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Alcohol and Health

Can Alcohol Cause Acid Reflux?

August 3, 2023
7 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
August 3, 2023
7 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
August 3, 2023
7 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
August 3, 2023
7 min read
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Reframe Content Team
August 3, 2023
7 min read

It’s a cozy night at home. You’re curled up on the couch, catching up with your besties and enjoying a little wine with your gossip. Soon, though, an unwelcome, fiery sensation starts crawling up your throat. Ugh! It’s heartburn — again!

Could this unexpected bout of acid reflux be directly related to the alcohol you're sipping? It’s highly likely! Let’s unpack what’s going on in further detail.

Understanding Acid Reflux

Acid reflux, medically referred to as gastroesophageal reflux, is a condition characterized by the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus, leading to a range of discomforts such as heartburn, regurgitation, and even nausea.

While occasional acid reflux is a common response to specific triggers such as certain foods or stress, frequent episodes may suggest a more serious condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This chronic disorder can lead to more serious complications such esophageal stricture or even Barrett's esophagus if left untreated.

Alcohol and Acid Reflux: What's the Connection?

A substantial amount of research points towards a connection between alcohol consumption and acid reflux. Let's dissect how alcohol contributes to this condition:

  • Relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a muscle ring at the lower end of the esophagus that acts like a one-way valve, preventing stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus. Alcohol has been found to relax the LES, facilitating the backflow of acid and triggering reflux symptoms.
  • Stimulating stomach acid production. Alcohol can stimulate the production of stomach acid, an excess of which may find its way back to the esophagus, causing acid reflux.
  • Damaging the esophageal lining. Alcohol can weaken and damage the mucous lining of the esophagus, making it more susceptible to the corrosive effects of acid.

Choosing Our Drinks Wisely

While alcohol, in general, can contribute to acid reflux, it's important to note that not all alcoholic beverages are created equal in this context. Research suggests that beer and spirits are more likely to cause acid reflux than wine, owing to their higher alcohol content. However, it's also crucial to remember that individual reactions can vary significantly, so it's beneficial to observe and understand how different drinks affect you personally.

Furthermore, too much of any type of alcoholic beverage can trigger acid reflux symptoms and lead to other forms of digestive discomfort. Stick to healthy limits and avoid greasy foods prior to drinking, as these can exacerbate symptoms.

Managing and Preventing Alcohol-Induced Acid Reflux

Being mindful of our health doesn't mean we need to give up drinking entirely. Here are some proactive steps to manage and prevent acid reflux triggered by alcohol:

  • Choose moderation. Reducing the amount of alcohol consumed can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of acid reflux symptoms.
  • Understand personal triggers. Keeping a note of specific beverages that tend to trigger reflux symptoms can help avoid them in the future.
  • Time your drinks right. Waiting at least two to three hours after drinking alcohol before lying down can help prevent acid from flowing back into the esophagus.
  • Seek professional guidance. If you're frequently experiencing acid reflux, irrespective of alcohol consumption, seek the advice of a healthcare professional. They can help identify underlying issues and provide personalized treatment strategies.

The evidence strongly suggests a connection between alcohol and acid reflux symptoms. However, this link doesn't necessarily imply total abstention from alcoholic beverages. By comprehending our bodies' responses and moderating our consumption, we can continue to partake in social drinking while avoiding the unpleasant aftermath. It's all about striking a balance between enjoyment and health!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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