Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a medical condition that affects the esophagus’ ability to close properly. As a result, the acid and food from your stomach comes up. 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 symptoms at least once a month.

Doctors have identified several risk factors for GERD. These include:

  • diet
  • hiatal hernia
  • certain medications
  • obesity
  • pregnancy
  • smoking

For some people, alcohol is also one of the contributing factors. While alcohol doesn’t cause GERD in everyone, it’s possible that drinking could make GERD worse for some people.

How Does Your Diet Affect GERD?

Certain foods and drinks, including alcohol, have been linked with GERD. These include:

  • caffeinated beverages
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • greasy or high fat foods
  • peppermint
  • tomato-based products
  • spicy foods

While there are some well-known foods and drinks that trigger GERD, 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 and that familiar burning feeling. Knowing what triggers your GERD is an important part of helping you find relief from your symptoms.

Research on Alcohol and GERD

Researchers have conducted several studies to determine which types of alcohol seem to aggravate GERD symptoms more than others. Results have been inconclusive and it’s still unclear which alcoholic beverages may be better than others for GERD.

Research on Wine

Research published in Gastroenterology found that drinking wine could reduce your risk for reflux esophagitis, or irritation of the esophagus’ lining. However, another review of alcoholic beverages found that red and white wine both increase the amount of acid produced in your stomach, putting you at risk for 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.

Recommendations for Drinking Alcohol with GERD

While alcohol is a known contributing factor to GERD, it affects people differently. This means that you may be able to enjoy alcoholic beverages with GERD, while someone else with GERD experiences 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:

  • Limit yourself to just one drink. One drink serving is the equivalent to a 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine, or one 1.5-ounce pour of liquor.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol two to three hours before bed. Lying flat immediately after drinking can increase the risk you’ll experience acid reflux at night because it’s easier for your stomach acid to come 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 are mixing with your alcoholic beverages. Some people may use orange juice or carbonated beverages as mixers for their liquor drinks. These non-alcoholic beverages are also known to cause GERD. Switching to a low-acid fruit juice like apple or carrot juice or mixing a drink with water may help reduce your GERD symptoms.

Some people also smoke cigarettes while drinking. Tobacco use is linked with GERD because tobacco can stimulate stomach acid and cause the muscles between the esophagus and stomach to relax.

Identify Your Triggers

GERD is a condition that causes uncomfortable and even painful symptoms that can be triggered 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 GERD symptoms while others have found it heightens them. By identifying your individual triggers for GERD, you can choose if you would prefer to avoid wine, beer, or liquor as a way to reduce your GERD symptoms.