Eating, as we all know, is considered one of the essential processes ought for living and health, not only for us human beings but generally for all living organisms, unlike drinking alcohol. Although eating is a core process of survival helping us, our body tissues and organs to function, did you know that occasionally this fundamental process may cause of some discomfort, pain, or distress, especially when the food isn’t digested properly? Especially when alcohol in your stomach and when you do not neutralize the effect by an adequate amount of food and water. But, can alcohol cause upper abdominal pain?

For some, it’s a common experience make them often ask the question; ‘what causes me this pain, which I regularly feel in my stomach after drinking, eating, or when I delay or missed a meal?’. Medically speaking, such a pain in the upper abdomen above the belly button is called epigastric pain.

But, what is epigastric pain? Let’s find out, before digging into the role of alcohol in causing stomach pain.

Written by Shani Liyanage, an Australia-base Registered Healthcare Practitioner with a Masters qualification from the University of Newcastle (Australia) and with decades of hands-on experience working for hospitals and in aged-care.


What is Epigastric Pain, Upper Abdominal Pain or Stomach Pain?

Epigastric pain can be explained as the pain you may daily or occasionally feel in your stomach area, mainly in the area between the underneath of the rib-section, and the subcostal region around the umbilical (belly button). As noted, this area is known as the epigastric region or the epigastrium by the health profession.

What is Epigastric or Upper Abdominal Region?

The picture shows the epigastric region.

Epigastric region

The pain shown through its various symptoms might be mild in some cases, or inversely severe, depending on the particular cause.

To enable you to know when they occur, and subsequently in need of immediate attention. While some causes of epigastric pain can be due to a simple reason resulting in regular bloating, and thereby harmless, some other reasons even can medical emergencies.

Again, its all depends on pain severity, pain association and overall your health at the time of the pain.

Tip: Upper back pain radiating to upper abdomen or chest can be due to heart attack too.

We shall examine the various symptoms and causes below.

Symptoms – How Epigastric Pain Feels Like?

  1. You may occasionally experience a situation of heartburn.
  2. You might often become bloated, that is the swollen state of the abdomen.
  3. You also could feel ‘gasy’, that is, regular bumps of gas which goes out either as farts, or sometimes upwards, reaching your mouth, which might come as a result of the bloating, or just it.

Let us in accordance with this, now examine the various possible causes of epigastric pain.

What are the Causes of Upper Abdominal Pain?

  • Indigestion

This is a term, used in the description of a regular occurrence in most people after eating some kinds of meals that are not in conformity with your body, an example is eating foods which take you too long to digest. Indigestion is also common among people with gastritis and reflux disease (GORD).

  • Excessive alcohol intake

People often tend to get accustomed to the unique taste of some alcoholic brands. Well, don’t get me wrong, you take a few occasional ‘shots’ of wine isn’t all bad, but it becomes a problem in cases of regular and heavy drinker who abused his/her body with alcohol.

In other words, in addition to all the harm alcohol does to our body, taking such substances (including alcohol), can enlarge your upper abdomen and result in recurring pain. This is a common symptom of people fighting with alcohol-related diseases of liver and spleen.

  • Overeating

There is often the tendency to keep on eating, especially when you are addicted to enjoying meals or if you have a couple of ‘unhealthy’ food which are your favourite.

Some food is simply too sweet or oily, so it is pivotal to know the amount when you have taken in is quite enough, because the further consumption of such meals may cause expansion of the gut and the abdomen. This, in turn, can result in uneasy breathing, as there is an insufficient environment for the expansion and contraction of the lung, eventually causing epigastric pain too.

In this case, there might also be a pain due to the amount of stress exerted on surrounding organs by a large amount of consumed food in the stomach.

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Tip: Did you know a Knee Pillow can help you relieve most of the body aches?

  • Acid reflux and GERD

Acid reflux refers to the upper digestive tract problem caused when the stomach acid, which aids digestion, moves in an upward direction back to the esophagus. This pain is commonly mixed diagnosed as chest-pain, and the pain can even felt at the throat.

GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux. The disease can result in acid reflux, which in some cases can cause damage to the entire upper ‘food pipe’ by acid.

  • Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, it is a little common to experience epigastric pain, as a result of the stress on the upper abdomen by the expanding womb. Commonly, the symptom is caused by the growing fetus, or by acid reflux or gastritis. Also, different alterations in the hormonal level in this period could catalyze or trigger acid reflux.

  • Peptic ulcer

This is a disease caused by damage of the stomach lining, or the small-intestine, by a bacterial infection. A particular drug or group of drugs intake can result in peptic ulcers too.

  • Inflammation of internal linings of the stomach

Epigastric pain could also be caused by the inflammation of the stomach lining, called gastritis. This pain can also result in the inflammation of the small intestine, and esophagus (e.g. esophagitis).

Tip: Remember, appendicitis pain usually starts in the middle of the abdomen then radiate and get settled at the lower right abdomen.

Can Alcohol Cause Upper Abdominal Pain or Stomach Pain?

Yes, alcohol can cause stomach pain, as noted above.

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Now we have gone through the list of possible causes of this disturbing epigastric pain, which is very important for diagnosis.

Ones your doctor made the diagnosis, in other words, the exact disease or medical condition resulting in your epigastric pain, accordingly he/she will prepare a treatment plan.

Let’s look at the treatment options more in detail now.

Treatments for Upper Abdominal Pain

Remember, as noted above, the treatment for epigastric pain depends on the cause of the pain or your doctors’ diagnosis.

For example,

  • If the pain caused by indigestion

In cases the pain caused by indigestion, it is advisable you eat more lean foods or those that keep you filled with little portions. Reducing the intake of meals that take you longer periods to digest would also likely to be your new lifestyle.

  • If the pain associated with alcohol intake

You should try to limit alcohol intake, regardless if you experience epigastric pain, directly due to alcohol or due to another reason. The doctor may advise if taking alcohol portions that are relatively at ‘moderate amounts’ would be acceptable.

  • If you are pregnant

Pregnant women experiencing this pain should often receive counselling from their gynaecologist, especially if you seem to be experiencing continuous pain, which lasts for an extended period at each episode.

  • If the pain is a side effect of a drug

If after the introduction of a medication you experience such pain, you should put a pause to taking those drugs, and revisit your doctor or pharmacist, to ascertain whether the drugs are the primary cause of the pain, and then possible substitutes.

  • If you are diagnosed with peptic ulcer, gastritis or GERD

In severe and highly discomforting cases related to stomach or esophageal conditions, a quick and immediate visit to your doctor is required to verify the true cause, for instance, if it is as a cause of GERD.

Generally speaking, most periodic incidents of epigastric pain could be handled by one changing certain patterns and habits, or basically limiting them. However, in cases where epigastric pains result in nausea, coughing out blood, or bloody stool, it is important to be treated with urgency by visiting a doctor as quickly as possible.

Most importantly you should try to understand your body well, as to its response to the types of foods you consume, and the drinks you take. Always check the details of a drug’s possible side effects before taking it.

Generally, it is also important that you always try to monitor various practices in association with your body, as bearing in mind that your health is of paramount importance. By limiting bad habits, encouraging good eating and drinking habits, regular exercise and with quick visits to your doctor for check-ups, you should able to easily manage epigastric pain well. Overall, such an attitude towards your health should improve your overall health, resulting in a total state of well being.


  • Epigastric pain is discomfort, or pain felt in the epigastrium, the region between the underneath of the ribs, and the umbilical region.
  • Common symptoms are nausea, bloating, burping, gas and heartburn.
  • Common causes are acid-reflux, indigestion, excessive alcohol intake, peptic ulcer, over-eating, gastritis, esophagitis and pregnancy.
  • Remedies include maintaining a good, moderate and healthy level of food intakes, of generally all substances both liquid and solids.
  • Visiting your doctor promptly, in cases of severe pain and symptoms will make a huge difference in your long-term approach to keeping the pain underwater.


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