Stomach pain alcohol withdrawal

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Stomach pain alcohol withdrawal 

Sometimes when going through alcohol detox, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, one of which is stomach pain. This happens because the alcohol stimulates your stomach to produce a high level of enzymes that are supposed to help with digestion. 

These extra enzymes become an irritant to the stomach lining and leads to stomach upset and problems such as heartburn, ulcers, gastritis, nausea, and an upset stomach. 

Alcohol use disorder erodes the stomach's mucous membrane and bloating may become a side effect of alcohol withdrawal as well. This is caused by what is known as "alcohol-induced hepatitis," making your stomach lining susceptible to intestinal issues. 

Abdominal swelling is another sign of severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome, and it could be a sign of acute gastritis as well. (We discuss this in detail below.) 

Acute gastritis, however, could also be because of taking too many nonsteroidal or anti-inflammatory addiction medicine such as ibuprofen and aspirin.

Additionally, this type of swelling could also be a residual result of heavy drinking it is a built-up of gas. 

The good news is that as the bloating disappears, while going through the alcohol and drug addiction treatment, you will most likely drop a few pounds. Definitely a silver lining! 

Does your stomach hurt when you quit drinking? 

Yes. The pain in your stomach when you stop drinking is a form of alcoholic gastritis and it is one of the many alcohol withdrawal symptoms that you will experience. 

However, the most common type of stomach problem during alcohol addiction detox is gastrointestinal distress, which is the first symptom likely to appear. It can also be the last one to leave.  

It will develop just a few hours after your last drink, and it is part of the alcohol withdrawal syndrome. You will experience severe nausea and abdominal cramping and pain.

This will make it difficult for you to drink or eat anything during the recovery process. 

What is alcohol gastritis? 

Alcohol gastritis is a form of stomach pain, and it is one of the many withdrawal symptoms you will experience as you go through the treatment for alcohol use disorder.

It occurs because of the alcohol damaging your stomach lining and can cause a wide variety of issues including vomiting and severe nausea. [1]

Alcohol induced gastritis may present immediately you stop consuming alcohol, or over time, and it tends to eat away at your body's digestive tract.  

Long-term alcohol dependence puts a strain on your body and may lead to acute gastritis, bacterial infections, bleeding, ulcers and discomfort. 

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be severe or mild, and this is a form of severe withdrawal of alcohol use disorder.  

Symptoms are usually managed in a residential clinic using tapered and supervised alcohol detox treatment.

What causes alcoholic gastritis? 

Your stomach, being part of the digestive tract produces powerful enzymes and acids that help in breaking down food and other substances.  

These also protect the rest of the body from potent compounds and there is a membrane that exists to help keep the process in the stomach. But, when this membrane is irritated, it causes gastritis. 

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are part of this irritation that leads to the condition.  

The longer the person suffers from alcohol use disorder, the more likely the alcohol gastritis symptoms tend to become permanent, and this can damage their digestive system. 

Types of gastritis 

When going through alcohol withdrawal symptoms, there are two main types of gastritis you are likely to develop: 

  • Acute alcohol gastritis 
  • Chronic alcohol gastritis 

Both of these causes severe pain and can destroy your stomach and digestive tract. Although one of them is more life threatening than the other one. 

Acute alcohol gastritis 

This refers to an alcohol withdrawal symptom that causes a sudden inflammation of your stomach lining.

It can present itself very quickly and painfully than the other kind and has a long list of severe symptoms that include: 

  • Ulcers 
  • Mild stomach upset 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Stomach irritability. 
  • Bloating 
  • Gas 
  • Haemorrhaging. 

Chronic alcohol gastritis 

This normally develops as a form of alcohol withdrawal, and it is a persistent condition that can cause the stomach lining to become inflamed for a long period of time. 

As a result, the stomach loses its protective function, and the acid affects stomach lining and as a result the stomach lining remains inflamed.

The symptoms can be mild or severe and they are less likely to be addressed as compared to the acute gastritis. 

They include: 

  • Feeling tired. 
  • Abdominal pain. 
  • Stomach irritation. 
  • A loss of appetite. 
  • Anaemia. 

Alcoholic gastritis risk factors

Excessive alcohol consumption that causes alcoholic gastritis symptoms to develop. 

You are at risk of this condition if you expose yourself to the following: 

  • Smoking excessively or using illicit drugs. 
  • Consuming diets that are high in oil, fats, saturated and trans fats and preservatives. 
  • Long-term alcohol consumption. 
  • Autoimmune conditions such as high blood pressure that weaken the body. 
  • A stressful lifestyle. 

Alcoholic gastritis complications 

As an alcohol withdrawal symptom, any development of acute or chronic gastritis should be handled with care, which is why we say that detox should be medically reviewed.

