Alcohol can damage the esophagus, which may worsen symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Additionally, alcohol use may increase the risk of developing GERD.
GERD is a chronic condition that occurs when stomach contents come back up into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube through which food passes from a person’s throat to their stomach.
GERD may cause symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion, and nausea. If doctors do not treat GERD, it may lead to complications over time.
This article explores the link between alcohol and GERD. It also discusses some diet and lifestyle tips to help manage GERD, recommended alcohol intake, and when to contact a doctor.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
According to a 2019 review of 29 studies, consuming alcohol is a significant risk factor for developing GERD. Researchers found that increasing alcohol intake and drinking frequency demonstrated a stronger link with GERD.
Researchers noted that alcohol may damage the cells in the esophageal and gastric (stomach) linings. They also found that alcohol not only affects the function of the esophagus in healthy people but also causes symptoms in those with inflammation of the esophagus.
Another review from 2017 explains that alcohol, as well as smoking, can decrease the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing acid from the stomach to come back up into the esophagus.
When the LES functions normally, it remains contracted until a person needs to swallow food. However, in someone with GERD, the LES relaxes more often, compromising the tight seal against stomach acid.
Additionally, healthcare organizations, such as the American College of Gastroenterology and the
In addition to alcohol, other foods and beverages
The American College of Gastroenterology advises that the following foods and drinks may trigger symptoms or irritate the lining of the esophagus:
- fatty foods
- food and drinks containing caffeine, such as coffee
- tomatoes and tomato products
- citrus fruits
- spicy or greasy foods
If a person has any symptoms in bed, they can try
In addition, making other lifestyle modifications, like quitting smoking or losing weight, may also benefit some people with GERD. However, a person can speak with their doctor for advice and support.
The guidelines advise against binge drinking, which they define as 5 or more drinks for males or 4 or more for females within about 2 hours.
The guidelines note that evidence suggests drinking even within the recommended limits may increase the risk of death due to a range of causes, including some types of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Furthermore, a 2022 review notes that light alcohol consumption of 3 or fewer drinks a week is associated with GERD.
People with symptoms of GERD can see a doctor for a diagnosis. The doctor
People with GERD may develop further complications inside and outside the esophagus. Therefore, a person needs to make their doctor aware of any new symptoms or changes to existing symptoms.
A healthcare professional can also advise on lifestyle changes, such as modifying diet and reducing alcohol intake.
Alcohol may damage the lining of the esophagus and relaxes the LES, which makes it more likely that stomach acid will come back into the esophagus. Therefore, experts advise people with GERD to avoid alcoholic drinks.
In addition to avoiding alcohol, people may try avoiding fatty, spicy, and certain other types of foods and beverages. Quitting smoking and managing weight may also help reduce GERD symptoms in some people.
A person can speak with a healthcare professional if they think they may have GERD. Additionally, people with GERD can discuss any new symptoms or changes in symptoms with a doctor.