Article at a Glance:
Some of the most important points to keep in mind about alcohol use and ulcers are:
- Alcohol does not cause ulcers but is a major risk factor for them
- Drinking alcohol with an ulcer is not recommended
- Drinking alcohol (including wine or beer) can make your ulcer more painful, both from the stomach acid that may be produced and from the alcohol coming into contact with the ulcer itself
- Having alcohol can make your ulcers last longer, as alcohol can delay an ulcer’s healing
Table of Contents
Alcohol and Ulcers
Although ulcers from drinking are rare because most ulcers are not directly caused by alcohol use, drinking alcohol still impacts ulcers. An ulcer usually occurs in the stomach or small intestine. Although they are usually painful, some people have no pain, especially if their ulcer is small.
Symptoms of an ulcer include:
- Stomach pain, especially on an empty stomach
- Pain going away for a while after you eat but then comes back
- Nausea or vomiting
- Blood in your stool or stools that look like dark sticky tar
- Chest pain
- Feeling tired
- Weight loss
- A burning feeling in your stomach that does not go away
If you have a history of stomach ulcers and alcohol use, you might wonder if there is a link between the two. You may also wonder if a specific drink like beer is bad for ulcers. Drinking alcohol can worsen your ulcers and even prevent them from healing. It is therefore important to know the relationship between alcohol and ulcers.
Risk Factors for Developing Ulcers
Ulcers are most often caused by bacteria, like Helicobacter pylori. Medical professionals believe that this particular type of bacteria causes 90% of all ulcers. However, you may have this bacteria in your body and never get an ulcer from it. Therefore, doctors think that certain risk factors raise your risk of getting an ulcer. These risk factors include:
- Drinking a lot of alcohol
- Using drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen
- Tobacco use
- Being very sick
- Getting radiation therapy, which is used in cancer treatment
How to Know If Your Drinking Is Worsening Your Ulcers
Any alcohol consumption can worsen the symptoms of ulcers. If your symptoms worsen when drinking alcohol, your alcohol consumption is likely causing your ulcers to grow worse.
Signs that drinking alcohol is worsening your ulcers include worsened side effects and the development of new, more severe side effects. These symptoms may include:
- Feeling extremely weak or faint
- Having difficulty breathing
- Sudden, sharp stomach pains
- Vomiting blood
- Vomit that resembles coffee grounds
- Noticing blood in your stool
- Heartburn and acid reflux
- Changes in weight or appetite
Call your doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms with or without drinking alcohol. If you think your ulcer is worsening, it is crucial that you talk to your doctor. If you have an ulcer and do not get it treated, the ulcer and your symptoms may worsen considerably.
Can You Drink If You Have an Ulcer?
Drinking alcohol with a stomach ulcer puts you at risk of making the ulcer last longer. When you drink, ulcers do not heal as quickly or as well as if you avoid alcohol. Your ulcer may even get worse or more painful because you are drinking.
To be safe and avoid painful symptoms, don’t drink alcohol if you have an ulcer. See a doctor, get treatment recommendations and wait for the ulcer to heal before consuming alcohol.
Heavy Drinking and Ulcers
When you drink alcohol heavily for a long time, you can damage your stomach significantly. Drinking heavily can harm the stomach lining, which is the membrane that lines your stomach. Some of the ways the stomach lining is harmed by excessive alcohol use include:
- Shrinking and atrophy
- Becoming inflamed
- Wounds in the lining
Chronic alcohol abuse can also harm the release of stomach acid which kills bacteria. Not having enough stomach acid can put you at risk for stomach infections, including from the main bacteria that cause ulcers. If you stop drinking alcohol, your stomach may begin to heal itself, although it may never return to normal, depending on the damage.
If you need help to stop drinking, consider enrolling in an alcohol detox program at a reputable rehab facility like The Recovery Village. In this program, you can cleanse your body of alcohol and begin healing from the damage alcohol has done to your body. Medical professionals can help ease your symptoms and help your ulcers heal, too, during treatment.
Light Drinking and Ulcers
Even small amounts of alcohol can harm your stomach. Drinks that relatively low alcohol content, like some beer and wines, may increase stomach acid production more than hard liquor. This extra acid coming into contact with your ulcer may make the ulcer more painful.
Because even occasional drinking can irritate your ulcers, it is recommended to abstain from drinking alcohol until your ulcers heal. However, avoiding alcohol doesn’t have to be sad or boring — these mocktail recipes fit right in at any social gathering or party and won’t worsen your ulcers.
Beer and Ulcers
Beer and other alcoholic drinks with less than five percent of alcohol can make ulcers worse. Drinking beer releases a chemical called gastrin, which causes your stomach to produce more acid. Doctors think that it is not only the alcohol in beer that causes this effect but also parts of the fermentation process of making beer.
Therefore, if you have an ulcer, drinking beer can make it worse because of the increase in acid and how beer is fermented. The acid will irritate the ulcer, making it harder for the ulcer to heal. Choosing a beverage other than beer can benefit your stomach and won’t harm your ulcer.
How to Prevent Ulcers If You Drink
Quite simply, the best way to stop ulcers from drinking is to cease alcohol use. If you have an ulcer, it is important to stop drinking so that the ulcer has time to heal without being irritated by alcohol.
Because there isn’t a way to prevent ulcers when you drink alcohol, avoiding alcohol altogether may be your only option for preventing the development of stomach ulcers. If you currently have ulcers and drink alcohol, your symptoms will likely worsen, along with the condition of the ulcer. Ceasing alcohol use can be done on your own or with the help of a medical detox team at a rehab facility like The Recovery Village.
If you are struggling with alcohol use and would like to quit, you do not have to go through the process alone. Our team at The Recovery Village is here to support you every step of the way as you work toward a healthier life. Contact us today and learn how we can help.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “Treatment for Peptic Ulcers.” Published November 2014. Accessed April 27, 2019.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “Symptoms & Causes of Peptic Ulcers (Stomach Ulcers).” November 2014. Accessed April 2019.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Peptic Ulcer.” Reviewed April 2, 2018. Accessed April 27, 2019.
Bode C, Bode J. “Alcohol’s Role in Gastrointestinal Tract Disorders.” Alcohol Health & Research World, published 1997. Accessed April 27, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Ulcers.” Reviewed September 15, 2017. Accessed April 27, 2019.