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Does alcohol give you heartburn? In a word — yes. Here's what you need to know about drinking alcohol if you often get acid reflux.

Heartburn is a real pest. Nearly everyone suffers from it once in a blue moon — and if that's you, you can certainly simply pop an antacid and be done with it. 

People who are frequently plagued by acid reflux, however, are better off re-examining their lifestyle and seeing what adjustments they can make to reduce episodes of heartburn. If you suffer from heartburn twice a week of more often, you may even be dealing with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the chronic form of acid reflux. 

The fact that acid reflux most frequently strikes after eating or drinking something suggests that some foods trigger heartburn [1]. Food is a natural heartburn remedy when you often get heartburn — and you need to pick and choose what foods and beverages pass your lips very carefully. 

So, what's the deal with heartburn and alcohol? Is drinking safe on an acid reflux diet, or should you really be a teetotaler? 

Booze In General: How Much Is Too Much?

Before we examine what impact alcohol has on acid reflux, let's take a look at alcohol in general. Responsible drinkers of both genders consume no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. Rather than saving those units up for the weekend and downing them all at once, they spread their drinks out over several days. You are also best off consuming your alcohol slowly, alternating drinks with glasses of water, and drinking alcohol with meals. [2]

Those "units" don't simply refer to "drinks" — a unit is 10 ml of pure alcohol.  To give you an idea of what this actually represents in real terms:

  • A small glass of wine contains 1.5 units of alcohol
  • A can of beer tends to contain 2 units of alcohol
  • A single shot of spirits like whiskey or vodka contains a single unit [3]

Heartburn And Alcohol: Not A Match Made In Heaven

Have you noticed that you're especially likely to end up with heartburn after a night of boozing? It's not a coincidence. Research shows that alcohol triggers heartburn in healthy individuals without a GERD diagnosis [4, 5]. What's more, you are especially likely to end up with heartburn if you drink after your evening meal and shortly before going to bed. You don't even need to get drunk to end up with acid reflux — a few shots of liquor will do the trick just fine [6]. 

What if you are suffering from GERD and would like to follow an acid reflux diet? Is drinking safe on an acid reflux diet? In short, no.  Alcohol increases the production of stomach acid, relaxes the esophageal sphincter, and even makes it harder for the acid to be cleared from your esophagus. [7, 8

Frequent drinkers with GERD are also more likely to be symptomatic than teetotalers with GERD, and if you don't already have GERD, there's even a chance that you'll develop it — and its associated frequent episodes of heartburn — if you are a heavy drinker [9]. 

Alcohol and heartburn are, in short, pretty much best buddies. That's bad news for you if you want to avoid acid reflux. 

I'm Going To Drink Anyway: What Are My Best Options If I Want To Avoid Heartburn?

Drinking alcohol is quite a big part of the human experience for many people. People with frequent episodes of heartburn are likewise advised to avoid tomatoes, chocolate, peppermint, spicy foods, fatty foods, tea, coffee, and carbonated beverages [10], and if drinking plays an important role in your social life, you might just have an easier time with those. 

Those people who often suffer from heartburn and want to keep on consuming alcohol should keep in mind that:

  • The more you drink, the more likely you are to suffer from frequent heartburn and to end up with GERD if you don't already have it [11]. 
  • While all kinds of alcohol can trigger heartburn [12], it may be good to pay attention to the types of alcohol that appear to cause heartburn for you. If you seem to tolerate wine better than beer, then choose to drink wine when you drink. 
  • Don't drink after your evening meal or right before going to bed [6]. 

The Bottom Line: Drinking Is Not Safe On An Acid Reflux Diet

You can get heartburn from drinking alcohol. Drinking frequently is likely to make your symptoms worse if you have GERD, and you may even develop GERD as a result of frequent drinking. We would advise people who want to get rid of heartburn fast and permanently to limit their alcohol intake, or to cease drinking alcohol altogether. 

Cutting down on drinking is only one part of a good acid reflux diet, however. Your other questions may include:

We would advise you to seek medical help for your frequent heartburn, but you can also implement positive lifestyle changes that help you find relief from heartburn yourself. Besides avoiding the most common foods that trigger heartburn, which are tomatoes, peppermint, chocolate, coffee, spicy foods, fatty foods, carbonated beverages, and alcohol, you should also consider what to do instead. Eating a diet rich in fiber and polyunsaturated fats, chewing gum for half an hour after every meal, and eating smaller meals more often rather than three big meals a day, can all reduce your episodes of acid reflux. 

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