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Does Alcohol Cause Stomach Pain? Yes, And Here’s Why.

Have you ever gone out drinking only to get hit with the worst stomach pains the following day?

Sure, there’s the usual hangover stuff and post-drinking nausea, but sometimes those stomach troubles become something more. 

We’ll explore the reasons behind alcohol-related stomach pain and whether it’s a major cause for concern. 

Does Alcohol Cause Stomach Pain?

Yes, it can! Alcohol can irritate the lining of your stomach, leading to inflammation and discomfort. This irritation can also cause your stomach to produce more acid than usual, which can lead to further irritation and pain. 

In some cases, alcohol can even cause gastritis, a condition in which the lining of your stomach becomes inflamed and irritated. Alcohol gastritis can be acute (short term) or chronic (ongoing). 

Symptoms of gastritis can include: 

While some stomach pain after drinking alcohol is common, it’s important to pay attention to your symptoms and seek medical attention if necessary. 

In some cases, stomach pain can be a sign of a more serious condition, like an ulcer or liver disease. 

If you’re experiencing persistent or severe stomach pain after drinking alcohol, it’s important to talk to your doctor to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.

A woman lays down on the couch clutching her stomach in pain from aclohol
does alcohol cause stomach pain?

How Alcohol Leads to Stomach Pain

There are a few reasons why you might have stomach pain after you drink alcohol. We’ve touched on gastritis already, but let’s break each down individually:

1. Irritation of the Stomach Lining

Alcohol is known to irritate the lining of the stomach, which can lead to inflammation and pain. This irritation can also lead to other digestive issues, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you have a history of stomach ulcers or other digestive issues, you may be more prone to experiencing stomach pain after drinking alcohol.

2. Gastritis

Gastritis is a condition where the lining of the stomach becomes inflamed. This can be caused by a variety of factors like drinking alcohol, infection, and anti-inflammatory medication. When you have gastritis, you may experience symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Chronic gastritis can lead to more serious complications, so it’s important to seek medical attention if you suspect you may have this condition.

3. Dehydration

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it can cause you to lose fluids and become dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to a variety of symptoms, including stomach pain. If you’re planning to drink alcohol, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after drinking.

4. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is a condition where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation and discomfort. Alcohol can exacerbate this condition by increasing the production of stomach acid. If you have GERD, you may experience stomach pain, heartburn, and difficulty swallowing.

5. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is another condition that gets exacerbated by alcohol consumption. It’s a condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed. If you have pancreatitis, you may experience severe stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever. This condition can be serious and requires medical attention.

6. Stomach Ulcers

Alcohol doesn’t directly cause stomach ulcers, but it is a risk factor for developing them. If you have other risk factors for ulcers and drink alcohol, it can worsen your symptoms.

Immediate and Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Stomach

To better understand what alcohol does to your stomach and why it causes pain, let’s look at what alcohol actually does when you drink. 

You take your first sip of alcohol. The most immediate effect is, of course, the pleasure of the taste, the fizz, the chill, or the burn. Your taste buds wake up and your brain sends you signals of satisfaction (hello, dopamine!). 

But what about your stomach? Well, as soon as that first sip hits your stomach, things start to get a little more complex.

Immediate Effects of Alcohol on Your Stomach

In the short term, your stomach is going to release more gastric acid. This is your body’s attempt to break down the alcohol and start the process of digestion. 

Now, in moderate quantities, your stomach can handle this extra acid. 

But if you’re frequently putting away a lot of alcohol, you could be pushing your stomach too far, leading to conditions like gastritis.

Now, remember that alcohol also relaxes your muscles? This includes the muscle between your stomach and your esophagus, the gastroesophageal sphincter. 

So, if you’re drinking a lot, the alcohol can cause this muscle to slacken, leading to acid reflux. You know, that burning sensation in your chest after a night of heavy drinking? Yep, that’s your stomach acid taking a little detour.

Also, don’t forget about the impact alcohol has on your stomach’s absorption and digestion capabilities. Alcohol can interfere with the absorption of nutrients from your food and can slow down the digestion process. This can lead to malnutrition and digestion problems in the long run, even if you’re eating a balanced diet.

A close up of a woman clutching her stomach in pain
Why does alcohol cause my stomach to hurt?

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on Your Stomach

Now, let’s talk about the long-term effects of consistent, heavy drinking on your stomach. 

If your stomach is constantly dealing with inflammation from the increased acid production, over time, it could develop ulcers. These are painful sores in your stomach lining which can cause severe discomfort, bleeding, and other health problems.

Alcohol can also increase your risk of stomach cancer. While the exact link is still being studied, research suggests that heavy and prolonged alcohol consumption can significantly increase the risk of developing various types of cancer, including those of the stomach.

