Alcohol Induced Gastritis: Causes and Symptoms
Alcohol consumed in small amounts is not harmful for health but if it is consumed in big amounts, it has an adverse effect on physical and somatic health, like alcohol induced gastritis. Alcoholic Abuse Gastritis is a common physical consequence of chronic heavy drinking. Gastritis is a group of conditions that impact the lining of the stomach. Symptoms of Gastritis start during childhood for many, and continues as we age.
This article will briefly review symptoms and treatment for Alcoholic Gastritis, and then will look at other digestive system problems that can result from chronic heavy drinking.
What is Alcoholic Gastritis?
Gastritis and gastropathy are medical conditions that involve the stomach lining, also known as the mucosa. In gastritis, the mucosa is inflamed. In gastropathy, however, the mucosa is damaged, but minimal to no inflammation is present.
Gastritis symptoms are quite common, it is estimated that half of the population will experience some form of gastritis at some point in their life. Alcoholic Gastritis symptoms are similar to those one would experience with other forms of Gastritis. Common Alcoholic Gastritis symptoms include:
- A burning ache or pain
- Feeling of fullness
- Regurgitation of food after eating
Risk factors that are known to increase a person’s risk to develop gastritis would be the following:
- A parasitic infection
- Regular use of pain reliever such as aspirin and ibuprofen
- Older age
- Excessive and prolonged alcohol use
- Excessive and chronic stress
- Having an autoimmune disorder
- Having other diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Chron’s Disease and a parasitic infection
Heavy alcohol use exacerbates previous Gastritis symptoms because with heavy and regular drinking, your stomach lining does not get a break from the damaging effects that alcohol can have. It is important to note that not all individuals who abuse alcohol are alcoholics, and therefore individuals who are not an alcoholic can suffer from Gastritis.
Most people suffering from gastritis or gastropathy do not manifest any symptoms. However, in some cases, gastropathy and gastritis can lead to bleeding in the stomach or symptoms of indigestion.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Alcoholic Gastritis?
The process for diagnosing is similar to other forms of Gastritis. Options for diagnosing include testing for a parasitic infection, an endoscopy or an x-ray of your upper digestive system.
However, some physicians are comfortable giving a diagnosis of gastritis caused by alcohol after listening to an individual’s drinking patterns and behaviors. As previously noted, many can trace gastritis symptoms back to their childhood and are then able recognize the change in symptoms after they began drinking.
When talking to your doctor about gastritis symptoms, it is crucial that you are being truthful and not down playing any symptoms. A common trait among alcoholics is to minimize the consequences of their drinking. When it comes to your health, and Gastritis specifically, mild symptoms can be a “red flag” for bigger health concerns.
With Gastritis that is mainly caused by alcohol, medications that would otherwise be helpful have little effect when an individual continues drinking. As a result, the most common treatment option is based upon treatment needed for an individual to stop drinking.
Your doctor might order an upper GI endoscopy along with biopsies or other examinations to diagnose gastropathy or gastritis, find the cause, and rule out complications. Other diagnostic examinations may include stool, blood, and breath tests, together with an upper GI series.
The recommendation can range from Detoxification or Inpatient Treatment to Individual Therapy. Staying sober is the main objective when looking to treat Alcoholic Gastritis.
Prognosis for Alcoholic Gastritis
If someone is diagnosed with Alcoholic Gastritis and continues to drink, things will continue to get worse. They will continue to feel pain in their abdomen, increase sensitivity to foods and drinks, and could cause stomach ulcers. The bottom line is that continuing to drink, will only make you sicker.
We know that alcohol is metabolized in our liver. Heavy drinking increases the risk for a fatty liver which can develop into liver disease. Someone who is in the, may be able to reverse the negative effects that alcohol has had on their body by remaining sober.
Individuals who continue drinking with liver damage, over time can develop more serious health concerns such as alcoholic hepatitis and Cirrhosis. These conditions are not reversible, and should be taken seriously.
Alcohol related liver diseases can have a variety of symptoms including:
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling more thirsty than usual
- Unintentional weight loss
- Reddening of hands and feet
- Changes in bowel movements
- Mood swings
Diagnosing alcohol related liver disease can be done with a blood test, liver function test, a CT scan, abdominal ultrasound and in some cases a liver biopsy. There are some medication and vitamin options that can be used to help reduce the symptoms of alcohol related liver disease.
However, as mentioned above, there comes a point where liver damage is irreversible. As a result, it is imperative that the individual with the health concern stops drinking.
