Alcoholic Gastritis: Symptoms, Triggers & Treatment
Drinking alcohol can cause a variety of physical and mental health issues, including complications with the stomach and overall digestive system. Alcoholic gastritis is one of the complications that can occur from alcohol abuse. Alcohol-induced gastritis is an uncommon condition, although it may be found more often in people who drink heavily over a long period.1
This page will explore more about what the condition is, what gastritis signs and symptoms are, how alcohol can cause and trigger gastritis, the long-term effects of gastritis, and what is involved in alcoholic gastritis treatment.
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What is Alcoholic Gastritis?
Alcoholic gastritis is a type of inflammation of the stomach lining.1,2 There are various types of gastritis and alcohol is an irritant that can damage the stomach lining over time.3,4 This damage may result in the development of an acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) condition and may be referred to as reactive or erosive gastritis.1,4
Signs & Symptoms of Alcoholic Gastritis
Although some people may not experience any signs of gastritis, others may experience symptoms.4 These can vary from person to person, and can easily be mistaken for other issues, so it is a good idea to consult your doctor.2 Common symptoms include:2,3,4,5
- A burning or gnawing sensation in the stomach.
- Bleeding in the stomach, which may appear in vomit or stool. The vomit may be red or look like coffee grinds, while stool may be black, tarry, or have red blood in it.
- Feeling full or bloated.
- Losing your appetite.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Stomach pain in the upper part of the stomach (directly under the ribs).
- Sour stomach, or indigestion that doesn’t go away.
- Upset stomach.
Causes & Triggers
While alcoholic gastritis is caused by drinking alcohol, other factors can also trigger its symptoms.2,6 These can include other substances, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aspirin, cocaine, spicy foods, and smoking cigarettes.2,3 Living a high-stress lifestyle can also worsen symptoms.3 It can be difficult to predict how much alcohol it takes to develop alcoholic gastritis since it varies depending on the individual, their unique body chemistry, and whether they have any other medical issues, but long periods and heavier drinking are more likely to cause this condition to develop.6 Alcoholic gastritis can be a warning sign of an alcohol use disorder (AUD), but only a treatment professional will be able to formally diagnose an AUD.
Long Term Effects & Impacts
Long-term alcohol addiction and abuse can have major negative impacts on your health and may affect your digestive tract.7 Both acute gastritis and chronic gastritis can have long-term effects and lead to certain complications as well.1 Chronic alcohol use can lead to digestive issues such as:7
- Damage to the liver.
- Pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas that can interfere with your ability to digest food.
- Increased risk of developing cancer of the digestive tract, including mouth, esophagus, liver, colon, and rectum.
In addition, alcoholic gastritis can lead to stomach ulcers, bleeding, and swelling that interferes with digestion. In severe cases, it can cause holes in the lining of the stomach or small intestine.1 Chronic gastritis can also lead to the development of polyps or tumors in the stomach, which can increase your risk of stomach cancer.3,6 If you have alcoholic gastritis, seeking medical assistance to treat the condition is your best way of reducing the risk of your condition worsening or developing further complications.6
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Treating Alcoholic Gastritis
When seeing a doctor regarding a possible case of alcoholic gastritis, it is important to be honest about your drinking habits. If you are diagnosed with alcohol-related gastritis or are suspected to have this condition, your physician may prescribe medication, such as proton pump inhibitors, to reduce the acid levels in your stomach.3,4 They may also suggest eating small meals more frequently, while avoiding triggers that can further irritate your stomach (such as drinking alcohol or eating acidic foods).3,4
The doctor may suggest that you abstain from alcohol if you are diagnosed with or suspected of having alcoholic gastritis. If you are struggling with abstaining from alcohol, they may also recommend that you attend professional treatment to overcome addiction.2 Attending rehab can also be a good way to avoid experiencing future health issues due to alcoholism. Alcoholic gastritis symptoms can be treated successfully with time, abstinence from alcohol, and the proper medication. However, even if you recover from alcoholic gastritis by following your physician’s instructions, you may experience a return of this condition if you begin drinking alcohol again.2
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- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (n.d.). Definition and facts for gastritis and gastropathy.
- Australian Goverment Department of Health. (2021, January). Gastritis.
- National Health Service. (2019, May 20). Gastritis.
- Department of Health, State Government of Victoria. (2014, August 31). Gastritis.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (n.d.). Symptoms and causes of gastritis and gastropathy.
- Li, G., Zhu, L., Cao, Z., Wang, J., Zhou, F., Wang, X., Wang, X., … Nie, G. (2018). A new participant in the pathogenesis of alcoholic gastritis: Pyroptosis. Cellular physiology and biochemistry, 49, 406-418.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Alcohol’s effects on the body.