Have you ever experienced stomach pain after knocking back a few drinks? You’re certainly not alone.
Drinking can take a toll on your stomach, especially with long-term or heavy use. And it’s not just about the amount of alcohol you consume, either. Health conditions, drug interactions, and other factors can play a role in the pain. But how can you pinpoint why your stomach hurts after drinking—and how can you stop it?
If you’ve ever wondered, “Why does my stomach hurt after drinking alcohol?” you’re in the right place. Whether your pain is frequent, rare, mild, or severe, read on to understand what’s happening in your body, and how to find relief.
Reasons Why Your Stomach Might Hurt After Drinking Alcohol
So, why might you get an upset stomach after drinking? Some common reasons include:
Nausea From Drinking Too Much
Nausea is an all-too-familiar side effect of drinking, and it’s one of the main ways that alcohol can cause an upset stomach. This is a common intoxication symptom, caused by the fact that alcohol can temporarily increase stomach acid and slow down stomach emptying.1
Along with nausea, these effects can also lead to acid reflux—a condition where stomach acid rises up into the esophagus and causes pain.
When your gut microbiome is healthy, it has an abundance of wellness-boosting bacteria. There are hundreds of species of these bacteria, whose job it is to create essential nutrients, boost digestion, support immunity, and more.2
Unfortunately, alcohol may harm the balance of the gut microbiome, break down the protective wall inside the intestines, and even contribute to leaky gut syndrome. It can also add to the growth of “bad” bacteria in your gut (the kinds that can worsen inflammation and digestive problems).
Drinking while taking prescription or over-the-counter medication can lead to interactions that harm many of the body’s systems—including the digestive tract. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, symptoms of these interactions that may impact the stomach include nausea and vomiting.3
Everyday medications like pain medication, antidepressants, and blood pressure medication can interact with alcohol. And sometimes, these interactions can be dangerous. For example, taking steroids or NSAIDs while drinking can increase your odds of stomach bleeding or ulcers.4 If you’re using any medication, be sure to check with your doctor to learn how it might interact with alcohol.
If you’ve ever felt like your stomach hurts after drinking, it may be due to alcoholic gastritis—aka alcohol-induced inflammation of the stomach lining.
When you drink, it can irritate your stomach’s mucous membrane and alter your levels of gastric acid—both of which can add to gastritis-related pain. This condition can be either acute or chronic, but it’s more likely to impact those with long-term, heavy drinking habits.
If you’re experiencing a burning or gnawing pain in your stomach, a peptic ulcer may be to blame. Ulcers are sores that develop in the stomach lining, usually caused by NSAIDs or specific bacteria in the gut. However, drinking can be a risk factor for developing these painful sores. And if you already have one, alcohol can hinder the healing process.
Schedule a private call with a Ria Health team member and we can help you get started.
How and Why Chronic Alcohol Use Harms Your Stomach
So now you know that chronic alcohol use can play a role in all types of stomach and GI issues. But why exactly does this happen?
When you drink, alcohol moves through your mouth, throat, and esophagus before it finally reaches the stomach. Your stomach reacts to certain drinks (like beer and wine) by boosting acid levels, which can sometimes cause discomfort and trigger heartburn.
Over time, chronic alcohol use can alter stomach acid secretion as a whole.5 Plus, drinking can weaken your stomach’s lining and interfere with the muscles that help you digest food—from your esophagus to your intestines.
As alcohol moves down to the intestines, it can start to break down the protective wall. On top of that, it can kill off healthy bacteria and promote the growth of harmful ones in the GI tract. In turn, this can lead to leaky gut syndrome, gastritis, lower nutrient absorption, and other symptoms of poor gut health.6
Alcohol has acute effects every time you drink it. But these effects can build up in the long run, potentially leading to chronic changes that harm the whole digestive system.
How To Cure Stomach Pain From Drinking Too Much
So, how can you reduce stomach pain after drinking? Aside from stopping your alcohol consumption for the time being, here are some tips that can help comfort and calm down an upset stomach:
- Eat small portions of easy-to-digest carbs. Foods like crackers and bread can bring some relief by soaking up stomach acid. Plus, they can increase your blood sugar if you’ve been feeling shaky after drinking.
- Try an antacid. An over-the-counter option like Tums can help soothe and neutralize the acid in your stomach.
- Avoid greasy, spicy foods. As much as you might crave an unhealthy meal the morning after drinking, these types of foods may just add to your digestive stress.
- Visit your doctor if your pain is long-lasting or disrupting your daily life. In addition, be on the lookout for other symptoms. Blood in stool, fever, yellowing skin and eyes, etc., can all be signs of more serious conditions that require immediate care.
Read more: Alcohol and Your Health
Curbing Alcohol’s Effects for Good
Reducing your alcohol use can make a world of difference in your stomach health—but it’s often easier said than done. The good news is that if you want to cut back, there are more ways than ever to get support—in some cases from the comfort of your own home.
Ria Health is one online program that connects you with medical professionals, recovery coaching, anti-craving prescriptions, and more to help shift your drinking habits. And you don’t have to identify as an alcoholic to sign up. Our program is shaped to your unique needs, whether that means helping you cut back or quit completely.