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Alcohol and Ulcers: What is the Link between Them?


Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 2/12/2022

Consuming large quantities of alcohol increases the risk of developing stomach ulcers. While alcohol doesn’t directly cause ulcers to form in the stomach, it does irritate the stomach lining. When the stomach lining becomes irritated ulcers can form. In these cases, ulcers form because the stomach becomes inflamed, red, raw, and even bleeds. Therefore, there is a connection between alcohol and ulcers in the stomach.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Stomach?

Alcohol affects the stomach by causing irritation. Irritation occurs because alcohol causes stomach walls to become inflamed. This inflammation results in bleeding, a raw stomach lining, and increases the risk of ulcers developing. While it’s rare for alcohol to be the only contributing factor for ulcer development, consuming large quantities of alcohol can lead to stomach ulcers. Alcohol consumption can also irritate ulcers and prolong the period it takes for ulcers to heal.

How Much Alcohol Can Affect the Stomach?

Any amount of alcohol can affect the stomach. So, how much alcohol is too much? The answer is complicated but light drinking (2-3 drinks) doesn’t cause severe damage to the stomach, frequent bouts of binge drinking (4-6 drinks in less than 2 hours) can. That said, long-term alcohol consumption can also affect the stomach over time. If someone consumes alcohol every day it increases the risk of stomach damage and ulcers.

What is the Connection Between Alcohol Use and Ulcers?

Alcohol doesn’t directly cause ulcers to form in the stomach or intestines. While alcohol doesn’t cause ulcers to form, it can increase the risk of developing an ulcer and cause ulcers to become worse because of their toxic properties. Typically, ulcers are caused by an infection from Helicobacter pylori. Helicobacter pylori overwhelm healthy gut bacteria, disrupts the gut microbiome, and leads to the stomach or intestinal ulcers. Stomach ulcers can also be caused by using anti-inflammatory medications. These medications reduce the body’s immune response to inflammation, which can result in ulcers.

What are the Symptoms of Ulcers Due to Drinking?

Ulcers that are caused by alcohol consumption have the same symptoms as stomach ulcers caused by things like anti-inflammatory medications. There are several symptoms people can notice that vary in intensity. Moreover, if stomach ulcers are left untreated these symptoms will progress and get worse.

The symptoms of stomach ulcers due to drinking are listed below.

  • Stomach pain when food isn’t consumed
  • Stomach pain
  • Pain that fades after you eat but gradually comes back
  • Stomach discomfort; nausea and/or vomiting
  • Blood in stool
  • Dark stool that resembles tar
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss
  • A burning sensation in the stomach that persists

Depending on the severity of the stomach ulcer, people may experience one or all of these symptoms.

What are the Risks of Ulcers due to Drinking?

Stomach ulcers due to drinking can lead to many negative health problems. While many ulcers can be resolved with medical treatment if left untreated stomach ulcers can do short-term and long-term damage to the body. Some risks of ulcers due to drinking include internal bleeding, a hole in the stomach, bowel obstruction, constipation, and even gastric cancer. For these reasons, it’s essential to treat stomach ulcers promptly or see a doctor if you experience symptoms.

What is the Treatment for Ulcers due to Drinking?

There are several treatments for ulcers caused by drinking. The method of treatment is determined by medical health professionals and based on an individual’s ulcer. The most common method is antibiotics because 90% of stomach ulcers are caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Helicobacter pylori can be treated with antibiotics and symptoms will resolve.

There are also other treatment methods to reduce ulcer symptoms and improve stomach health. One method is to provide a patient with medications that decrease stomach acid production. Furthermore, a therapeutic endoscopy can be required for severe cases of stomach ulcers.

How Long Does an Ulcer Take to Heal?

Stomach ulcers commonly take between 2-3 months to heal. While some stomach ulcers can heal without antibiotics, leaving a stomach ulcer untreated can lead to the ulcer forming again or an ulcer forming nearby. This is because the bacteria that causes the infection remains in the stomach. Still, severe stomach ulcers can take more than 3 months to heal.

What Should People With Ulcers Pay Attention to When Consuming Alcohol?

People who consume alcohol with stomach ulcers should pay close attention to their symptoms. If ulcer symptoms get worse, it’s important to cut back on alcohol consumption or to stop drinking alcohol entirely. Alcohol should also be avoided during the recovery process because it elevates stomach acid. Elevated stomach acid levels can irritate ulcers and cause healed ulcers to begin forming again. Therefore, people who consume alcohol should consult with their doctor before drinking with an ulcer.

Does Drinking Alcohol Slow the Healing Speed of Ulcers?

Yes, alcohol slows the healing speed of ulcers. While it’s possible to consume alcohol if you have an ulcer, alcohol consumption raises stomach acid levels and can interact with the ulcer. Elevated stomach acid levels irritate ulcers and can make the symptoms worse. Furthermore, when alcohol comes into contact with ulcers it also irritates the ulcer and can make symptoms worse.

What Alcohols Can People With Ulcers Drink?

It’s not recommended to consume alcohol with a stomach ulcer because it can make the symptoms worse. That said, gastroenterologists have found that moderate wine consumption doesn’t hurt stomach ulcers. In fact, some gastroenterologists believe that wine can reduce the risk of stomach ulcers developing. If you’re going to drink alcohol with a stomach ulcer, you should consume wine and avoid beer or liquor.

What are the Other Health Problems Caused by Alcohol?

Alcohol causes many health problems. It’s a toxic substance and stresses many biological systems in the body. Alcohol damages the liver, the brain, and even the digestive system. Plus, when alcohol is consumed in large quantities over long periods it can weaken the immune system and increase someone’s risk of developing infections.

The harms and diseases caused by alcoholism are listed below.

  • Wet brain
  • Liver disease
  • Cancer (mouth, throat, esophagus)
  • Stroke
  • Cognitive decline
  • Dementia
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Alcohol dependency
  • Tremors
  • Death

These are only some of the harms that alcohol causes. Because alcohol interacts with many parts of the body, there are dozens of negative reactions it can cause.