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December 2011
Alcohol and the Gastric Lining
Dr.Shravan Bohra, Dr.Arun Prasad
You love your drink, and you can hold it too. That’s nice. But the situation no longer remains nice when your drink starts playing havoc on the tissues of your mouth, your food pipe, your stomach and your intestines.
You see, when alcohol comes in direct contact with the mucus membrane lining the stomach,it irritates the lining and inflames it – a condition called Gastritis.

Low to moderate quantities of alcohol initiate the secretion of large amounts of stomach juices (hydrochloric acid and the enzyme pepsin), which then begin digesting proteins. On the other hand, alcohol in higher quantities inhibits stomach juice secretions.

Complications of chronic alcohol intake

Gastric mucosal injury
  • Characterized by the formation of bleeding gastric lesions which may destroy parts of the mucosa
  • A single bout of heavy drinking can spark off inflammation of the gastric lining
Damaged stomach muscles
  • Decreased ability of stomach muscles to contract smoothly
  • Chronic alcohol intake may cause increase in propulsive contractions often leading to diarrhea
Impaired intestinal motility (speed at which food passes through the stomach)
  • Delayed emptying of stomach
  • Leads to bacterial degradation of food; production of gas in the stomach
  • Feeling of fullness; abdominal discomfort
  • Loss of appetite
  • Possible malnutrition
  • Ulcer formation on mucous membrane cells

One Unit of Alcohol
  • One unit of alcohol is 10 millilitres (ml) or eight grams (g) of pure alcohol.
  • One unit is equal to a measure of spirits that is whiskey, vodka, etc. (30 ml), half a pint of beer whether lager or cider (250 ml), or a small glass of wine (125 ml).
Drink wisely
  • Do not drink more than three units of alcohol in a single day on a regular basis (no more than 21 units in a week at the higher end).
  • After an episode of heavy drinking, it is advisable to stop drinking for 48 hours to allow your body to recover.

Dr.Shravan Bohra Cheif ConsultantGastroenterology/heptology(Medical) Apollo Hospitals Ahmedabad,

Dr.Arun Prasad Senior Consultant Surgeon Minimal Access,Apollo Hospital New Delhi

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