Skip to main content

We use small files called cookies to help us improve your experience on this website and to provide services like web chat. We also use cookies to measure the effectiveness of public health campaigns and understand how people use the website.

Read our cookies policy to find out more about cookies and how we use them.

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:

  • gastritis
  • ulcers
  • reflux (heartburn)

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 the 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 doesn’t cause any symptoms.

If left untreated, gastritis can lead to stomach ulcers which can result in 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.

The main sign of oesophageal varices is blood in your vomit. See a GP straight away if you have this symptom.

page last reviewed: 08/11/2019
next review due: 08/11/2022

Alcohol service finder

Find alcohol support and treatment services in our area

HSE Drugs and Alcohol Helpline

Freephone 1800 459 459 for confidential information and support