Substance Use

Stomach Pain After Drinking Alcohol: Is It Alcoholic Gastritis?

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Many people experience stomach pain after drinking. Alcohol abuse and use can irritate your digestive system and cause pain, nausea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. If you’ve ever felt the discomfort of stomach pain after a night of drinking, you’re not alone.

Alcohol, a common companion in social gatherings and celebrations, can sometimes leave a less-than-festive aftermath. It’s not just an isolated incident; it’s a genuine concern.

The effects of binge drinking on your digestive system can lead to various symptoms that extend beyond the typical hangover, including stomach pain, nausea, and other gastrointestinal discomforts.

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There are a few reasons why alcohol can lead to stomach pain and indigestion.

1. Gastritis

The most common cause is inflammation of the stomach lining, known as gastritis. (1) (2

Chronic gastritis can be caused by a variety of factors, including excessive drinking, stress, and certain medications. For example, according to the National Institute on Aging, if you combine aspirin with alcohol, the risk of serious stomach or intestinal bleeding increases significantly.

2. Allergies

Another possible cause is an allergic reaction to ingredients in alcoholic drinks, such as sulfites or histamines. (3)

3. Alcohol Flush Reaction

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol flushing is something that some people who drink alcohol experience. (4)

The primary indicator of an alcohol flush reaction is redness in the person’s face, but they may also experience nausea and an upset stomach. Binge drinking and other forms of substance abuse can also cause: (4)

  • Hiccups
  • Loss of appetite
  • Acid Reflux
  • Anemia (low iron)
  • Cirrhosis (liver damage)

What is Alcoholic Gastritis?

Alcoholic gastritis is a medical condition characterized by inflammation and irritation of the stomach lining due to excessive alcohol consumption or alcohol addiction. This condition occurs when the protective barrier of the stomach, which shields it from the harsh digestive acids it produces, becomes compromised.

The chronic presence of alcohol can erode this protective layer, leading to various uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms. (1)

Alcoholic gastritis can present a range of symptoms, which can vary in intensity from person to person. Some common side effects of alcoholic gastritis include: (1)

  1. Abdominal Pain: Individuals with alcoholic gastritis may experience pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen. This pain can range from mild to severe and may be described as burning or gnawing.
  2. Nausea: Persistent or recurrent feelings of nausea are a common symptom. This can often lead to vomiting.
  3. Vomiting: Frequent episodes of vomiting, especially after consuming alcohol or certain foods, can be indicative of alcoholic gastritis.
  4. Bloating: Individuals may feel bloated or experience abdominal distension due to inflammation in the stomach lining.
  5. Loss of Appetite: Alcoholic gastritis can lead to a reduced appetite and difficulty in consuming regular meals.
  6. Black or Tarry Stools: Gastrointestinal bleeding associated with alcoholic gastritis can result in black or tarry stools, which may indicate the presence of blood in the digestive tract. (5)
  7. Hematemesis: In severe cases, individuals may vomit blood or coffee-ground-like material, a sign of bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract.
  8. Indigestion: Symptoms of indigestion, such as a feeling of fullness, discomfort, and belching, can be common with alcoholic gastritis.
  9. Fatigue: Chronic inflammation and discomfort in the stomach can lead to fatigue and overall weakness.
  10. Heartburn: Some individuals may experience heartburn symptoms, including a burning sensation in the chest, due to the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. (6)

It’s important to recognize these symptoms, especially if they persist or worsen, as untreated alcoholic gastritis can lead to more severe complications. Seeking medical attention is crucial to diagnose and manage this condition effectively.

Dangers of Leaving Alcoholic Gastritis Untreated

Alcoholic gastritis demands timely attention, as untreated cases can result in severe repercussions, particularly when it comes to the risk of internal bleeding and other grave complications. The duration required for alcoholic gastritis to heal hinges upon the condition’s severity and the promptness of intervention.

In essence, reducing alcohol consumption and adopting a healthier lifestyle can contribute to the alleviation of symptoms in a matter of weeks. Nevertheless, the process of achieving complete recovery may extend, contingent on the extent of alcohol consumption and the extent of stomach lining damage. 

Neglecting this condition can have the following serious consequences:

  1. Internal Bleeding: Prolonged alcoholic gastritis may lead to erosions or ulcers in the stomach lining. Over time, these damaged areas can bleed, which, if undetected and untreated, can result in life-threatening internal bleeding. (7)
  2. Ulcers: Chronic alcoholic gastritis may cause the formation of stomach ulcers, and open sores in the stomach lining that can lead to intense pain and complications. (8)
  3. Anemia: The chronic bleeding associated with untreated alcoholic gastritis can lead to iron deficiency anemia, characterized by fatigue, paleness, and weakness.
  4. Stomach Cancer: While the risk is relatively low, persistent gastritis, particularly of the atrophic type, may increase the likelihood of developing stomach cancer. (9)
  5. Nutritional Deficiencies: Ongoing inflammation and damage to the stomach lining can impair the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients, potentially resulting in malnutrition.

It’s very important to recognize that the longer alcoholic gastritis remains untreated, the greater the chances of severe complications. Seeking prompt medical attention and adhering to a treatment plan are essential for mitigating these risks and facilitating a quicker recovery.

Alcoholic Gastritis: Remedies and Prevention

The best way to reduce a burning ache or gnawing pain in your stomach caused by alcohol is to limit your consumption.

