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Alcohol's effects on the stomach


Alcohol can increase the amount of acid in the stomach and irritate the lining of the stomach. Drinking too much alcohol can cause gastritis, ulcers and reflux (heartburn).

If left untreated, gastritis can be fatal.


Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining. Alcohol can cause gastritis by irritating the lining of the stomach. Gastritis can happen while you are drinking, causing pain and sickness. But gastritis can also be a lasting condition. Symptoms include tummy pain, heartburn, losing your appetite, feeling sick (nausea) and vomiting (getting sick). Sometimes gastritis doesn’t cause any symptoms. If left untreated, gastritis can be fatal.


Stomach ulcers are painful open sores in your stomach lining. Ulcers can make you feel sick or vomit. Ulcers can also cause sweating, pain and loss of appetite. If you have an ulcer, alcohol can make it worse or slow down the healing process.



Drinking too much can cause acidic digestive juices in the stomach to come up into the oesophagus. This is called reflux. Reflux causes an uncomfortable burning sensation known as heartburn.


Stomach problems can also affect your nutrition – you may feel sick, vomit or lose your appetite, or you may not absorb nutrients from your food if your stomach lining is inflamed.

Oesophageal varices

Oesophageal varices are enlarged veins in the walls of the lower part of the oesophagus (gullet) that bleed. They're often caused by alcoholic liver disease.

The main sign of oesphageal varices is blood in your vomit. You should see your doctor straight away if you have this symptom.

Video: Alcohol and digestive cancers

What can I do to reduce my risk?

Cut down or give up alcohol

Alcoholic gastritis can usually be cleared up quickly by avoiding alcohol, or you may need to attend your GP to get medication for it.

Stay within the low-risk drinking guidelines 

The more you drink, the greater the risk of developing stomach problems.


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