Long term, and heavy drinking can lead to inflammation of the pancreases. Nearly three quarters of individuals who experience pancreatitis have a history of long term heavy alcohol abuse.
Long term alcohol use can lead to what is called acute pancreatitis. Continued drinking will further the progression of the illness leading to Alcohol-induced pancreatitis which is irreversible.
Acute pancreatitis symptoms can include:
- Raised heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swollen and/or tender belly
- Pain in the upper portion of belly, pain may be present in your back as well
Chronic pancreatitis symptoms include:
- Constant pain in belly and back that can feel disabling
- Constant diarrhea, and weight loss
- Vomiting and upset stomach
To diagnose pancreatitis, your doctor could have a pancreatic function test done, an ultrasound, a CT scan, and MRI, an ERCP or a biopsy of the pancreas. For individuals with chronic pancreatitis, treatment options include insulin, pain management, use of pancreatic enzymes and surgery to relieve pain.
We know from research that the human body is not finished developing until we are in our adult years. Heavy drinking in our youth or young adult years can have a significant impact on our bone health which can increase our risk of developing osteoporosis at an older age.
Heavy drinking can impact the levels of vitamins our body is able to absorb, including those that are necessary for healthy bones.
Unfortunately, there are no symptoms in the early stages of osteoporosis. We are unable to recognize a problem until our bones are weakened and we begin to notice things like a
- loss of height,
- back pain,
- stooped posture,
- breaking bones easily.
Treatment for osteoporosis works to build the nutrients necessary for bone health. Depending on the person, hormone treatments may be beneficial as well. If an alcoholic has developed osteoporosis, it is likely that their doctor would recommend they stop drinking as alcohol can decrease the amount of nutrients that our bodies absorb.
Long term heavy drinking can weaken the heart muscle which can lead to a specific form of heart disease called Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy. With a weakened muscle, the heart is unable to provide adequate blood flow to other organs which can lead to life threatening problems.
Unfortunately, many do not recognize symptoms until the disease is advanced. Symptoms of Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy commonly include:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of legs, feet and ankles
- Feeling weak
- Dizziness and/or fainting
- Change in appetite
- Irregular pulse
- Coughing up pink mucus
- Change in urine
Diagnosis for Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy can include a physical completed by your primary care physician, a variety of lab tests and potentially X-rays. Once a diagnosis is received, a person would likely receive the recommendation to have a low sodium diet, take diuretics regularly and to limit fluids consumer.
Other medications can be prescribed to address health concerns resulting from your hearts inability to supply other organs with enough blood.
The prognosis for Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy depends on several factors, including the person’s alcohol abuse history. For some, the condition is caught early enough where the damage can be treated. For others, they are not as fortunate. In both cases, it is crucial to follow the doctor’s recommendations and to stay sober.
It should be no surprise that long term chronic alcohol abuse would have a negative impact on our bodies. These consequences have been documented for centuries.
Even with all the research, for someone who is in the midst of active alcohol addiction, the damages to their bodies that resulted from their drinking may not be enough to stop them from drinking.
Loved ones and friends can find this quite frustrating, but the truth is that addiction is a disease of the mind and it is cunning and baffling. A person’s motivation for recovery needs to be powerful for them.
So what options are available for alcoholics who are struggling to maintain a sober life style?
First and foremost, it is likely that they would need to go through a medically supervised detoxification. Alcohol detoxification can be life threatening, especially if the individual has detoxed in the past.
The next recommendation would be that the alcoholic engage in some form of treatment. This could be either Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment programs. These are two different levels of care with two different criteria for engaging in treatment. A Mental Health Professional can provide an assessment and talk to you about the appropriate recommendation.
Both treatment options provide knowledge about addiction and recovery. These programs would likely encourage members to attend self-help meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous to help build sober support outside of the treatment program.
The bottom line is that no matter the extent of a person’s alcoholism, or the status of their health, it is possible to have a healthy recovery. Utilize this site as a resource, and reach out to treatment providers
I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. I have since settled in North Carolina. I have experience working with various stages of addiction, depression, anxiety, mood disorders, trauma, stages of life concerns and relationship concerns.
I tend to use a person-centered approach which simply means that I meet you where you are and work collaboratively to help you identify and work towards accomplishing goals. I will often pull from CBT when appropriate. I do encourage use of mindfulness and meditation and practice these skills in my own life. I believe in treating everyone with respect, sensitivity and compassion.
I recognize that reaching out for help is hard and commend you for taking the first step. We have professionals available who would be happy to help you move closer to reaching your goals related to your drinking concerns. You may reach these professionals by calling 877-322-2694.