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DR FLO: Role of alcohol in gout and stomach pain



Discomfort on the abdomen is most likely due to gastritis, triggered by alcohol intake.

Dr Flo, I am 23 years old. For the past two months I have been drinking more than I was before. I have developed pressure inside my left side just below the rib and the middle of the waist. It’s uncomfortable but not painful. What could it be? Wolf

The discomfort on the left side and abdomen is most likely due to gastritis, triggered by alcohol intake.

Gastritis means the lining of your stomach is inflamed or irritated, due to excess stomach acid or imbalance of some digestive enzymes.

When this goes on for some time, it can lead to formation of an ulcer, which is an open wound on the lining of the stomach, the lower part of the oesophagus or the duodenum (first part of the small intestines).

The discomfort may come when hungry, or just after eating, or it may be worse at night. You may also experience pain, heartburn, a lot of gas in the stomach, nausea or vomiting, constipation, or occasional diarrhoea.

If the excess acid is coming back up the food pipe, it can cause throat irritation and pain, cough and a bitter taste in the mouth. If the ulcer is severe, you may have blood in the vomit, dark-coloured stool, weight loss and severe pain.

Most times, gastritis goes away on its own, or with medication. The symptoms usually come back from time to time, especially when triggered e.g. by taking some painkillers, binge drinking, staying hungry, or taking particular foods.

To manage it, stop taking alcohol, or if you must, make sure you eat well before drinking; take water constantly and avoid taking more than four units of alcohol.

There are medications to manage the symptoms, including proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole; sucralfate and antacid syrups.

Dr Flo, I recently visited a doctor because I was suffering from joint pain. After a uric acid test, I was diagnosed with gout. What causes it and what kind of consequences am I faced with? Alnashir

Dear Alnashir,
Gout occurs when there is accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints or tendons. Uric acid is produced when the body breaks down purines, which are a part of some foods.

Uric acid builds up if a lot of it is produced and the body is unable to handle it as it should. The excess builds up and is deposited in joints, causing inflammation. Most times, the pain develops very quickly, maybe overnight, and the affected joint is warm, swollen and red.

The most common joint that is affected is at the base of the big toe. Other joints can also be affected e.g. ankles, knees, wrists, fingers or elbows. The pain is severe for several hours or days, then it starts to subside. There are usually repeat attacks later on.

There is a higher risk of developing gout if someone in your family has it, or if you are a man or a menopausal woman, and if you are older in age.

Other risk factors include obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, kidney disease and hypertension. Some medications also increase the risk of getting gout.

There are medications to reduce uric acid levels and medication to reduce the pain and inflammation. You may be advised to take the uric acid lowering medication for a long time.

To prevent gout attacks, take a lot of fluids, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, take a balanced diet with a lot of vegetables and dairy products, minimise foods with high purine content like meat, sea food and organ meats (like liver and kidneys), reduce alcohol intake, avoid sugary drinks and snacks and stop smoking.