The Effect of Alcohol on Gastrointestinal Motility

Rev Recent Clin Trials. 2016;11(3):191-5. doi: 10.2174/1574887111666160815103251.


The Gastrointestinal (GI) tract is one of the most affected systems by alcohol consumption. Alcohol can affect the esophagus in several ways: induces mucosal inflammation, increases the risk for Barrett esophagus and esophageal cancer, and also impairs the esophageal motility. Numerous studies have reported an increased prevalence of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or erosive esophagitis in alcoholics. Some alcoholics exhibit an abnormality of esophageal motility known as a "nutcracker esophagus". Alcohol effect on gastric motility depends on the alcohol concentration. In general, beverages with high alcohol concentrations (i.e., above 15 percent) appear to inhibit gastric motility and low alcohol doses (wine and beer) accelerate gastric emptying. Also, acute administration of ethanol inhibits the gastric emptying, while chronic administration of a large dose of alcohol accelerates gastric motility. The effect of alcohol on small bowel motility differs according to the type of consumption (acute or chronic). Acute administration of alcohol has been found to inhibit small bowel transit and chronic administration of a large dose of alcohol accelerates small bowel transit. This article reviews some of the below findings.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholic Beverages*
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / drug effects*
  • Humans


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol