Alcoholic Gastritis: Signs, Causes, and Treatment Options

Last Medical Reviewer On: March 4, 2024
Updated On: Mar. 4, 2024
4 min read
Written by:

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Medical Review by:

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu, M.D., M.S.

alcoholic gastritis
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    What you will learn

    • Alcoholic gastritis is a condition in which the stomach lining is inflamed.
    • Gastritis can have many causes, but alcoholic gastritis is connected to heavy alcohol use.
    • Alcoholic gastritis can be acute or chronic and can worsen over time.
    • Untreated alcoholic gastritis can have risks and complications, including stomach tumors.

    According to data from the National Institutes of Health, over 16 million adults in the US report heavy alcohol use regularly in the US in 2022.[1] Heavy alcohol use is defined as having more than 5 or more drinks per day or 15 or more per week for men and 4 or more drinks per day or 8 or more drinks per week for women.[2]

    Unfortunately, heavy alcohol use and abuse can lead to various health conditions, including alcoholic gastritis – a condition in which the stomach lining is inflamed.

    Learn more about alcoholic gastritis, its signs and causes, and what treatment options are available.

    What Is Alcoholic Gastritis?

    Gastritis is a general term for stomach lining inflammation, regardless of the cause. Inflammation can occur as part of a normal immune response to irritants, but it’s often caused by bacterial infections or medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

    Alcoholic gastritis is inflammation of the stomach caused by alcohol use. It can be acute or chronic. Alcohol-related gastritis is typically acute, but prolonged alcohol abuse can cause repeated episodes of inflammation that make the stomach lining vulnerable to stomach acid and acidic foods. Over time, this can erode the stomach lining.

    Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholic Gastritis

    Alcoholic gastritis can be difficult to pinpoint. Even when there are symptoms, it’s easy to mistake them for other gastrointestinal conditions like acid reflux or simple upset stomach.

    Generally, the signs and symptoms include:[3]

    • Stomach pain
    • Excessive burping or hiccups
    • Bloating or fullness that’s worse after eating
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Appetite loss

    If stomach ulcers occur alongside gastritis, there may be bleeding in the stomach. This can lead to anemia, a condition with too few red blood cells in the bloodstream. Anemia can lead to additional symptoms like fatigue or shortness of breath.

    Causes and Risks of Alcoholic Gastritis

    Alcoholic gastritis is often acute and generally caused by excessive alcohol consumption. The sudden inflammation of the stomach lining causes stomach pain, cramping, irritability, and vomiting.

    Though alcoholic gastritis is directly caused by consuming too much alcohol, it can be associated with infection, irritation, or tissue damage, such as bacterial infections, taking too much NSAID medication, and autoimmune disorders.

    In addition, stress, smoking, and caffeine intake can contribute to the irritation of the stomach lining.

    Alcoholic gastritis will worsen over time. Without treatment, it can lead to serious problems like:[4]

    • Anemia from bleeding ulcers
    • Peptic ulcers
    • Gastric polyps
    • Stomach tumors, including cancerous tumors

    In some cases, alcoholic gastritis can have severe complications like GI bleeding. These bleeds can occur throughout the gastrointestinal tract, but vomiting blood can indicate a tear in an esophageal blood vessel or an ulcer in the stomach.

    Upper GI bleeding is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical intervention.[5] Upper GI bleeding that can’t be stopped can have additional complications, such as a perforated stomach lining that releases digestive acids into the abdominal cavity, peritonitis, sepsis, and organ failure.

    Alcoholic Gastritis Treatment

    Alcoholic Gastritis Treatment

    Regardless of the cause, gastritis can be managed or treated. In acute cases, it often improves on its own without specific treatment as long as the underlying cause, such as alcohol use, is eliminated. However, chronic gastritis, including that caused by alcohol abuse, usually requires a combination of lifestyle changes and medical treatment based on the underlying causes and contributing factors.

