Curious about the link between gastritis and alcohol use? You’re not alone. Although this condition is very common, it is rarely discussed. Below we will break down what alcoholic gastritis is, how to prevent it, and how to treat it to get relief.
If you’re concerned about your gut health and drinking habits, it’s best to contact your medical provider for personalized guidance and care.
What is Alcoholic Gastritis?
Gastritis is a term used to refer to any group of conditions that cause inflammation of the stomach lining. It’s a relatively common disease that sees more than 200,000 diagnoses a year in the United States alone. What some people may not know, though, is that excessive alcohol consumption can be a contributing factor that leads to the onset of the disease. This specific offshoot of gastritis is referred to as “alcoholic gastritis.”
How Does Alcohol Cause Gastritis?
Drinking unhealthy amounts of alcohol can aggravate the stomach, much like other activities such as smoking, eating an excess amount of spicy food, or taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen. The inflammation caused by drinking alcohol has an irritative—and at times, erosive—effect on the lining of the stomach. When your stomach is in a more vulnerable state, your body’s natural digestive juices, which are ordinarily benign, can become harmful.
Researchers have also found a strong connection between gastric inflammation and alcohol use disorder. While alcoholic gastritis is often temporary, repeated exposure to alcohol can lead to the condition becoming chronic.
Symptoms of Gastritis Caused by Alcohol
Those who suffer from alcoholic gastritis report many of the same signs and symptoms as those with gastritis stemming from other causes. These symptoms will vary depending on the individual and can also be mistaken for other health issues. As always, it is best to consult your doctor for a clinical diagnosis.
Common symptoms of gastritis can often be minor and barely noticeable:
- A mildly upset stomach
- Indigestion or feelings of heartburn
- Feelings of fullness or bloating in the abdomen
In some cases, symptoms can be much more severe:
- Bleeding in the stomach may result in bloody vomit or stool
- A feeling of burning in the stomach which can be sharp or piercing
- Sudden loss of appetite
- Nausea accompanied by vomiting
At Monument, you can meet with a physician online to discuss your symptoms and create a plan to change your drinking habits and improve your health.
How is Alcohol-Related Gastritis Diagnosed?
Several physical exams and tests may be administered before obtaining a diagnosis of alcohol-related gastritis. To a certain extent, obtaining an alcohol-related gastritis diagnosis may be a process of elimination. You can expect to undergo some or all of the following before receiving a concrete diagnosis:
- Blood tests might rule out bacteria such as H. pylori or other blood disorders such as anemia.
- Stool samples or breath tests can check for proper balance of stomach bacteria.
- An upper endoscopy is a test that looks at the inside of your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum for abnormalities. A small tissue sample may also be taken if needed.
- An upper gastrointestinal series or barium swallow is a test that is similar to endoscopy in that it allows a physician to check the same organs listed above, but the process is a bit different. The patient swallows a metallic fluid called barium which coats the organs and allows them to be seen via X-ray. This can show abnormalities that may be causing symptoms.
Navigating the non-linear treatment journey
How to Treat Gastritis Caused By Alcohol
Changing one’s relationship with alcohol is the most impactful thing a person can do to lessen the symptoms of alcoholic gastritis. This will look different for everyone, and may mean cutting back on drinking for one person, while another may choose to cut out alcohol entirely. Medication to stop drinking and alcohol therapy are two evidence-based treatment approaches that can help you make long-term changes to your alcohol consumption. When seeking support, it’s crucial that you’re upfront and honest with your health care provider about your alcohol consumption, so that they can recommend the safest and most effective treatment for you.
In addition to providing tools for alcohol reduction, a doctor may prescribe specific treatments for alcoholic gastritis. This often comes in the form of antacids or medications like proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) that aim to reduce stomach acid. A doctor might also suggest you eat smaller meals more frequently, which are easier for the body to digest, and allow the stomach to heal.
Lastly, if tests reveal other factors contributing to gastritis in addition to alcohol consumption, a doctor may take special care to remedy these issues. For example, if the H. pylori bacteria is found during diagnostic testing, a doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics to try and kill the bacteria.
Long-Term Effects of Gastritis From Alcohol Use
If left untreated, gastritis can give rise to more severe stomach conditions such as:
- GI bleeding: any form of bleeding in the GI tract
- Anemia: a bleeding disorder that can develop after prolonged alcohol consumption
- Peptic ulcers: painful sores in the upper digestive tract
- Gastric polyps: small masses of cells that form in the stomach lining
- Stomach tumors: tumors that can be cancerous or benign
- Mallory-Weiss tears: tears in the mucous membrane as a result of excessive vomiting
These conditions may be life-threatening and require surgery to remedy, so it is best to treat gastritis before it progresses.
How to Prevent Alcoholic Gastritis
Preventative maintenance is the best, and comparatively easiest, way to tackle alcoholic gastritis. By cutting back on drinking before any more symptoms present themselves, a great deal of suffering can be avoided in the long run. Acknowledging the risks of excessive alcohol use is an admirable step in the right direction, and we’re here to help you take the next one.
At Monument, our online alcohol treatment program allows you to make progress towards your goals on your own terms. With options for virtual therapy and medication to stop drinking, you and your Care Team will design a personalized treatment plan tailored to your individual needs. You can also join the free Monument community to access expert resources and therapist-moderated alcohol support groups. Changing your drinking habits can help put your health and your happiness first, and you don’t have to do it alone.
- Mayo Clinic. “Gastritis Symptoms & Causes.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gastritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20355807#:~:text=Gastritis%20is%20a%20general%20term,use%20of%20certain%20pain%20relievers. Accessed July. 17, 2022.
- National Library of Medicine. “Gastritis: Overview.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310265/
- American Addiction Centers Alcohol.org. “Alcoholic Gastritis Causes, Symptoms & Treatment.” https://alcohol.org/comorbid/gastritis/
- American Addiction Centers “Alcoholic Gastritis: Symptoms, Triggers & Treatment.” https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcoholism-treatment/alcoholic-gastritis
- Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry. “A New Participant in the Pathogenesis of Alcoholic Gastritis: Pyroptosis.” https://www.karger.com/Article/Fulltext/492902