To put it simply…..
Alcohol affects the regular behaviour of the muscles in the digestive process and also stimulates the production of stomach acid. The result is a cocktail for heartburn.
I want a bit more detail…..
So you’ve been looking forward to this special dinner for weeks, you’ve had a tough week and you’re in desperate need of some time to wind down. You’ve just taken your seat and the waiter casually asks, “Can I get you anything to drink?” Surely a little glass of wine couldn’t hurt?
Or is it the big game. The hype has been building all week and all of your friends are meeting up to watch the action on the big screen. You are only minutes from kick-off when one of the guys pipes up, “My round. Who wants a beer?”
There are some many similar situations where a social drink may seem like a great idea at the time, but for heartburn sufferers ends in a night of seemingly endless pain and zero sleep.
But why, you ask?
Heartburn pain occurs when acid from the stomach moves back up from the stomach into the oesophagus. The impact of the acid on the fine lining of oesophagus results in a burning pain in the lower chest that can work its way up towards the throat.
When alcohol is consumed, it can lead to heartburn in a number of different ways.
The flow of food from the mouth, through the oesophagus, to the stomach is regulated by a muscle between the oesophagus and stomach called the LES (lower esophageal sphincter). This muscle ensures that food travels into the stomach and doesn’t come back the other way.
Alcohol causes the LES to relax, impacting the ability for this muscle to play its role in regulating the one-way flow of food content into the stomach. As a result, it is easier for stomach acid to reflux back into the oesophagus.
To make matters even worse, the body also responds to the consumption of alcohol by producing excess stomach acid. This increases the chance of heartburn symptoms even further.
The triple-threat of alcohol is completed with its impact on the swallowing contractions within the body. When alcohol is consumed, the progressive contractions which naturally occur as a part of swallowing become erratic. This allows acid to back into the oesophagus, resulting in heartburn pain.
So does that mean I have to give up the drink for good?
As with all causes of heartburn, the effect of any specific trigger differs from individual to individual.
If you suspect alcohol may be a heartburn trigger for you, but still want to try and enjoy a drink, there are steps you can take to lessen the potential impact that alcohol might have on you:
• Trying drinking white wine rather than red wine
• Try cutting / watering down your drink
• Drink in moderation
• Ensure that you leave a gap between your last drink and lying down
Be mindful of what you drink and whether it is a trigger for your heartburn pain.