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Updated on August 21, 2023
6 min read

Stomach Hurts After Drinking: What Does it Mean?

Vince Ayaga
Dr P. E. Pancoast, MD
Written by 
10 Sources Cited
Vince Ayaga
Written by 
10 Sources Cited

If you've ever experienced a stomach ache after excessive alcohol consumption, you know the discomfort it can cause. While an occasional tummy ache may be normal, persistent symptoms could indicate something more serious in your digestive system. 

This blog explores the possible causes of abdominal pain after drinking to understand and address what’s happening inside. Moreover, it discusses a few actionable steps to reduce any associated discomfort.

What Causes Stomach Pain After Drinking Alcohol?

Here are the common causes of stomach pain after alcohol intake: 

1. Alcoholic Gastritis

Alcoholic gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining that excessive consumption of alcohol causes.

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite

In severe cases, it can lead to bleeding in the stomach or intestines.

2. Ulcers

Frequent, ongoing alcohol use can destroy the stomach mucosal lining. It can lead to painful open sores, also known as stomach ulcers.

Ulcers can cause severe gastrointestinal tract (UGI) bleeding. They may also develop into gastric cancer.5

3. 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 factors.

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; you can manage them through lifestyle changes.6

For people with IBS, drinking alcohol can flare up symptoms, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Constipation

4. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive condition affecting the stomach and esophagus muscles. If you have GERD, stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation and pain that usually worsens when you drink alcohol.

5. Pernicious Anemia

Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to the malabsorption of vitamin B12, causing pernicious anemia. This condition may present as stomach pain and may worsen with drinking.7

6. Drinking on an Empty Stomach

Alcohol can be harsh on 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. The stomach lining can become inflamed when this happens, causing pain and discomfort.

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How to Treat Stomach Pain After Drinking

If you experience stomach pain after drinking alcohol, seeking medical attention is important. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your symptoms.

Ways to treat a painful or upset stomach after drinking include:

Medications 

Your doctor may recommend medications to reduce inflammation or antibiotics if an infection is present. They may also prescribe antacids to reduce acid production in the area.

Lifestyle Changes 

Lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of stomach pain after drinking alcohol. This includes limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining a balanced diet, and exercising regularly.

Avoiding Triggers

Certain foods and drinks can trigger stomach pain after drinking alcohol. Avoiding these triggers, such as spicy foods, caffeine, and carbonated beverages, is important. Additionally, it’s best to avoid drinking on an empty stomach.

Managing Stress

Stress can worsen symptoms of stomach pain after drinking alcohol. Manage stress levels by engaging in yoga, meditation, and deep breathing.

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
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Is Stomach Pain After Drinking a Sign of Gastritis? 

If you have stomach pain after drinking alcohol, your gastric mucosa (stomach lining) may be inflamed. 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 alcoholic 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% 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
  • Appetite loss
  • Stomach irritation
  • Weight loss
  • Bleeding (in erosive gastritis)

Gastritis can be erosive because of inflammation and erosion of the stomach lining. Exposing the tissue to acids and other irritants can cause bleeding.

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

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) receptor 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 stomach irritation and damage.

Reparative Surgeries

In cases of severe stomach lining damage, you might need reparative surgery. For instance, doctors might perform them to treat stomach ulcers or remove tumors.

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

Summary

There are various possible causes of stomach pain after drinking. Alcohol gastritis is one of the main reasons behind this condition.

Learning about the types and symptoms of alcoholic gastritis can help you overcome your stomach pain. If you experience any of the above symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Updated on August 21, 2023
10 sources cited
Updated on August 21, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Li 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, 2014.
  3. Bishehsari et al. “Alcohol and GuGastritis - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinict-Derived Inflammation.” Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 2017.
  4. Gastritis.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 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, 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, 2019
  10. Gastritis.” Healthdirect, 2021.
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