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Ulcers Caused by Smoking and Alcohol Abuse: What You Need to Know

Ulcers Caused by Smoking and Alcohol Abuse: What You Need to Know

Ulcers are usually caused by bacterial infections, as well as the long-term use of certain medications. However, ulcers also can be caused by smoking and alcohol abuse. In fact, peptic ulcer disease is closely associated with both these habits. But how exactly do they cause ulcers?

What are peptic ulcers?

Ulcers are sores or lesions that can be found in the gastrointestinal tract. This means that ulcers can develop in the esophagus, stomach, or small intestines.

Peptic ulcers are the most common form of ulcers. These are located in the stomach and the small intestine. Ulcers in the stomach are usually referred to as gastric ulcers while ulcers in the intestine are called duodenal ulcers. It is also possible for a person to have both types at the same time.

A bacterial infection known as H. pylori is the most common cause of peptic ulcers, but smoking and drinking alcohol can also increase a person’s risk of developing peptic ulcer disease.

Peptic Ulcer Disease – Everything You Need to Know

How are ulcers caused by smoking and alcohol abuse?

Studies have found that smokers are more likely to develop peptic ulcers. This is because smoking triggers the production of gastric acid, or the acid found in the stomach.

The stomach has a layer of mucus that prevents acid from deteriorating the stomach lining. Large amounts of gastric acid can wear away at this protective layer, allowing ulcers to form. Similarly, studies show that cigarette smoke reduces the pancreas’ ability to neutralize excess acids in the stomach. As a result, smokers are slow to recover from ulcers.

Another effect of smoking is that it can trigger acid reflux. Whenever a person experiences acid reflux, the acids in the stomach go up the esophagus. Over time, this can wear away at the esophagus, allowing ulcers to form.

Meanwhile, peptic ulcer disease and alcohol have an interesting connection. This is because small amounts of alcohol can actually prevent peptic ulcers by killing off the H. pylori bacteria before it can infect the gut. However, drinking too much alcohol can increase the acidity of the stomach. Just as with smoking, this can lead to inflammation and the development of peptic ulcers.

Drinking too much alcohol can also cause gastritis. When left untreated, it can cause peptic ulcer disease. Alcohol makes it difficult for people with ulcers to recover because it inhibits the stomach’s ability to heal.

What can you do about it?

Now that we know how ulcers are caused by smoking and alcohol abuse, here are some ways to make it easier to quit either of these habits:

Don’t quit cold turkey

Quitting smoking or drinking is not easy. Going cold turkey can sometimes make it even harder for you to quit, especially if you have been smoking or drinking for a long time. Don’t feel bad if you can’t give it up completely right away. Instead, gradually reduce the amount of cigarettes you smoke or drinks you consume over time.

Find a support group

Remember that you’re not alone in your struggle; a lot of people are also finding it difficult to quit smoking or drinking. One way to go about it would be to find a support group of like-minded people so that you can help each other attain a common goal.

Don’t be discouraged

Don’t lose hope if you relapse. It happens to everyone, and the important thing to remember is that you can still try again. Focus on your goals, and don’t berate yourself if you can’t quit those habits immediately.

Always remember that it’s for your health

Lastly, remember that you’re doing this for your health. Quitting smoking and drinking can have immediate positive effects on your body, and can significantly reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular issues, cancer, and a host of other health problems.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Effects of cigarette smoking on gastric ulcer formation and healing: possible mechanisms of action – PubMed, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9872502/, Accessed October 2, 2020

The role of smoking in peptic ulcer disease – PubMed, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3053883/, Accessed October 2, 2020

How Are Ulcers Formed from Drinking Alcohol?, https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcoholism-treatment/ulcers, Accessed October 2, 2020

Alcohol drinking and cigarette smoking: a “partner” for gastric ulceration – PubMed, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11195134/, Accessed October 2, 2020

Alcoholic Gastritis | Symptoms, Causes & Treatment Recommendations, https://www.alcohol.org/comorbid/gastritis/, Accessed October 2, 2020

Drink Away Those Ulcers? | Science | AAAS, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/1999/04/drink-away-those-ulcers, Accessed October 2, 2020

Smoking and The Digestive Tract | Gastrointestinal Society, https://badgut.org/information-centre/a-z-digestive-topics/smoking-and-the-digestive-tract/, Accessed October 2, 2020

Alcohol & Smoking | Smokefree, https://smokefree.gov/challenges-when-quitting/cravings-triggers/alcohol-smoking, Accessed October 2, 2020

Drinking, smoking, and quitting – Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Drinking_smoking_and_quitting, Accessed October 2, 2020


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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Oct 19, 2020
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel