Alcoholic Gastritis
Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment
& Prevention Of Alcohol-Induced Gastritis


Alcoholic gastritis is the irritation or inflammation of the lining of the wall of the stomach by alcohol. It is the most common cause of stomach pains after a night out drinking. It can be treated with the use of some easily available medications. See best prevention and treatment options available.

Alcoholic Gastritis: Note the two red spots due to irritation of the wall of the stomach in this patient.

Have you come up with stomach pains after a night out drinking? Is this pain on your upper abdomen, between the center of your chest and your umbilicus or belly button? Is it a burning, sharp or annoyingly dull ache? You most certainly have developed an alcohol induced gastritis.

This is something that happens to millions of people on a daily basis. You necessarily does not have to drink tons to experience such sore stomach after having alcohol. Sometimes, after taking a glass or two after a long time off drinking, you could develop this condition. It is also very common in people who binge drink, as well as in chronic alcoholics.

What Is Alcohol-Induced Gastritis

As the name implies, alcohol induced gastritis is the inflammation or irritation of the inside wall of the stomach by alcohol. This causes redness and "peeling" away of the lining of the wall of the stomach.

It can lead to severe stomach pain and bleeding from the stomach.

Alcohol gastritis in most cases will not cause any serious problem or permanent damage to the stomach. However, if the process continues for a very long time due to the continuous consumption of large amount of alcohol, it can lead to the development of stomach ulcer and stomach cancer.

Let it be clear: In small amount, alcoholic beverages, "fundamentally wine, have important bactericidal effects upon Helicobacter pylori and enteropathogenic bacteria", reports The American Journal of Gastroenterology. So clearly,moderate wine consumption has been shown to help destroy bad bacteria in our stomach and preserve stomach health. No wonder Apostle Paul told Timothy to "use a little wine for your frequent stomach problems" (1 Timothy 5:23).

Symptoms

The symptoms of alcohol gastritis or alcoholic gastritis are generally those of any other type of gastritis. They include:

  • Recent ingestion of alcohol (within the last 72 hours)
  • Upper central abdominal pain (this may be a dull ache, or burning sensation or even a sharp stabbing pain piercing through to the back, between your shoulder blades behind
  • Feeling nauseated
  • There may be associated bloating
  • In severe cases, you could vomit
  • The vomitus may be greenish at first and then brownish like the colour of coffee
  • In severe cases, especially where bleeding is occurs, your stool may become black (Dark stools)

Though the quantity of alcohol may not matter much for alcohol gastritis or alcohol induced gastritis to happen, you are more likely to suffer with this condition if you binge drink or drinking a very strong concentration or strength of alcohol drink.

Diagnosis Of Alcohol-Induced Gastritis

Your doctor will be able to make a diagnosis of alcoholic gastritis from the content of your story to him alone. If you develop sudden or gradual onset sore stomach after night out drinking, and have any of the above symptoms, then it is most likely that it is due to irritation of your stomach by alcohol that is causing your symptoms.

If you have very severe symptoms though, your doctor may want to do the following test not only to make a diagnosis, but also to exclude other potentially serious problems that could cause stomach ache after a night out drinking or drinking too much in general.

  • Blood Test. Common blood tests done in the work up of symptoms of alcoholic gastritis include FBC (Full Blood Count - also called complete blood count or CBC), to show if your white blood cells number are elevated as well as your blood levels to exclude anaemia or significant blood loss; U&E (Urea and Electrolyte -also called Blood Urea Nitrogen or BUN), to see how your kidneys are working to balance the salt and water in your body; Amylase, to see if this is elevated significantly. If your amylase is four times the normal level, it may indicate that the cause of your abdominal pain is perhaps not gastritis, but pancreatitis. Other blood tests that might be done may include your liver function test (LFT), Cryo-rective protein (CRP) and coagulation profile, if you are suspected to be bleeding inside your stomach. 
  • Endoscopy (Esophageal-Gastro-Duodenoscopy - OGD). This is basically an endoscopy of the your stomach - a flexible small tube with a camera at the end is passed down to your stomach after you are given a medication that will make you feel sleep. Any redness or injury can be seen and if you are found to be bleeding inside the stomach, the bleeding spots can be stopped.
  • Stool Test. This will only be done if there is doubt as to what is causing your gastritis, to exclude a bug called Helicobacter pylori.

Treatment

Treatment of alcoholic gastritis is usually straightforward.

  • Stop alcohol consumption
  • Take pain killers like paracetamol or Tylenol; avoid aspirin based medications of ibuprofen or diclofenac containing medicines, as these may irritate and worsen the symptoms of alcohol-induced gastritis
  • The use of medicines like Lansoprazole (Prevacid) or Omeprazole (Prilosec) which help in to heal the lining of the wall of the stomach. Lansoprazole is often given as 30mg tablet or capsule to be taken once daily for up to 14 to 28 days.
  • Other medicines that could be added to the treatment include Gaviscon or Aluminum hydroxide (Amphojel, AlternaGEL)

References:

  • Luis Bujanda MD, PhD. The effects of alcohol consumption upon the gastrointestinal tract. The American Journal of Gastroenterology (2000) 95, 3374–3382; doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.2000.03347.x

Gastritis. Have Your Say!

Do you have upper abdominal pain after alcohol consumption? Have you been told that you may be having gastritis? Or are you looking for help with this problem? Share your thoughts here. We would certainly love to hear from you!

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