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What Is Alcohol Gastritis?

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

January 23, 2019

Alcoholic gastritis is a stomach condition that causes heartburn and ulcers, and is related to heavy drinking. For those who may be suffering from alcohol abuse and alcohol-associated health issues, help is available in the form of treatment.

Alcoholic gastritis occurs when alcohol damages an individual’s stomach lining. This condition can result in abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Alcoholic gastritis is one of the many health issues related to heavy alcohol use.

The stomach has a membrane lining that helps protect the tissue from acid and bacteria. When that lining becomes irritated, it can cause inflammation in the form of gastritis. This condition can be triggered by acid reflux, painkillers, or excessive alcohol use. Alcohol-related gastritis can be acute or chronic. It can also lead to permanent damage to the digestive system.

What Causes Alcoholic Gastritis?

Excessive drinking can cause many health risks, including alcoholic gastritis. Heavy alcohol use breaks down parts of the stomach lining. This can lead to an increased sensitivity to acids naturally produced in the digestive tract.

Unlike other alcohol-related health illnesses, alcoholic gastritis does not always have symptoms. It can silently damage a person’s digestive system without them realizing something is wrong. The longer someone drinks, the greater their risks of developing alcoholic gastritis. There are other behaviors that increase an individual’s overall chance of developing this condition.

Additional risk factors for alcoholic gastritis include:

  • History of alcohol use: The longer someone has been using alcohol, the greater their chance of developing alcoholic gastritis.
  • Painkillers: Frequent use of medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin, especially when mixed with alcohol, puts individuals at risk for alcoholic gastritis.
  • Tobacco and other drug use: Using tobacco or illicit drugs like cocaine can damage the stomach lining, leading to gastritis.
  • Stress: When someone drinks heavily, their body may not be able to properly manage stress, which heightens the chance of alcoholic gastritis.
  • Infections: Heavy drinking can compromise the immune system, and this leads to an increased chance of developing gastritis from an infection.

Symptoms Of Alcoholic Gastritis

Alcoholic gastritis can be classified as either acute and chronic gastritis. Acute gastritis comes on suddenly. The symptoms include painful digestion and bowel issues that stop after several days. Chronic gastritis develops slowly over time, and may not cause any symptoms until stomach ulcers have developed.

Some of the symptoms of alcoholic gastritis include:

  • stomach pain
  • belching
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • decreased appetite
  • feeling of extreme fullness
  • bloating of the stomach and abdomen

If alcoholic gastritis is left untreated, it can lead to stomach ulcers and bleeding in the stomach (erosive gastritis). If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away.

Symptoms of erosive gastritis include:

  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • shortness of breath
  • black or tar-like stools
  • red blood in stool or vomit

Diagnosing And Treating Alcoholic Gastritis

An estimated 88,000 people die every year from alcohol-related illnesses. However, when diagnosed early, someone suffering from alcoholic gastritis can receive treatment and regain their digestive health.

Alcoholic gastritis can be a painful medical condition that leads to complications like peptic ulcers, anemia, vitamin deficiencies, and stomach growths. If you have any symptoms of alcoholic gastritis, it’s important to seek medical care. This way, your doctor can diagnose and treat any symptoms you are experiencing.

Doctors may diagnose alcoholic gastritis through either a physical exam of the stomach and abdomen or an internal exam through the use of a tool placed in the esophagus. A simple breath test may also be performed, to detect the presence of certain bacteria.

Treatment for alcoholic gastritis may include acid-reducing medications, such as omeprazole, H2 blockers, and antacids. Lifestyle changes can be an effective way to treat alcoholic gastritis, including avoiding alcohol, quitting smoking, and reducing daily stress in your life.

Alcohol Abuse And Addiction Treatment

Alcohol abuse and addiction affects millions of people across the country and can be an overwhelming situation for families. For those who are facing alcohol addiction, there is effective treatment available.

Alcohol rehab programs exist throughout the U.S., and are made affordable through the use of private or public health insurance, scholarships, sliding-scale fees, and insurance vouchers. There are several types of alcohol addiction treatments to choose from, which helps to ensure that anyone suffering from alcohol abuse gets the help they need.

Types of alcohol rehab programs include:

Residential Treatment

Residential alcohol rehab programs, sometimes called inpatient treatment centers, provide on-site detox programs, medical care, and individual and family therapy. Inpatient treatment centers give patients a break from the stress of daily life, by providing a highly structured and supportive atmosphere for those new in recovery.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

PHPs, also known as “day treatment,” offer detox programs and therapeutic support for those with scheduling limitations. PHPs are offered on a flexible schedule, with individual and group treatment sessions that run six hours per day, five days per week.

Outpatient Programs (IOPs)

After completing a higher level of care at an inpatient program, some patients benefit from a “step down” level of treatment at an outpatient program. Intensive outpatient programs offer counseling, 12-step meetings, and group therapy in half-day sessions, three days per week.

Many alcohol rehab programs offer medication-assisted treatment, to help those that struggle with alcohol dependence and relapse. When combined with therapy, medication-assisted treatment can be an effective way to reduce cravings and maintain sobriety.

To learn more about preventing alcoholic gastritis, or to find a treatment center near you, contact one of our specialists today.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Fact Sheets - Alcohol Use and Your Health

National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Alcohol Facts and Statistics

U.S. National Library of Medicine: PubMed Health - Gastritis: Overview

U.S. National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health - Gastritis, Chronic gastritis, alcohol, and non-ulcer dyspepsia

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