How Alcohol Can Trigger Acid Reflux - dummies

By Patricia Raymond, Michelle Beaver

Alcohol is a big troublemaker for those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). A fun night out with friends can quickly backfire in more ways than one. Not only can alcohol trigger reflux, but it can also damage an already sensitive esophagus.

Alcohol doesn’t have a high level of acidity. So if it’s not the acidity affecting your reflux, what is? It turns out that alcohol, in any form, can make it more difficult for your body to clear acid out of the esophagus. This is especially true when you lie down.

Most people with GERD have likely realized that reclining after a meal is a quick way to trigger heartburn, but they may not think twice about it after a few drinks.

Some people drink alcohol during the day, but the majority have their drinks at night. The practice is so common that we even have a term for it: the nightcap. Because alcohol can make you tired, it may seem natural to have a drink or two after a meal and then go to bed. But if you have reflux, a nightcap can turn into a nightmare.

Research has shown that any type of alcohol — beer, wine, or liquor — can lead to a night of tossing and turning. The heightened risk of reflux symptoms lasts longer than with food consumption. It’s not just a matter of staying upright and awake for two hours like after a regular meal.

Research has shown that consuming even a small amount of alcohol three hours before bedtime can still result in a night of heartburn.

How liquor is typically consumed can also increase the chances of a reflux flare-up. Many people, especially when they’re at a bar or restaurant, don’t drink straight liquor. Instead they’ll opt for a cocktail that combines alcohol with some other ingredients, such as juice or soda. And citrus and soda, of course, are reflux no-no’s.

Any type of alcohol can cause reflux, but most research indicates that wine and liquor are the most troublesome. That’s not to say that having a few beers means you’re in the clear. There is evidence that beer consumption still makes you significantly more likely to experience reflux than if you were just drinking water.