Alcohol and Gastrointestinal Problems

- What gastrointestinal problems relating to Alcohol use can be found?

• Answer: In considering the diseases and physical conditions that can result from this addictive drug, let us look initially at the part of the body where alcohol first exerts its effects—on the stomach and intestines.

Alcohol is an important cause of a number of gastrointestinal maladies.

Cirrhosis of the liver ranks among the ten leading causes of death in this country.

Many are not aware that nearly 25,000 Americans die each year from liver cirrhosis and other chronic liver diseases.

Esophageal varices are large veins that form in the esophagus (swallowing tube), usually due to cirrhosis of the liver. These veins may bleed profusely and even cause sudden death if they rupture.

Alcoholic hepatitis, another debilitating liver condition, can be caused by alcohol without any exposure to hepatitis-causing viruses.

Alcohol is also the most common cause of pancreatitis, accounting for approximately 65 percent of the cases of this very painful condition.

Pancreatitis involves inflammation of the pancreas, and is associated with symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Invariably, an individual with pancreatitis must be hospitalized. It is not uncommon for such a hospitalization to last a number of weeks, with part of that time in the intensive care unit.

If the drinking habit continues, the person can progress from acute attacks of pancreatitis to chronic pancreatitis.

The latter condition can result in a very painful existence, and often requires continual pain medications.

The individual can even develop diabetes if the alcohol-induced process destroys so much of the pancreas that it is unable to secrete enough insulin.

Alcohol may also cause stomach inflammation called gastritis.

This condition can become so severe that the individual develops stomach bleeding.

Even moderate alcohol ingestion can be a factor that tips the balance in favor of gastritis in a susceptible person.

Alcohol is one of the most damaging substances to the stomach’s mucus layer. This layer provides the stomach with vital protection from its own acid environment.

Whereas gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining, ulcers represent sores in the stomach lining.

Heavy alcohol intake appears to increase the risk of ulcer recurrence.

Giant ulcers can eat deep into the stomach wall and erode into an artery, causing profuse and life-threatening bleeding.

Even in moderate drinkers, the use of alcohol weakens the defenses of the stomach, and increases the risk for both gastritis and ulcers.

As an internist that has a dedicated interest in gastroenterology and gastrointestinal endoscopy, Dr.Neil Nedley see the aforementioned conditions caused by alcohol on a daily basis, and often many times a day.

One of the most common discharge instructions that he must give to his gastroenterology patients is “No alcohol.”

Source: Proof Positive: How to Reliably Combat Disease and Achieve Optimal Health through Nutrition and Lifestyle

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