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A Not-So-Happy Hour?

How alcohol can fire up heartburn

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A Not-So-Happy Hour?

Sure, a glass of wine or a cocktail can help you unwind after a long day. But for some people, that relaxation lasts only until their heartburn kicks in. In one study, 60% of patients who experienced heartburn said that alcohol produced their symptoms on a daily basis, and 62% said they experienced weekly or monthly heartburn due to drinking alcohol.

Alcohol consumption can trigger heartburn in several ways.

  • It can increase the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the natural valve that keeps stomach acid in the stomach and out of the esophagus. The acid can then reflux, or flow backward, into the esophagus when it normally would not, thereby irritating the esophageal wall to cause heartburn.

  • It can cause the progressive contractions that occur with swallowing to become erratic. Normally the muscles of the esophagus contract and relax in order to carry food from the throat to the stomach and to prevent acids from backing up from the stomach into the esophagus. An irregular rhythm can allow acid to enter the esophagus and trigger heartburn symptoms.

  • Drinking beer and wine can increase the amount of acid produced in the stomach, another heartburn trigger.

  • Alcohol can make the esophagus more sensitive to harsh acid and cause inflammation or swelling in its protective lining. In fact, one study reported that participants had higher than normal levels of acid in the esophagus after drinking roughly 12 ounces of red wine with lunch or dinner. In the first three hours after drinking the wine, the esophagus was exposed to acid three to four times longer than if participants had consumed tap water.

What Are Your Heartburn Triggers?

Alcohol is just one of many triggers that can bring on heartburn. Learning to recognize what triggers heartburn for you is an important step toward preventing the condition. By recording daily activities associated with your heartburn episodes and lessening or avoiding these triggers, you may be able to prevent or lessen the severity of your heartburn. Each person’s body responds differently, so you should make changes that work for you.


The material in this site is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, probable diagnosis or recommended treatments. OTC PPIs are only indicated for treatment of frequent heartburn. For severe heartburn or heartburn that persists after trying over-the-counter treatment or lifestyle modifications, visit your doctor to determine the right treatment for you. See the Terms and Conditions for more information.