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Alcohol and Ulcers: Drinking Alcohol Can Cause Ulcers and Make Ulcers Worse

Last Updated: November 13, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Alcohol is an irritating and inflammatory chemical that can increase the likelihood of developing ulcers in your stomach.

Drinking alcohol can cause stomach ulcers, especially if you drink heavily or over prolonged periods. Stomach ulcers can be painful, causing bloating and heartburn. They can also carry more serious complications, leading to internal bleeding and severe infections.

What Is a Stomach Ulcer? 

A stomach ulcer is a sore that develops in your stomach. Your stomach is lined with a mucous membrane that protects the stomach muscles from acids. Ulcers occur when there is a break in this membrane lining, allowing the stomach’s acidic contents to erode the stomach muscles.

Causes and Risk Factors for Developing Stomach Ulcers

Stomach ulcers are most commonly caused by an infection of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). This type of bacteria burrows into the wall of your stomach, causing a break in the mucous membrane, which leads to stomach ulcers. Stomach ulcers, however, are not always caused by H. pylori, and H. pylori does not always cause stomach ulcers. 

Other major risk factors for developing stomach ulcers include:

  • The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs, like ibuprofen and aspirin, are very damaging to the stomach wall and can cause ulcers.
  • Emotional stress: Severe emotional stress can increase the risk of developing stomach ulcers. The reason for this is not fully understood; however, it is thought that pH changes in the stomach may cause this.
  • Alcohol use: Using alcohol irritates and inflames the lining of the stomach, increasing the risk of ulcers developing.

Alcohol Ulcer Symptoms

You should always check with a doctor if you suspect you have a stomach ulcer and shouldn’t attempt to diagnose yourself. Symptoms of a stomach ulcer that should encourage you to seek medical evaluation include:

  • Heartburn
  • Sharp pains in your stomach
  • Indigestion
  • Excessive bloating 
  • Dark, tarry stools
  • Vomiting that is bright red or looks like coffee grounds

If you have symptoms of bleeding, you should seek medical care as soon as possible, as this can indicate dangerous symptoms are developing.

Dangers of Ulcers and Alcohol

Alcohol causes irritation and inflammation to the stomach’s lining. This can increase the probability that stomach ulcers will develop, especially in those already at risk of stomach ulcers for other reasons.

Can You Drink With an Ulcer? 

You should not drink alcohol if you have a stomach ulcer. Alcohol typically prevents the ulcer from healing and often worsens it. For some people, having to stop drinking because of an ulcer may be the first time they realize they are finding it difficult. If you’re struggling to stop drinking because you have an ulcer, you should consult with a physician, as stopping alcohol when you have an ulcer is very important for your health.

Treatment for Stomach Ulcers

Treatment for stomach ulcers involves two important components, including treating the underlying cause and promoting the healing of the ulcer. Treatment for the underlying cause differs based on the cause. For H. pylori infections, antibiotics will be necessary. If it is caused by NSAID use or alcohol, stopping these substances will be important. Professional alcohol addiction treatment will be important if quitting alcohol becomes a problem.

Promoting healing can involve several different components, all focusing on reducing the stomach acidity or stress on the stomach wall so that the stomach can heal itself. Measures to promote healing include:

  • Avoiding spicy or acidic foods
  • Reducing emotional stress
  • Avoiding NSAIDs
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Using medications to decrease stomach acidity, like proton pump inhibitors or antacids
  • Avoiding smoking

These steps can help your stomach ulcer to heal faster, but they only are helpful if the underlying cause of the ulcer is being addressed.

How Long Do Stomach Ulcers Take To Heal? 

The time it takes for stomach ulcers to heal will differ greatly based on the individual, how severe the ulcer is and what steps the person with the ulcer takes to cure it. With treatment, most stomach ulcers will heal within a month or two. Seeking medical treatment is the most important step you can take to help your ulcer heal as quickly as possible.

Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

If you are using alcohol and having difficulty stopping, healing a stomach ulcer will be very difficult. Because this increases the risk of severe health problems, like internal bleeding or infection, getting help for alcohol addiction when you have an ulcer is very important. 

At The Recovery Village Atlanta, we have extensive experience helping people stop using alcohol when it matters most. We can help you overcome your alcohol addiction so your stomach ulcer can heal without alcohol making it worse. Contact a Recovery Advocate today to learn how we can help your stomach feel better and heal quickly.


MedlinePlus. “Alcohol.” March 22, 2022. Accessed April 26, 2023.

MedlinePlus. “Helicobacter Pylori Infections.” May 5, 2021. Accessed April 26, 2023.

Deding, Ulrik; Ejlskov, Linda; & et al. “Perceived stress as a risk factor for peptic ulcers: a register-based cohort study.” BMC Gastroenterology. November 28, 2016. Accessed April 26, 2023.

Ko, J. K. & Cho, C. H. “Alcohol drinking and cigarette smoking: a “partner” for gastric ulceration.” Zhonghua Yi Xue Za Zhi. December 2000. Accessed April 26, 2023.

NHS Inform. “Stomach ulcer.” March 3, 2023. Accessed April 26, 2023.