Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic medical condition that’s caused by the inability of the lower part of esophagus to function properly. As a result, the acid and contents from your stomach back up, repeatedly irritating the more delicate tissue of the esophagus. This results in a burning sensation in the chest (often called heartburn) and irritation of the esophagus.
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, more than 60 million Americans have heartburn and acid reflux symptoms at least once a month. But when acid reflux symptoms occur more than twice a week, it can lead to GERD.
When GERD is left untreated, it can cause ongoing conditions. These include abdominal pain, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, damage to the esophagus, and an increased risk of esophageal cancer.
Doctors have identified several risk factors for developing GERD. These include:
For some people, alcohol is also one of the contributing factors. While alcohol doesn’t cause acid reflux that leads to GERD in everyone, it’s possible that drinking could make GERD symptoms worse for some people.
Researchers have conducted several studies to determine which types of alcohol seem to aggravate symptoms more than others. Results have been inconclusive. It’s still unclear which alcoholic beverages may be better than others for individuals with GERD. Alcohol appears to interact with the stomach and esophagus on a variety of levels. This can lead to acid reflux and the irritation of GERD symptoms in certain people.
Research on wine
Research published in Gastroenterology found that drinking wine could reduce your risk for reflux esophagitis, or irritation of the esophageal lining. However, another review found that red and white wine both increase the amount of acid produced in your stomach. This puts you at risk for worsening reflux.
Research on beer
Another study examined the effects of beer and wine on acid reflux. This study asked 25 people with GERD to drink a serving of white wine, beer, or water and then measured if each drink increased reflux. The researchers found that both beer and wine triggered reflux in men and women compared to drinking water only.
While alcohol is a known contributing factor to acid reflux, it affects people differently. This means that you may be able to enjoy alcoholic beverages in moderation with GERD. Someone else with GERD may experience worsening symptoms of heartburn after drinking a small amount of alcohol.
There are some general tips that everyone with GERD can follow to lower their chances of feeling any alcohol-related reflux symptoms. These include the following:
- Limit yourself to just one drink. One drink serving is equivalent to a 12-ounce regular beer, 8-9 ounces of malt liquor, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or one 1.5-ounce pour of distilled liquor.
- Avoid drinking alcohol 2-3 hours before bed. Lying flat immediately after drinking can increase the risk that you’ll experience acid reflux at night. This is because alcohol can relax the lower part of the esophagus, making it easier for your stomach acid to back up.
- Keep a diet journal of all the foods and drinks you consume, noting when you experience more severe GERD symptoms. If you spot a pattern between drinking a certain alcoholic beverage and your symptoms, you may be able to cut back on that beverage to minimize your GERD symptoms.
You may also consider what you’re mixing with your alcoholic beverages. Some people may use orange juice or carbonated beverages as mixers for their liquor drinks. These nonalcoholic beverages are also known to aggravate acid reflux. Switching to a low-acid fruit juice like apple or carrot juice or mixing a drink with water may help reduce your GERD symptoms. Here are some examples of other drink options if you have acid reflux.
Some people also smoke cigarettes while drinking. Tobacco use is linked to acid reflux and the development of GERD. This is because tobacco can stimulate stomach acid and cause the muscles between the esophagus and stomach to relax. Tobacco can also directly damage cells of the esophagus and stomach. When combined with alcohol, it’s easier for cancer-causing substances from smoking to enter these cells. This combination, along with untreated GERD, further increases the risk of cancer of the esophagus.
Certain foods and drinks, including alcohol, have been linked with increased acid reflux and the development of GERD. These include:
- caffeinated beverages
- greasy or high-fat foods
- tomato-based products
- spicy foods
While there are some well-known foods and drinks that trigger acid reflux, your symptoms may be unique. You might be able to eat a bowl of spaghetti with no problems, yet a glass of wine causes you to experience intense discomfort. Knowing what triggers your acid reflux is an important part of helping you find relief from your symptoms. Try these foods that may help your acid reflux.
GERD is a chronic condition that causes uncomfortable and even painful symptoms. It can be aggravated by certain foods and drinks in your diet. One known contributor is alcohol, but it doesn’t affect everyone the same way. Some research has shown that alcohol reduces acid reflux symptoms while other research has found it heightens them. By identifying your individual triggers for acid reflux, you can choose if you would prefer to avoid wine, beer, or liquor as a way to reduce your acid reflux symptoms and decrease your likelihood of GERD.