    • Antibiotics: Infection can occur with alcoholic-induced gastritis and can be treated with antibiotics. The inflammation usually improves once the bacteria is gone.
    • Antacids: Some antacids can neutralize the excess acid in mild gastritis cases.
    • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): PPIs reduce stomach acid production to treat conditions such as severe acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and chronic gastritis.
    • Histamine blockers (H2): H2 blockers are medications that block the histamine receptors in the stomach. These receptors are involved in the immune response behind inflammation. Blocking them reduces the amount of stomach acid produced.

    Alcoholic gastritis is commonly seen in people who have a history of alcohol abuse or addiction. While there are treatment options for alcoholic gastritis, you have to stop drinking first. Otherwise, the condition will continue to flare up. Consider seeking out zero-proof alternatives to alcohol.

    Treatment for Alcohol Addiction and Alcoholic Gastritis

    If problem drinking or alcohol addiction is a factor in gastritis, it’s important to stop drinking before any treatment can begin. However, it can be challenging for people struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction to stop drinking on their, own so addiction treatment may be necessary.

    This often begins with medical detox to manage withdrawal symptoms. Quitting alcohol abruptly can cause serious withdrawal symptoms, some of which may be life-threatening. Medical detox provides a safe and comfortable environment with medical care, supervision, and monitoring to minimize the risk of complications.

    Once detox is complete, you can start addiction treatment in an inpatient or outpatient setting. While each treatment plan is based on your individual needs and goals, it may include individual therapy, behavioral therapies, medication-assisted therapy, and group counseling to address the underlying causes of addiction and learn healthier habits.

    Seek Help for Alcohol Addiction

    Chronic alcohol abuse and addiction can cause alcoholic gastritis with painful symptoms and long-term risks. While there are treatment options to manage the symptoms, they won’t be effective if you don’t stop drinking first.

    If you commit to alcohol addiction treatment and recovery, you can manage alcoholic gastritis and reverse the damage done by chronic inflammation. Whether you have alcoholic gastritis already or it hasn’t yet developed, getting started on treatment as early as possible offers the best outcomes.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    01

    What Are the Warning Signs of Gastritis?

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    Gastritis often has symptoms like nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, belching and hiccups, loss of appetite, and a feeling of fullness in the stomach. These symptoms are often mild at first and worsen over time, especially if you continue to drink heavily and irritate the stomach lining.[3]

    02

    What Alcohol Can I Drink with Gastritis?

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    If you have gastritis related to alcohol consumption, it’s best to avoid alcohol entirely. If you have mild gastritis from other causes, you should still limit your drinking. However, dry wines, light lagers, vodka, and gin may have a lower impact on your stomach.

    03

    Will Gastritis Go Away If I Stop Drinking?

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    Alcoholic gastritis may improve if you cut back or quit drinking alcohol entirely, but you shouldn’t stop cold turkey. It’s important to undergo alcohol addiction treatment to stop drinking alcohol safely. Depending on the severity of your gastritis, it may improve by itself, or you may need additional treatment.

    04

    How Long Does Alcoholic Gastritis Last?

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    Acute alcoholic gastritis often comes on suddenly and goes away within a few days. Chronic alcoholic gastritis can last much longer, however, possibly even months or years.

    Sources
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    [01]

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.-a). Alcohol use in the United States: Age groups and demographic characteristics. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohol-topics/alcohol-facts-and-statistics/alcohol-use-united-states-age-groups-and-demographic-characteristics on 2024, March 20.

    [02]

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.-c). Drinking levels defined. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking on 2024, March 20.

    [03]

    WebMD. (n.d.-b). What is alcoholic gastritis? causes, symptoms, treatment. WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcoholic-gastritis-overview on 2024, March 20.

    [04]

    WebMD. (n.d.-b). What is alcoholic gastritis? causes, symptoms, treatment. WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcoholic-gastritis-overview on 2024, March 20.

    [05]

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