To Drink or Not to Drink: Alcohol and GERD

It’s 5:00 p.m. on a Friday, and your coworker invites you to an office happy hour at the local bar.

 

Or maybe you’re at a wedding, and a server approaches you with a tray of glasses filled with champagne.

 

Both of these situations may give you pause or leave you feeling conflicted if you suffer from GERD or acid reflux. Even if your doctor has told you to stay away from alcohol, it’s easier to go against that advice unless you understand the reasoning behind it and how it brings about GERD or acid reflux symptoms.

 

Keep reading to see how alcohol brings about symptoms and advice on managing and minimizing them.

 

Let’s dive in, shall we?

 

Why alcohol brings about GERD symptoms.

 

In general, the medical community is still researching the exact connection between alcohol and acid reflux.

 

That said, one theory is that alcohol interferes with the lower esophageal sphincter’s ability to function as a barrier. Others believe it could have something to do with the acidity of alcoholic beverages.

 

What we do know for sure is that there is some sort of connection.

 

In 1987, a few scientists studied the effect of serving 17 healthy subjects dinner, followed by four ounces of Scotch whiskey three hours later.

 

When the participants went to bed for the night, almost half of them experienced nighttime acid reflux.

 

During a previous control night in which the participants consumed no alcohol, none of the subjects experienced symptoms.

 

Are certain alcohols better to drink than others?

 

It can be tricky in social situations to stay away from alcoholic beverages, whether they be wine, beer, or mixed drinks.

 

You may be wondering if there are some alcohols that can have a milder effect on your GERD if you’re in situations where you’d like to indulge in a drink.

 

Various studies conducted on the subject have conflicting evidence. For example, some found that white wines were more of a trigger than red wines, where other studies found the opposite to be true.

 

Therefore, it’s fair to operate under the assumption that certain types of alcoholic beverages will affect each person differently.

 

My advice? Keep a diet journal for food and beverages that you consume over the course of several weeks. Note when more GERD symptoms arise in order to know what you’re eating or drinking that has a significant effect on your acid reflux.

 

This way, you’ll have a clearer idea of which types of alcohol affect you more significantly than others.

 

How to minimize symptoms when consuming alcohol.

 

It’s best to stay away from alcohol altogether, but if you really don’t want to abstain completely from indulging in a glass of something every now and then, there are a few things I recommend to minimize symptoms:

 

  • If you’re going to drink, limit yourself to just one, and drink a glass of water simultaneously to help moderate your intake. For reference–one drink serving is the equivalent to a 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine, or one 1.5-ounce pour of liquor.

 

  • Limit the frequency of indulging in a drink. Perhaps save one night a week to let yourself enjoy a cocktail or beer.

 

  • Avoid drinking alcohol two to three hours before bed as lying flat while still digesting can cause heartburn and other symptoms.

 

It can be frustrating to feel restricted from certain things, but hey–there are plenty of reasons why limiting alcohol consumption can benefit your physical and mental health beyond simply minimizing GERD flare-ups.

 

Have any particular vacation plans for this summer and worried about managing your acid reflux while traveling? Read these five tips so you can enjoy your vacation without discomfort.

 

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