While alcohol is a known contributing factor to acid reflux, it affects people differently. This means that you may be able to enjoy alcoholic beverages in moderation with GERD. Someone else with GERD may experience worsening symptoms of 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 the following:
Limit yourself to just one drink. One drink serving is equivalent to a 12-ounce regular beer, 8-9 ounces of malt liquor, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or one 1.5-ounce pour of distilled liquor.
Avoid drinking alcohol 2-3 hours before bed. Lying flat immediately after drinking can increase the risk that you’ll experience acid reflux at night. This is because alcohol can relax the lower part of the esophagus, making it easier for your stomach acid to back 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’re mixing with your alcoholic beverages. Some people may use orange juice or carbonated beverages as mixers for their liquor drinks. These nonalcoholic beverages are also known to aggravate acid reflux. Switching to a low-acid fruit juice like apple or carrot juice or mixing a drink with water may help reduce your GERD symptoms. Here are some examples of other drink options if you have acid reflux.
Some people also smoke cigarettes while drinking. Tobacco use is linked to acid reflux and the development of GERD. This is because tobacco can stimulate stomach acid and cause the muscles between the esophagus and stomach to relax. Tobacco can also directly damage cells of the esophagus and stomach. When combined with alcohol, it’s easier for cancer-causing substances from smoking to enter these cells. This combination, along with untreated GERD, further increases the risk of cancer of the esophagus.