The Effects of Drinking Alcohol on Your Digestive System

The Effects of Drinking Alcohol on Your Digestive System

Alcohol can adversely impact your stomach and digestive system after consuming it. You may notice symptoms such as pain, bloating, or discomfort in your stomach. These symptoms, especially when they persist, can be indicators of something more serious as a result of drinking alcohol.

The digestive system, which includes the mouth, throat, stomach, liver, and both intestines, works hard to process alcohol. A healthy digestive system will process food and its nutrients properly to use within the body, as well as remove and counterbalance harmful bacteria and substances, to effectively eliminate them from the body. When alcohol is introduced to the digestive system, it will work on processing the alcohol before the essential nutrients. Alcoholic beverages are seen as a threat to the digestive system, and when drunk in excess increases the risk of more serious medical conditions related to the body organs within it.

When alcohol mixes with the saliva in your mouth, it changes into acetaldehyde, a potential carcinogen, damaging soft tissues in both the mouth and throat. The liver is designed to remove toxins from the body and will also change alcohol into acetaldehyde, which can damage cells, cause inflammation, create irritation, and cause fatty liver disease to develop. As the alcohol moves into the esophagus, which connects the throat and stomach, the cells in this area can become irritated causing lesions and acid reflux. Alcohol then sits in the stomach where it begins to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Here alcohol will negatively impact the functioning of the stomach, thus causing pain and damage to the stomach wall lining, and affecting the production of the proper stomach acids. This can leave harmful bacteria in the stomach, allowing it to enter into the small intestine. The small and large intestines are the body’s last steps in processing food and nutrients in the digestive system. Alcohol reaches the large intestine through absorption from the bloodstream, thus causing damage.

Alcohol adversely impacts the digestive system in many ways. An upset stomach and bloating in the abdomen are common symptoms, but there are other symptoms that people may experience as well. When the lining of the stomach becomes irritated and inflamed, a person can develop acute or chronic gastritis. Gastritis can cause loss of appetite, stomach pain, and nausea and vomiting. These symptoms could then culminate in the creation of ulcers. Ulcers, which are open sores, can be found in the stomach lining, esophagus, and small intestine from excessive alcohol use. Stomach ulcers in particular can cause pain, a burning sensation, or bloating. Bloating and gastritis can last for days to weeks, depending upon the amount and frequency of alcohol consumed. Esophageal veins can become enlarged and start to bleed indicating a sign of cirrhosis. These veins form when the blood flow is blocked to the liver by a clot or scar tissue, redirecting blood flow to smaller veins not designed to carry the larger volume of blood. The pressure that this larger volume of blood flow creates on the veins can cause them to become damaged and possibly even bleed or rupture, creating a life threatening situation. As previously mentioned, since the body converts alcohol into a carcinogen, it can increase the incidence of developing cancer in the esophagus, throat, liver, and colon.

Excessive consumption can cause serious medical conditions beyond stomach discomfort such as oral, colon, and rectal cancer, and liver hepatitis or cirrhosis. Taking steps to reduce the consumption of alcohol can help to manage gastritis and stomach bloating, as well as give the body time to heal from the inflammation that consumption can cause, allowing the digestive system to function more efficiently.