Alcohol gastritis is the inflammation of the stomach lining. It’s mainly caused by long-term excessive drinking but can happen after just one intense drinking session.
What Are The Causes Of Alcohol Gastritis?
The leading cause of alcohol gastritis is heavy drinking. The stomach releases acid and potent enzymes to help break down food, and the membrane (lining) around the stomach stops acid and enzymes from flowing to other parts of the body. Excessive alcohol irritates and inflames the membrane, therefore causing alcohol gastritis. Infections and autoimmune conditions can also cause alcohol gastritis if alcohol is consumed.
Some people experience short bouts of mild gastritis. Making changes to your diet, such as eating the right fats, cutting down caffeine, and making an effort to reduce stress will reduce your chances of getting gastritis, alongside lowering your alcohol intake.
Other factors and substances can inflame the stomach, and combined with alcohol, there’s a real risk that you could develop alcohol gastritis. These include:
- Caffeine found in products such as coffee and chocolate
- A diet high in fats (including oils, saturated and trans fats)
- A high-stress lifestyle
- Smoking or using illegal drugs
- Medicines for acid reflux and indigestion
Symptoms Of Alcohol Gastritis
There are two types of alcohol gastritis; chronic and acute. Chronic gastritis builds up over time, and long-term alcoholics tend to get it. Stomach acid erodes the stomach lining over a long period, and as the symptoms are mild, people don’t know they have it.
What are the symptoms?
- Irritated or burning feeling in the stomach
- Feeling tired
- Change in appetite, most likely not wanting to eat
- Mild pain in the upper abdominal area and ribs
Acute gastritis causes sudden sharp and intense pain in the stomach that’s hard to ignore. The pain is usually accompanied with:
- Bloating and gas in the stomach, mainly after eating
- Feeling and being sick
- An irritated feeling in the stomach
If you develop any of these symptoms, speak to your doctor immediately. If you ignore the warning signs, you could cause irreparable damage to your digestive system.
Long Term Impacts
People can become very unwell and develop stomach ulcers and bleeding in their stomach (erosive gastritis) if they ignore symptoms. Once you progress to erosive gastritis, you’ll feel dizzy and weak, have trouble breathing, find red blood in your stools or vomit and have black or very dark stools.
Chronic gastritis can cause further health problems if you don’t get help when you first develop symptoms. Drinking regular, large amounts of alcohol stops your body from absorbing vitamins, minerals and proteins. Heavy drinkers can also develop anaemia due to iron deficiency and bleeding in the stomach, become lethargic, and develop stomach tumours.
Diagnosing Alcohol Gastritis
If you suspect that you have alcohol gastritis, book an appointment with your doctor. Visit A & E or call for an ambulance if you experience any severe symptoms.
Your doctor will give you a physical examination and ask you about your drinking habits. Don’t be embarrassed about talking to your doctor. It’s essential they know how much you drink so you can get the help you need. You may need further examinations to diagnose gastritis, and you’ll be referred to a hospital for some procedures. Here are some possible tests:
- Upper endoscopy. This procedure involves a thin tube with a camera inserted into your throat to check your stomach. The tube often takes a swab from your stomach and is sent off for further testing.
- A stool test. A doctor will check your stools for blood. Blood in your stools could indicate that your stomach lining is bleeding.
- Blood tests to check for anaemia and bacteria.
- A breath test to check for bacteria.
- An x-ray. This is to check your upper gastrointestinal area, the part of your body that includes your stomach, the upper section of your small intestine and the oesophagus.
Treatment For Alcohol Gastritis
If you have an alcohol addiction, you’ll more likely get gastritis than someone who doesn’t drink. Alcohol gastritis goes hand in hand with a drinking problem, and the best treatment focuses on treating your alcohol addiction and helping you become alcohol-free in the long term.
In the short term, you can take medicine to ease your symptoms. These include antibiotics to kill the bacteria and antacids to minimise acid in your stomach. You may be prescribed Histamine H2 blockers that reduce stomach acid production and proton pump inhibitors to treat acid reflux and ulcers.
In relation to drinking alcohol, there are ways that you can look after your stomach: Stick to 14 units or below of alcohol per week, avoid binge drinking and have alcohol-free days. If you suspect alcohol gastritis, you can improve your symptoms by cutting out spicy foods, reducing your caffeine intake and eating smaller meals.
Get Help for Alcohol Addiction
If you’re struggling with alcohol addiction, have you considered residential alcohol rehab?
Rehab Clinics Group is one of the UK’s leading alcohol addiction treatment providers. We can help transform your life, giving you the intense support you need to live your best life and quit alcohol for good.
Rehab focuses on repairing your mind and body and undoing the physical and mental damage caused by years of alcohol abuse. Our treatment centres are warm and welcoming, and you’ll be cared for by staff who are addiction experts. How long you stay with us depends on your addiction. Some stay with us for a few weeks, others for up to 90 days.
At Rehab Clinics Group, we offer an aftercare package to support you when you leave rehab. You’ll complete a medically supervised detox, which tends to last for around a week, before moving on to counselling and group therapy. You’ll have access to support groups, a 24-hour helpline and family therapy; your recovery won’t stop when you leave us. We’ll be with you every step of the way.