Is There a Connection Between Alcohol Use and Ulcers?

While the evidence is mixed, it is clear that the relationship between alcohol use and peptic ulcers is complex.

What’s the short answer? 

There’s little evidence to suggest that alcohol directly causes stomach ulcers. However, heavy alcohol consumption is considered a risk factor for developing stomach ulcers.

Drinking alcohol may make the symptoms of stomach ulcers worse. As such, it’s advisable to avoid alcohol if you have an ulcer.

What does the research say?

The research is conflicting.

2020 reviewTrusted Source notes that, although excessive alcohol consumption can increase your risk for some gastrointestinal diseases, there’s a lack of evidence to suggest that it can cause stomach ulcers.

Peptic ulcers, also called stomach ulcers, are sores that develop in the lower esophagus, stomach lining, or small intestine.

2018 review looked at the connection between lifestyle habits and peptic ulcer disease. It found that limiting alcohol use may reduce your chances of developing ulcers.

Excessive amounts of alcohol can irritate and weaken the stomach lining, which can cause inflammation. This is called gastritis. If left untreated, gastritis can causeTrusted Source peptic ulcers and other complications.

Inflammation can also irritate existing ulcers and prevent ulcers from healing.

What does this mean for people who already have stomach ulcers?

If you already have a stomach ulcer, it’s best to reduce your alcohol consumption — or, better yet, stop drinking altogether. Alcohol can prevent stomach ulcers from healing. It can also worsen the symptoms of stomach ulcers.

Excessive alcohol consumption might also increase your risk of bleeding ulcers, which can become very dangerous.

2000 studyTrusted Source looked at 26,518 Danish participants for an average of 13.4 years. It found that drinking more than 42 drinks per week increased the risk of a bleeding ulcer fourfold.

What does this mean for people at risk of developing stomach ulcers?

Although there’s conflicting evidence on whether alcohol can increase your risk of developing stomach ulcers, it’s always best to avoid excessive drinking.

Not only does excessive drinking cause other gastrointestinal issues, but it can also have other negative effects on the body.

Drinking up to one drink per day on averageTrusted Source is considered moderate for people assigned female at birth. An average of up to two drinks per day is considered moderate for people assigned male at birth.

Drinking more than one or two drinks each day — or more than 4 or 5 drinks in a single day — could be considered excessive.

Can alcohol use cause other gastrointestinal effects?

Research suggests that alcohol affects your stomach acid, damaging your stomach lining. This can lead to a range of gastrointestinal issues.

Alcohol use — especially excessive alcohol use — can cause:

If you’re concerned about how alcohol affects your digestive system (or your health in general), consider limiting your alcohol use. If eliminating alcohol feels like a big task, try to reduce your consumption bit by bit.

Other frequently asked questions

How long does it take for a stomach ulcer to heal?

With treatment, stomach ulcers typically heal in a month or two. Your ulcers may take longer to heal if you drink alcohol, eat spicy food, or use NSAIDs.

Can you drink alcohol after your stomach ulcers heal?

You should avoid drinking alcohol until your stomach ulcers heal. After they heal, you can continue drinking alcohol. However, it’s best to drink moderately to decrease your chances of developing ulcers again in the future.

What’s the worst alcohol option if you have a stomach ulcer or are at risk?

Any alcohol can irritate stomach ulcers, so it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether if you have them.

There’s no research on whether certain kinds of alcohol are worse or better for stomach ulcers — all alcohol can cause complications and worsen your symptoms.

What’s the best alcohol option if you have a stomach ulcer or are at risk?

The best option is to have no alcohol, but in lieu of that, have as little as possible. The volume of alcohol you drink can impact your stomach health, so if you’re going to drink, a small amount is best.

Can alcohol cause mouth ulcers?

Alcohol isn’t considered a cause of mouth ulcers. However, because alcohol is acidic, it may contribute to or trigger mouth ulcers.

Generally, mouth ulcers are caused by:

While your mouth ulcers heal, you might want to avoid alcohol and other acidic foods and beverages.

When should you consult with a doctor or other healthcare professional?

You should consult with a healthcare professional if you suspect you have a stomach ulcer. If your stomach ulcer is caused by a bacterial infection, it may be necessary to go on a course of antibiotics.

Your clinician might also suggest lifestyle changes to prevent worsening your symptoms.

If you have a stomach ulcer, get emergency help if you develop:

  • sudden, sharp abdominal pain
  • abdominal pain that worsens with movement but improves when lying still
  • hardness or stiffness in your abdomen
  • bloody vomit or feces
  • signs of shock, including confusion, fainting, or excessive sweating

The above symptoms could be signs of complications, including bleeding ulcers.

The bottom line

The research on whether alcohol can cause stomach ulcers is conflicting. Some sources suggest alcohol use can increase your risk of developing stomach ulcers because alcohol can irritate your stomach lining.

If you have a stomach ulcer, it’s imperative that you avoid drinking, or at least cut down on it as much as possible until it heals. If you find it difficult to cut down, consider reaching out for professional help.

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