2) blockers 
  • Proton pump inhibitors

These medications can help 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  

Diet Changes

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 Surgeries

In cases of severe stomach lining damage, you might need reparative surgery. Some ulcers or tumors require surgical care to repair or remove them.

Tips for Healing Your Stomach Lining

Although it can take some time to heal, eventually, your stomach will. By staying fit and healthy, your stomach can recover.

Here are a few tips you can follow to help your stomach heal:

  • Quit alcohol
  • Eat natural foods
  • Exercise regularly
  • Reduce stress

Foods & Substances to Avoid

It’s essential to eat the right food and avoid harmful substances. Consuming certain foods and drugs can further irritate your stomach.

Here’s a list of things you should avoid:

  • Acidic foods 
  • Sugary foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Dairy products
  • Processed foods 
  • Fried foods
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Fruit juice
  • Tomatoes
  • Cigarettes
  • Drugs such as NSAIDs

Treatment for Alcoholism

Alcoholism increases the risk of gastritis and prevents healing. Symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Inability to quit even after negative consequences
  • Neglecting important duties to binge drink
  • Tolerance to alcohol
  • Risky behavior such as drunk driving
  • Irritability in the absence of alcohol

Treatments include the following:

  • Medical detox: This is done at an inpatient or outpatient rehab facility. It involves activities that help your body eliminate the drug from your system.
  • Individual and group therapy: Counseling helps you cope with the difficulties of recovery.
  • Oral medications: Drugs such as disulfiram (Antabuse) and Naltrexone may prevent heavy drinking.
  • Aftercare programs: Various programs can help recovering addicts avoid relapse. AA is one of the more successful ongoing treatment programs for people who want to recover from alcoholism.
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Updated on October 11, 2022
10 sources cited
  1. Li, G., et al. "A New Participant in the Pathogenesis of Alcoholic Gastritis: Pyroptosis." Cell Physiol Biochem, 2018.
  2. Shield K.“Chronic Diseases and Conditions Related to Alcohol Use,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 2014.
  3. Bishehsari, F., et al. “Alcohol and Gut-Derived Inflammation.” Alcohol research: current reviews, 2017.
  4. Gastritis,” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER)., 2020.
  5.  “Helicobacter pylori,”  Cleveland Clinic, 2021.
  6. Hansson L. “Risk of Stomach Cancer in Patients with Peptic Ulcer Disease,” World Journal of Surgery, 2014.
  7. Irritable bowel syndrome,” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER)., 2021. 
  8. Pernicious anemia,” National Library of Medicine, 2021
  9. Diagnosis of Gastritis & Gastropathy: How do doctors diagnose gastritis and gastropathy?”  National Institutes of Health (NIH), 2019
  10. Gastritis.” Healthdirect, 2021.

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