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Alcoholic Gastritis: Causes, Effects & Prevention

Last Updated: November 22, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Alcoholic gastritis is an unpleasant condition that most people who use alcohol heavily may experience. It is important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of alcoholic gastritis as well as know how to manage it. Because alcoholic gastritis is caused by excessive alcohol use, its presence should also serve as a warning that your relationship with alcohol may need to be rethought.

What Is Alcoholic Gastritis?

Alcoholic gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol naturally irritates parts of the body that it comes in contact with, such as the stomach lining. This leads to inflammation that can damage the stomach lining over time. Recognizing if you have this condition is crucial, as it can lead to more severe gastrointestinal issues if left untreated.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholic Gastritis

Someone with alcoholic gastritis may encounter a variety of signs and symptoms with this condition. Identifying these warning signs as soon as possible can make it easier to receive treatment on time and prevent any additional health issues. Some of the most common symptoms you might experience include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Excessive hiccups or burping
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting

Identifying these symptoms is crucial for early intervention and management of alcoholic gastritis. While these symptoms could indicate that alcoholic gastritis has developed, it is always important to seek a diagnosis from a trained physician and to not try to diagnose yourself.

Causes and Risk Factors for Developing Alcoholic Gastritis

The only cause of alcoholic gastritis is the excessive use of alcohol. However, you might also be at a higher risk of developing this condition if you have a history of alcohol abuse, you binge drink, or you routinely consume alcohol on an empty stomach. Some of the most significant risk factors for developing alcoholic gastritis beyond drinking include:

  • Genetics
  • Medication use, especially NSAIDs
  • High levels of emotional stress
  • An H. pylori infection
  • A history of stomach disorders
  • A history of gastric bypass surgery

Alcoholic Gastritis Diagnosis

If you suspect you have alcoholic gastritis, you should always seek the help of a doctor. A healthcare provider is the only person who can diagnose this condition. Doctors will likely do a physical exam and might order some tests to see what’s causing your stomach problems. 

One of the most common tests is an endoscopy, a test where your doctor advances a camera down your esophagus to look inside your stomach. They might also take some blood to check if you have anemia, or low levels of red blood cells. This condition can occur if you have a bleeding ulcer. It’s important to find out what’s going on early on so that you can get the right treatment and prevent any further problems.

Treatment Options for Alcoholic Gastritis

When it comes to treating alcoholic gastritis, stopping alcohol is the most important step. Continuing alcohol use will only make it worse, even if you get other forms of treatment. Often, stopping alcohol involves getting addiction treatment, as alcohol use that causes alcoholic gastritis is typically the result of alcohol addiction.

Apart from abstaining from alcohol, your doctor may suggest some medications to lower stomach acid and inflammation. Some of the most commonly used medications include:

  • Antacids: These medications mix with your stomach contents to reduce their acidity.
  • Proton pump inhibitors: These reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. 
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics can kill bacteria like H. pylori that contribute to inflammation.

They may also prescribe supplements, such as iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid  supplements to treat low blood levels. Other medications can be prescribed as necessary to treat specific symptoms caused by gastritis, such as nausea. 

You can also manage the symptoms and prevent future flare-ups by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle. Reducing the amount of stress you experience can also help. In extreme cases, surgery or more advanced treatments may be required.

Can the Effects of Alcoholic Gastritis Be Reversed?

Alcoholic gastritis can typically be reversed. This largely depends, however, on the severity of the condition and your commitment to stopping alcohol. By abstaining from alcohol, following your treatment plan and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you can typically reverse the damage and restore your stomach health. However, severe or prolonged cases could lead to irreversible damage, making it important to stop alcohol use as soon as possible.

Risks of Leaving Alcohol-Induced Gastritis Untreated

Leaving alcoholic gastritis untreated can lead to severe complications. You are at risk for developing ulcers (painful sores in the stomach lining). These can cause discomfort but also come with a risk of internal bleeding or infections. Additionally, untreated gastritis can increase your risk of developing stomach cancer. Leaving alcohol-induced gastritis untreated has the potential to turn a relatively benign condition into a serious one.

Seek Help for Alcohol Addiction to Prevent Future Health Issues

If you struggle with alcohol addiction, seeking help is crucial to prevent alcoholic gastritis and other health-related issues. At The Recovery Village Atlanta Drug and Alcohol Rehab, we understand how difficult it can be to stop using alcohol and gain control over an addiction. We are committed to helping people like you achieve victory over addiction and lead lives free from the influence of alcohol. Contact us today to learn how to start your journey to sobriety today.

Sources

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Bishehsari, Faraz; Magno, Emmeline; Swanson, Garth; et al. “Alcohol and Gut-Derived Inflammation.” Alcohol Research. 2017. Accessed September 28, 2023. 

Li, Gang; Zhu, Lei; Cao, Zhigang; et al. “A New Participant in the Pathogenesis of Alcoholic Gastritis: Pyroptosis.” Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry. August 23, 2018. Accessed September 28, 2023.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “Symptoms & Causes of Peptic Ulcers (Stomach or Duodenal Ulcers).” September, 2022. Accessed September 28, 2023.

National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Gastritis: Overview.” Updated June 28, 2018. Accessed November 16, 2023.

American Cancer Society. “What Causes Stomach Cancer?” January 22, 2021. Accessed November 18, 2023.