Drinking a cold beer after a hard day at work or play is a time-honored way to relax and quench your thirst. For some people, however, drinking a beer can be far from refreshing or relaxing when stomach pain occurs. The stomach pain can be due to a number of issues, particularly alcohol intolerance, allergies or a stomach or digestive disorder. Drinking excessive amounts of beer can also damage your stomach over time. If you consistently experience stomach pain after drinking beer, particularly if it's only one or two beers, seek help from a qualified health practitioner.
The alcohol in beer increases the level of acid in your stomach. This can lead to stomach pain, as well as other digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and even bleeding in those who drink a lot. Over time, drinking a lot of beer can cause several digestive problems, says Dr. Kieran Moriarty, consultant gastroenterologist and spokesman for the British Society of Gastroenterology. The problems include acid reflux, stomach ulcers and even cancer of the stomach, pancreas and colon. All of these problems may have stomach or abdominal pain as a symptom.
Alcohol intolerance is a genetic condition that occurs when your body doesn't have the proper enzyme -- acetaldehyde dehydrogenase 2 -- to break down alcohol. This can result in stomach pain as well as nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms can include headache, facial redness, hives and a runny or stuffy nose. Although the latter symptoms resemble an allergic reaction, alcohol intolerance is not an allergy. Alcohol intolerance is common in Asian people, with approximately 50 percent of the Chinese, Japanese and Korean population lacking the proper enzyme to breakdown alcohol. Alcohol intolerance is not exclusive to beer, and a reaction will occur with any type of alcohol.
Beer is made with a variety of different ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction. Stomach pain is one possible symptom, along with nausea and diarrhea. Allergy symptoms, such as hives, itchy skin, mouth numbness and a tingly sensation around the mouth, may also occur. Beer contains a variety of substances that can cause an allergic reaction. Some common ones include yeast, hops, barley, rye, sulfites, egg and shellfish proteins, gluten and wheat. Tests have to be run to determine the exact cause of an allergy. An actual allergy to alcohol itself is rare.
Drinking beer can exacerbate pre-existing digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends avoiding any type of alcohol if you suffer from IBS, as it may lead to cramping, diarrhea and nausea. Stomach pain after drinking beer may be the first sign of a digestive disorder. Other digestive disorders, such as Crohn's disease, gastritis and ulcerative colitis, may also be exacerbated by drinking beer.