Alcoholic Gastritis: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
By The Recovery Village
Medical Reviewer Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN | Editor Theresa Valenzky
Last Updated: May 23, 2023
Editorial Policy | Research Policy
Seeking treatment for alcohol addiction can help you stop drinking to prevent and heal the symptoms of alcoholic gastritis.
Gastritis is when the inner lining of your stomach becomes inflamed or irritated. While there are several potential causes of gastritis, alcoholic gastritis specifically describes gastritis caused by heavy alcohol use. Alcohol irritates the stomach lining, causing this inflammation and other symptoms.
What Is Alcoholic Gastritis?
Alcoholic gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining caused by alcohol. The stomach is made up of three layers of muscles that churn and break down food. The stomach is very acidic and lined by the gastric mucosa, an inner layer that keeps acids in the stomach from reaching the muscles.
Gastritis occurs when the gastric mucosa becomes inflamed. It can be uncomfortable and cause several unpleasant symptoms, but it can also damage the stomach if untreated.
Two main types of alcoholic gastritis exist. Acute gastritis is a short, isolated incidence of gastritis and often heals on its own. Chronic gastritis, on the other hand, is a long-lasting form of gastritis. This form of gastritis is more likely to cause other health problems.
Alcoholic Gastritis Symptoms
Alcoholic gastritis can lead to many different symptoms. Some of the common symptoms someone with alcoholic gastritis may experience include:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Hiccups or burping
- Bloating or feeling full after eating small amounts of food
- Abdominal pain or discomfort, which can be a dull ache or a burning sensation
- Nausea and vomiting, which may be severe
- Black or tarry stools, which can indicate bleeding in the stomach
- Vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds, which can also indicate bleeding in the stomach
These symptoms may worsen as stomach acid production increases when you eat or drink, especially when exposed to triggers like alcohol or spicy foods.
Related Topic: Why Is Alcohol Addictive?
Triggers and Causes of Alcoholic Gastritis
Alcoholic gastritis is mainly caused by heavy or frequent alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a toxic substance that can irritate and damage the stomach lining, leading to inflammation.
In addition to alcohol consumption, several factors can trigger existing alcoholic gastritis. These include:
- Smoking: Smoking can increase the risk of gastritis in general and trigger existing alcoholic gastritis.
- Certain medications: Aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can increase the risk of gastritis and worsen alcohol’s effects on the stomach lining.
- Stress: Stress often increases the production of stomach acid, which can further irritate the inflamed stomach lining.
- Diet: Eating spicy or acidic foods can worsen the effects of alcoholic gastritis by increasing irritants or acids in the stomach.
- Genetics: Some people may be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol on the stomach lining due to genetic factors.
Not everyone who drinks alcohol will develop alcoholic gastritis; however, heavily drinking alcohol increases the risk of this condition significantly.
Having alcoholic gastritis is an indicator that you are probably misusing alcohol. Someone with alcoholic gastritis should consider they may have an alcohol use disorder and talk to a healthcare provider for guidance and support.
Long-Term Effects of Alcoholic Gastritis
In the short term, alcoholic gastritis is unlikely to cause more than unpleasant symptoms that feel like indigestion. Over time, however, chronic alcohol consumption can cause long-term damage to the stomach lining. This can lead to more severe forms of gastritis and problems due to chronic inflammation.
Some of the more common long-term complications of alcoholic gastritis include:
- Ulcers: Damage to the stomach lining can cause a hole in the lining, allowing stomach acids to harm the stomach muscles.
- Anemia: Damage caused by gastritis can cause bleeding in the stomach. This internal bleeding can cause anemia, or low blood levels, due to blood loss.
- Tumors: Chronic inflammation of the stomach lining can make tumors more likely to develop. These tumors can be benign or cancerous.
In addition to these complications, many other health problems may occur due to heavy alcohol use. While not directly related to alcoholic gastritis, diseases like pancreatitis, cancer, liver problems and addiction can be caused by the alcohol abuse that leads to alcoholic gastritis.
Alcoholic Gastritis Treatment
The best way to treat alcoholic gastritis is to stop using alcohol. Because alcohol actively damages the stomach lining, treating this condition without stopping alcohol use is counterproductive.
Stopping alcohol alone may cause alcoholic gastritis to heal itself; however, other treatments may also help. These include:
- Avoiding triggers: Spicy foods, acidic foods, certain medications and smoking may trigger gastritis. Avoiding these triggers will promote healing.
- Reducing stress: Stress increases stomach acid production. Reducing stress can help improve the healing of the stomach’s lining.
- Medications: Medicines like antacids or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) will reduce stomach acid levels and can help promote healing.
Ultimately, you should consult a doctor before trying anything on your own. A doctor can recommend the best treatments for your situation and help you recover more quickly.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Stopping alcohol is the best way to help prevent or heal alcoholic gastritis. This can be easier said than done if an alcohol addiction has developed. The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper has extensive experience helping people recover from alcohol addiction with a variety of treatment options, including:
- Medical detox
- Inpatient programming
- Outpatient programming
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Dual diagnosis for co-occurring disorders
- Individual and group therapy
- Family therapy
- Case management
- Aftercare services
If you have alcoholic gastritis, The Recovery Village at Cherry Hill can help you stop using alcohol and start feeling better. Contact us today to learn what we can do for you.
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.
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