In fact, medical treatment options should be explored for all alcohol related problems. 

So, the gastritis, although a rare complication can have adverse implications on your health and if left untreated, you may end up with stomach ulcers and bleeding in your stomach, which is known as erosive gastritis. 

Erosive gastritis is characterized by; weakness, dizziness, black or tarred stools, shortness of breath, and blood in vomit and stool. 

In addition to this, if the gastritis is combined with other more severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as high blood pressure, delirium tremens, chronic gastritis, high body temperature, mental health disorders, excessive mood swings, etc., you are advised to seek other treatment programs that will help you through this as common symptoms can quickly turn fatal without treatment. 

Can alcohol withdrawal cause stomach cramps? 

Yes. Alcohol withdrawal can cause stomach cramps. This is because the stomach produces an acid that causes gastritis when you stop drinking.

This inflammation of your stomach lining triggers symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, , cramps and even bleeding. 

In addition, the alcohol withdrawal process can cause a condition called delirium tremens and high body temperature which when combined with the cramps can be quite unbearable and fatal. 

You may need medical emergency from treatment facilities when the following symptoms develop:  

  • Stomach cramps. 
  • Excessive weakness. 
  • Less endurance. 
  • Impaired recovery. 
  • Hallucinations. 

How long does alcohol gastritis last? 

It depends. The treatment of alcohol use disorder is unique to each person, and some may experience the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal longer than others.  

When you are addicted to alcohol, and have suffered for a long time, the symptoms are likely to take longer, than someone with moderate drinking problems. 

With time, the pain subsides and you are able to continue with the medically reviewed alcohol use addiction treatment with ease.  

The drinking effects can however be felt even one year after your detox programme is completed. This is because, the alcohol withdrawal timeline is also different for everyone. 

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What is causing stomach pain from alcohol? 

The pain from alcohol is as a result of the stomach lining losing the mucus membrane and opening itself up to the digestive enzymes and other stomach acids.

These are basically attacking your stomach as a result of severe withdrawal symptoms and the pain will subside with time. 

In most cases, the abdominal pain from the treatment of alcohol use disorder is a part of the treatment process, but then again, it could just be a simple common pain in your tummy. 

What are the dangers of stomach pain from alcohol? 

Stomach pain from alcohol as part of the alcohol withdrawal syndrome, is a more serious condition compared to just a normal stomach pain.  

According to research (1), when you do not treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as gastritis, you may expose yourself to the following dangers:

  • Excessive stomach pain. 
  • Polyps. 
  • Stomach ulcers. 
  • Cancerous tumours in your stomach. 
  • Stomach bleeding. 

An individual's alcohol withdrawal timeline can cause mild or severe symptoms.

This process should therefore be medically reviewed by a professional to ensure that you are going through the detox from too much alcohol with ease, without affecting your nervous system or causing an increased risk to your mental health. 

Is there a stomach pain after drinking alcohol cure? 

Well, yes. Technically, when a person drinks and then they stop drinking, their body tends to react through pain, and the simple cure to this pain is either to relapse, or persevere through the process, so you can completely beat the habit.  

Well, since you are trying to quit drinking, the only option would be to persevere, in just a few days, the pain will subside.  

Otherwise, if you are unable to get through the treatment and you relapse, so as to ease the symptoms, sooner rather than later, you will be back again trying to get through detox, and the pain will present itself once again. 

Persistent alcohol and drug use for an extended period will cause pain when the drugs or alcohol leaves your body, and because you have abused alcohol and other drugs, you should be able to understand that the process will not be easy, but with medical attention and other treatments, you can get through it. 

You are not alone, and many other people seeking treatment are also going through the same painful process, but according to peer reviewed studies, the key to a successful treatment is to persevere through the painful drinking affects and other symptoms for someone who tends to consume alcohol excessively. 

The first step towards Alcohol addiction treatment is detox, and this can help you through the stomach pains, but you will have to follow the treatment process, such as eating a healthy diet, and ensuring that you take medication for the alcohol withdrawal syndrome. 

Other symptoms of alcohol abuse 

A few hours after your last drink, you will suffer from a myriad of symptoms, although they are different for everyone. 

These are the most common types of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, other than gastritis: 

  • You may experience insomnia. 
  • You may suffer from blood pressure issues. 
  • You may experience shakes. 
  • You may have headaches. 

You may not know which of these symptoms will develop, and some can be quite fatal to your health and life. It is therefore highly advisable to seek medical treatment when going through the rehab process.  

All the best as you deal with stomach pain alcohol withdrawal. 

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

Last Updated: February 16, 2022

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Peter also co-authored the new 6th edition of Drugs In Use by Linda Dodds, writing Chapter 15 on Alcohol Related Liver Disease. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.