Preventing Alcohol-Induced Stomach Pain

The most effective, surefire way to prevent alcohol-induced stomach pain is to not drink alcohol. 

If that’s not an option for you at this time, there are some steps you can take to mitigate the effects of alcohol on your stomach

1. Limit Alcohol Consumption

Reducing the amount of alcohol you consume can help prevent stomach pain. Stick to one or two drinks and avoid binge drinking. 

2. Avoid Certain Types of Alcohol

Some types of alcohol are more likely to cause stomach pain than others. The higher the alcohol content, the more damage it will do to your gastrointestinal tract. So avoid drinking hard liquor and high ABV beers. 

Additionally, you might find that carbonated beverages like beer and hard cider as well has drinks high in FODMAPs like rum, dessert wine, port, and sherry can also aggravate sensitive stomachs. 

3. Eat Before Drinking

Drinking on an empty stomach can increase the risk of alcohol-induced stomach pain. Eating a well-balanced meal before drinking can help to slow down the absorption of alcohol and reduce the risk of stomach irritation. Choose foods that are high in protein and healthy fats, like grilled chicken or avocado.

4. Take Antacids

Antacids can help to neutralize stomach acid and reduce the risk of stomach pain. Take an antacid before drinking alcohol, or at the first sign of stomach pain. Look for antacids that contain magnesium or aluminum hydroxide.

5. Book an Appointment with Your Doctor

If you experience frequent or severe stomach pain after drinking alcohol, it’s important to seek medical advice. Your doctor can help to diagnose the underlying cause of your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment. They may also recommend that you stop drinking alcohol altogether. But don’t let the fear of quitting alcohol be the reason you don’t get checked out. 

Treatment for Alcohol-Induced Stomach Pain

If you are experiencing stomach pain after drinking alcohol, there are several treatment options that may help alleviate your symptoms. 

Not to be a broken record, but the first step is to stop drinking alcohol altogether. This will allow your stomach to heal and prevent further damage to your digestive system.

At the very least, quit drinking temporarily to allow your body time to heal

In addition to stopping alcohol consumption, there are other treatments that may help relieve your stomach pain. Some of these treatments include:

  • Over-the-counter medications: Antacids, such as Tums or Rolaids, can help neutralize stomach acid and relieve symptoms of indigestion and heartburn. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as Prilosec or Nexium, can also help reduce stomach acid and promote healing of the stomach lining.
  • Prescription medications: If over-the-counter medications are not effective, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications, such as H2 blockers or PPIs. These medications can help reduce stomach acid and relieve symptoms of gastritis.
  • Diet changes: Avoiding spicy, fatty, or acidic foods can help reduce inflammation in the stomach and promote healing. Eating smaller, more frequent meals can also help reduce stomach acid and prevent symptoms of indigestion.
  • Lifestyle changes: Avoiding smoking, reducing stress, and getting regular exercise can also help reduce inflammation in the stomach and promote healing.

Again, if your symptoms persist or worsen despite these treatments, it is important to see a doctor. 

Chronic alcohol use can lead to serious complications, such as ulcers, bleeding, and even cancer. Your doctor can help determine the underlying cause of your stomach pain and develop a treatment plan that is right for you.

FAQs about Alcohol and Stomach Pain

What are the symptoms of alcohol-induced gastritis?

Alcohol-induced gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Symptoms can include:.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Burping and hiccups
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloated feeling that gets worse if you eat
  • Gnawing, burning ache in your stomach

How long does it take for stomach pain from alcohol to go away?

Stomach pain from alcohol can vary in duration, largely depending on the cause and severity of the discomfort. If you’re dealing with a mild case of alcohol-induced upset stomach or gastritis, you might notice an improvement within a few hours to a few days after you stop drinking. This gives your stomach a chance to settle down, reduce inflammation, and start healing.

However, if you’ve got something more serious going on like an ulcer, it might take several days to weeks of treatment (which usually includes abstaining from alcohol, taking medication, and sometimes diet changes) before the pain subsides.

In some cases it can be months or longer. It all depends on a number of factors like how much your drink, genetics, and co-occurring health problems that make your stomach problems worse.

And remember, persistent or severe stomach pain after drinking is a signal from your body that it’s time to seek medical help. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health!

What are some remedies for stomach burn caused by alcohol?

Got a stomach burn after a night of drinking? Start by hydrating – water is your new best friend. Consider eating something bland like bread or rice, it can help soak up some of the alcohol. 

Stay clear of spicy or acidic foods for now, they could make your stomach burn even more. Over-the-counter antacids can be a quick helper to neutralize the acid and ease your discomfort. 

And finally, you might want to try ginger, a popular home remedy for upset tummies. But remember, if that burn doesn’t go away, it’s time to call your doctor!

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