Put simply, alcohol irritates your digestive system. Drinking – even a little – makes your stomach produce more acid than usual, which can in turn cause gastritis (the inflammation of the stomach lining).
This triggers stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in heavy drinkers, even bleeding. Find out more about how alcohol can cause harm to your liver and affect your bladder.
Effects of drinking too much alcohol
“In the longer term, alcohol is associated with an increased risk of cancer of the mouth, tongue, lip, throat, stomach, pancreas and colon,” says Dr Moriarty. “Other digestive problems caused by drinking too much include acid reflux – where stomach acid burns your throat. Alcohol can also contribute to developing a peptic ulcer – a painful, open sore in your stomach lining.”
Dr Moriarty points out that vomiting, especially if you’re very drunk and not in control, carries its own risks.
“If you’re close to unconsciousness and are sick, you can breathe vomit into your lungs, and not be able to cough it back up. This can lead to death,” he says. “Violent vomiting can tear your throat too, meaning you can vomit blood. Usually, this settles on its own, but occasionally bleeding can be severe and life-threatening.”
Drinking can also make it more difficult to digest food and absorb vital nutrients, particularly proteins and vitamins.1 That’s because alcohol reduces the amount of digestive enzymes which the pancreas produces to help us to break down the fats and carbohydrates we eat.1
People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may find their symptoms get worse if they drink alcohol. Drinking to excess can cause symptoms that mirror IBS (stomach pain or diarrohoea).2
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