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How alcohol affects the stomach

Alcohol can increase the amount of acid in your stomach. This can irritate the lining of your stomach.

Drinking too much alcohol can cause:

Stomach problems can make you feel sick, vomit or lose your appetite.

If your stomach lining is inflamed, you might not absorb nutrients from food.


Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining. Alcohol can cause gastritis by irritating the lining of your stomach.

Gastritis can happen while you are drinking, causing pain and sickness.

Gastritis can also be a long-lasting condition.

Symptoms include:

  • tummy pain
  • heartburn
  • losing your appetite
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • vomiting (getting sick)

Sometimes gastritis does not cause any symptoms.

If you do not get treatment for gastritis you may get stomach ulcers. These can cause death.


Stomach ulcers are painful open sores in your stomach lining. Ulcers can make you feel sick or vomit.

Ulcers can also cause:

  • sweating
  • pain
  • loss of appetite

If you have an ulcer, alcohol can make it worse or slow down the healing process.


Acidic digestive juices in the stomach can come up into the oesophagus (gullet). This is called reflux. It can happen if you drink too much.

Reflux causes an uncomfortable burning sensation known as heartburn.

Oesophageal varices

Oesophageal varices are enlarged veins that bleed. They develop in the walls of the lower parts of the oesophagus. They're often caused by alcohol-related cirrhosis.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP straight away if:

  • you have blood in your vomit

This is the main sign of oesophageal varices.

Page last reviewed: 20 September 2022
Next review due: 20 September 2025