Those people who only drink in moderation are unlikely to have too many problems because of it. Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to all sorts of difficulties. It is a toxin that can damage almost every organ in the body. In particular, the digestive system can suffer as a consequence of overindulgence. One of the problems associated with such abuse is irritation of the stomach lining, which can increase the risk of ulceration. Excessive alcohol intake can also worsen the symptoms of an existing ulcer.

Ulcers Explained

Ulcers are a type of sore that can develop in the lining of the digestive tract, the tubing that runs from mouth down to the intestines. This type of ulcer is more properly referred to as a peptic ulcer. It was once believed that spicy food and stress were the main causes of ulcers, but this is not supported by evidence. Most ulcers are caused by infection or occur as an unwanted side-effect of certain medications.

Types of Peptic Ulcers

The different types of peptic ulcer are:

* Gastric ulcers, which appear in the stomach lining
* Esophageal ulcers, which appear in the long tube like structure that connects the stomach with the mouth
* Duodenal ulcers, which appear in a section of the small intestine known as the duodenum

Symptoms of Ulcers

The most common symptoms of ulcers include:

* Pain that wakes people up at night. This pain can appear anywhere from the navel up to the breastbone
* Heartburn
* Pain that is made worse by eating (likely to be a gastric ulcer)
* Changes to appetite
* Loss of weight with no obvious explanation
* Pain that improves after eating and drinking (likely to be a duodenal ulcer)
* Vomiting, especially when there is blood in the vomit
* Dark (and therefore bloody) stool
* A bloated feeling

If people experience the symptoms of ulcers, it is important that they speak to their doctor about it. In most cases, they will heal on their own, but sometimes ulcers can turn nasty and lead to complications.

Causes of Ulcers

The possible causes of ulcers include:
* A type of bacteria known as H. pylori can cause inflammation
* Excessive acid production in the stomach, which can sometimes be due to a cancerous tumor
* Excessive consumption of alcohol
* Certain medications such as pain killers, which cause inflammation in the intestine and the stomach
* A genetic predisposition to developing ulcers
* Excessive stress, which, while not directly related to ulcers, can exacerbate the symptoms and may increase the intensity of the pain that people experience
* Smoking cigarettes , which slows down the healing process; scientists are still not certain how this works, but it may be that cigarettes increase the amount of acid in the stomach.

Alcohol and Ulcers

Alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach if people drink excessively. This leads to inflammation and increases the risk of an ulcer developing. Drinking alcohol can also interfere with the healing process of ulcers that are already present, thus prolonging and exacerbating the symptoms. Moderate and occasional drinking should not lead to any problems with peptic ulcers.

Complications Associated with Peptic Ulcers

In many instances, ulcers will heal without causing too many problems. Occasionally, they can lead to more serious complications:

* The ulcer can cause a perforation through the wall of the stomach. This is dangerous because the content from the stomach can cause infection within the abdominal cavity.
* Ulcers can bleed. This can lead to anemia and the individual will feel weak and lacking in energy. Sometimes the loss of blood can be so severe that the individual will need an emergency blood transfusion.
* In some cases, an ulcer can cause an obstruction between the stomach and the small intestine. This occurs because the ulcers leave scarring.
* It seems probably that H. pylori infections like can increase the risk of developing cancer of the stomach.

Treatment for Ulcers

These are the most significant options available for the treatment of ulcers:

* Lifestyle changes are usually required so as to eliminate the cause of the ulcer. If people fail to make changes it will just mean that ulcers will return in the future. In most cases people will be advised to give up alcohol and smoking.
* If the ulcer is due to a H. pylori infection, treatment may involve antibiotics.
* Proton pump medications (PPI) can reduce the amount of acid that is being produced in the stomach. This will give peptic ulcers the chance to heal.
* If the ulcer has perforated, it will usually be necessary to perform surgery to repair the damage.
* Endoscopic surgery may be necessary to deal with any ulcers that are bleeding.

How to Avoid Peptic Ulcers

There are things that people can do to avoid peptic ulcers such as:

* Giving up alcohol or only drinking moderate amounts
* Giving up smoking
* Taking pain medication only as prescribed, bearing in mind that some drugs need to be taken with food, and others without
* Regularly washing the hands and taking care when preparing food, as this may reduce the risk of picking up a H. pylori infection