Avoid drinking on an empty stomach, and try having a meal before drinking or taking antacids. Eating food can help slow the absorption of alcohol, reducing its impact on your stomach.

Drinking plenty of water can help keep your body hydrated and reduce stomach irritation.

If you experience persistent or severe stomach pain after drinking alcohol, speak with your doctor about the possibility of a blood test. They also may suggest medications or lifestyle changes that can reduce your symptoms. (10)

Other Possible Causes of Stomach Ache After Drinking

Stomach pain can result from a variety of factors, extending beyond the amount of alcohol you consume. Understanding these different causes is essential for accurately diagnosing and managing stomach-related discomfort.

Here are some common culprits:

  1. Food Allergies or Sensitivities: Some individuals may experience stomach pain due to allergic reactions or sensitivities to certain foods. Lactose intolerance, for example, can lead to abdominal discomfort after consuming dairy products. Additionally, spicy foods can cause stomach pain.
  2. Gluten Intolerance: Celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity can cause stomach pain and gastrointestinal issues in response to consuming gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, and rye. (11)
  3. Polyps: Polyps are abnormal growths that can form in the gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach. Depending on their size and location, they may cause pain or discomfort. (12)
  4. Gas in the Digestive Tract: Excessive gas in the digestive tract can lead to bloating and stomach pain. This can result from swallowing air, consuming gas-producing foods, or underlying digestive conditions.
  5. Medications: Certain medications, especially non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, can irritate the stomach lining and cause gastritis, leading to stomach pain. (13)
  6. Stress and Anxiety: Emotional factors like stress and anxiety can manifest as physical symptoms, including stomach pain. The gut-brain connection is well-documented, and high stress levels can exacerbate or contribute to digestive discomfort. (14)

The diagnostic process typically involves a healthcare provider gathering a comprehensive medical history, conducting physical examinations, and potentially ordering specific tests to pinpoint the underlying cause. Once identified, appropriate treatment strategies can be implemented to alleviate the discomfort and address the root issue.

Is It Just Alcohol, Or Something More?

Alcohol-induced stomach pain is caused by irritation to the lining of your digestive system, whereas a virus causes the stomach flu (or gastroenteritis).

Symptoms of alcohol-induced stomach pain include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Acid Reflux
  • Bloating

According to MedlinePlus, the stomach flu can cause similar symptoms but may also include fever.

If you are experiencing stomach pain after drinking, seek medical advice to determine the cause of your symptoms and the best course of action. This will help ensure you get the treatment you need for a speedy recovery.

Alcohol Use Disorder: Beyond the Stomach Pain

While alcoholic gastritis primarily manifests with stomach pain and gastrointestinal discomfort, its association with Alcohol Use Disorder brings about more extensive consequences.

AUD extends beyond physical ailments, affecting various facets of a person’s life, including overall health, relationships, and quality of life. (15)

  1. Physical Health: AUD takes a toll on the entire body. It can result in liver disease, pancreatitis, cardiovascular issues, and neurological impairments. The chronic consumption of alcohol can lead to malnutrition, weakened immunity, and increased susceptibility to various illnesses.
  2. Mental Health: Alcohol misuse and heavy drinking often contribute to mental health challenges, such as depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairments. The regular consumption of alcohol can exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions and contribute to the development of new ones.
  3. Social and Relationship Dynamics: Alcohol’s influence on behavior, judgment, and decision-making can strain personal relationships. Frequent alcohol use may lead to conflicts with family and friends, isolation, and a breakdown of social support networks.
  4. Occupational and Financial Stability: Job performance can suffer due to the effects of alcohol. This can lead to unemployment or reduced earning potential, resulting in financial instability.
  5. Legal Consequences: Engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence can lead to legal issues, including DUIs and criminal charges, which can significantly impact one’s life.
  6. Quality of Life: AUD can result in a diminished overall quality of life. It can limit opportunities, create persistent stress, and diminish life satisfaction.
  7. Risk of Relapse: Even when an individual successfully manages their gastritis and reduces alcohol consumption, the risk of relapse is an ongoing concern. Staying committed to recovery efforts is essential to avoid reverting to problematic drinking patterns.

Addressing alcoholic gastritis is not only about relieving stomach pain but is a crucial step in addressing the broader implications of AUD. Comprehensive treatment, which may include medical interventions, therapy, and support systems, is necessary to improve physical health, mend relationships, and enhance overall well-being.

Don’t Let Alcohol Affect Your Health: Get in Touch Today

Alcohol consumption can lead to a range of health issues, from immediate discomfort to long-term conditions, including an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer. If you’ve been experiencing stomach pain after drinking, it’s a clear sign that your body is reacting to excessive alcohol consumption. To prioritize your health and well-being, it’s crucial to take action.

Seeking help, whether it’s through a healthcare provider or a support group, is a proactive step toward understanding and managing your relationship with alcohol. Reducing your alcohol intake can alleviate stomach pain and discomfort and decrease the risk of developing more severe health problems associated with excessive alcohol use.

Need help quitting alcohol? If you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, Zinnia Health is here to help. Our experienced team of compassionate professionals offers inpatient treatment and supportive care to give you a solid foundation for long-lasting recovery. Call us at (855) 430-9439 today for more information.


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