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Updated on September 26, 2022

Alcoholic Gastritis

What is Alcoholic Gastritis?

Drinking alcohol can take a toll on your health. One way it does that is by affecting your stomach lining. Alcoholic gastritis is a medical condition characterized by an irritated and inflamed stomach lining.4

Drinking alcohol can cause gastritis because alcohol intake is linked to increased acid production in the stomach. Alcohol consumption is also linked to acid reflux, which happens when acid rises from the stomach into the throat. 

Over time, the acid in your stomach can wear away your stomach lining. This will cause it to become inflamed, which can be painful.

Other Types of Gastritis

Gastritis can occur for several reasons:4

  • Eating a lot of spicy foods
  • Smoking
  • Taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications like aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for a long time
  • Dealing with extreme, prolonged stress
  • Having a health issue like a bacterial infection or virus
  • Undergoing surgery
  • Having an injury in the stomach area
  • Developing an autoimmune disorder
  • Developing another type of disease (including HIV/AIDS, Crohn's disease, or celiac disease)
  • Struggling with chronic bile reflux
  • Developing pernicious anemia, which happens when your stomach can’t digest vitamin B12
  • Drinking too much alcohol

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Symptoms of Alcoholic Gastritis

Alcoholic gastritis symptoms vary by person. They also may depend on whether you have acute gastritis or chronic gastritis.

Here are some of the most common symptoms you might experience with either condition:4

  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach pain or burning
  • Feeling full
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Belching
  • Hiccups
  • Appetite loss
  • Feeling weak
  • Blood in vomit
  • Blood in stool

Long-Term Effects of Alcoholic Gastritis

Long-term effects of alcoholic gastritis can be serious.

If you do not treat alcoholic gastritis, it can lead to the following health issues:

  • Increased stomach acid that can become painful
  • Peptic ulcer disease (stomach ulcers, or sores, in the upper digestive tract)
  • Gastric polyps (typically non-cancerous cell clusters that build up on the inside of your stomach, although some can develop into cancer)
  • Stomach tumors (both stomach cancer and non-cancerous lumps)
  • Liver damage
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)

Heavy, prolonged alcohol abuse can also lead several other health issues:2

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Liver disease
  • Digestive and kidney diseases
  • Cancer (including breast, rectal, liver, colon, mouth, throat, esophagus, and voice box)
  • Weakened immune system
  • Anxiety and depression

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Causes of Alcoholic Gastritis

Alcoholic gastritis is caused by drinking too much alcohol over time.

Heavy drinking can cause alcoholic gastritis. Heavy drinking is defined as 15 or more drinks per week for men, and eight or more drinks per week for women.2

Long-term heavy drinking is problematic because ethyl alcohol directly damages the alimentary tract mucosa. The more, and more heavily, you drink, the more damage it can do.3

Risk Factors for Alcoholic Gastritis

Alcoholic gastritis is an uncommon condition. However, it can occur in people who drink heavily for prolonged periods of time.

If you have a history of alcohol abuse, you are at a higher risk of developing alcoholism. Being at a higher risk of developing an alcohol problem also puts you at a higher risk of developing health issues like alcoholic gastritis.5

Anyone who deals with a lot of stress is also at a higher risk of developing gastritis. Stress alone can cause gastritis. Stress may also drive you to drink, which can cause alcoholic gastritis.5

Old age and any of the above diseases and health conditions can also put you at a higher risk of developing gastritis.5

Diagnosis and Treatment for Alcoholic Gastritis

Your healthcare provider can diagnose you with alcoholic gastritis by performing a series of tests. They will likely conduct a physical exam and talk to you about your health history.

From there, they may also facilitate any of the following tests:4

  • Upper GI (Gastrointestinal) Series: This is an X-ray that checks on the organs in the top part of your digestive system. During this exam, you will need to swallow barium, a metallic fluid that coats your organs, so the doctor can see them in the X-ray.
  • Upper endoscopy (esophagogastroduodenoscopy): This test examines the inside of your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum with an endoscopic camera. The tube is put in your mouth and down your throat.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests can detect signs of anemia or bacteria in your stomach.
    Stool specimen check: A stool spectrum looks for stomach bacteria that causes gastritis. Your doctor can also look for other signs of gastritis in your stool, such as blood.
  • Breath test: A breath test can also identify stomach bacteria that’s linked to gastritis. H. pylori is a bacteria that can cause gastritis. It is also the most common cause of peptic ulcer disease.

Once your doctor diagnoses you with alcoholic gastritis, the next step is to treat it. Treatment varies depending on several factors:

  • Age
  • Current health
  • Health history
  • Any medication reactions
  • The severity of your case

Generally, your healthcare provider will prescribe antacids to reduce the acid in your stomach.6

Other medications that treat gastritis include histamine 2 (H2) blockers. These reduce your body’s acid production.6

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), like omeprazole, are another type of medication that decreases acid production.6

If the gastritis is linked to an infection or another health issue, your doctor will also treat that problem.

With alcoholic gastritis, receiving help to reduce or quit drinking is key. Your doctor will talk to you about treatment options, like rehab for detoxing and therapy.1

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options

Help is available. Treatment options include:7

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Inpatient rehabilitation
  • Outpatient rehabilitation
  • Holistic health programs
  • Support groups
  • Medications

Some medications like disulfiram can help fight the urge to drink. This medication causes a physical reaction after you drink, which encourages you to want to stop drinking.7

Naltrexone blocks the brain’s reward center, which lights up when you drink alcohol, to also curb urges.7

Acamprosate can help combat alcohol cravings after quitting.7

Talk to your doctor about which treatment is right for you. Some people choose to take medication in concurrence with therapy.

Whatever you choose, remember that detoxing from alcohol abuse and addiction alone is dangerous. Seek medical help if you plan to quit or cut back on alcohol consumption.

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Resources

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  1. Alcohol Use Disorder.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 18 May 2022.
  2. Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Harm Your Health. Learn the Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Apr. 2022. 
  3. E;, Bienia A;Sodolski W;Luchowska. “The Effect of Chronic Alcohol Abuse on Gastric and Duodenal Mucosa.” Annales Universitatis Mariae Curie-Sklodowska. Sectio D: Medicina, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  4. Gastritis.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 19 Nov. 2019.
  5. Gastritis.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 15 Mar. 2022.
  6. Gastritis.” NHS Choices, NHS.
  7. Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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