Alcohol is not recommended for acid reflux sufferers, since it might trigger heartburn and other symptoms.
However, we all react differently to foods and drinks, therefore it is possible that you can drink certain kinds of alcoholic beverages while others cause symptoms.
Furthermore, our bodies often tolerate small amounts of alcohol. You might get away without experiencing symptoms if you drink only one glass.
How does alcohol trigger acid reflux?
Even though the effect of alcohol on heartburn and acid reflux is still debated, most doctors seem to agree that alcohol can indeed trigger heartburn.
These are the most important reasons why alcohol might be a heartburn trigger:
- relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – when this muscle is tight, it prevents stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus
- drinks with low ethanol content (beer, wine) stimulate gastric acid secretion
- carbonated drinks, like beer or champagne, increase the pressure in the stomach
- cold drinks stay longer in the stomach
- some alcohols contain a lot of sugar
- those who smoke or eat fatty foods while drinking are at higher risk
- those who mix alcohol with orange juice, soda, or energy drinks are at higher risk
Which alcohol is less likely to cause heartburn?
Beer is one of the worst drinks for acid reflux sufferers:
- has a low ethanol content
- people tend to drink too much, which can make the stomach full
If you are prone to acid reflux, it’s best to steer clear of beer.
Wine is also likely to trigger acid reflux symptoms:
- has a low ethanol content
- sweet, white wines contain a lot of sugar
- easy to drink too much
Especially white wine seems to be a trigger factor for acid reflux. Some wines might give you less acid than others.
If you love wine, you might give it a try, but only drink small amounts.
The main problem with liqueurs is sugar (besides its alcohol content, of course).
According to Diabetes.co.uk:
Creme de Menthe, Sambuca and Amaretto contain upwards of 15g of carbs per shot so be careful if you drink these. Kirsch, Irish Cream, and Grand Marnier may be better options if you wish to have a liqueur, although these still contain as much as 10g of carbs per shot.(source)
Gin, vodka, whiskey, tequila, and even rum contain no sugar. They all have a high alcohol content, so as mentioned in the above-linked study, they do not stimulate stomach acid production.
It is also pretty hard (and not recommended) to drink so much of these that makes your stomach full.
Looks like we got a winner here, right? Well, it also depends on what they are mixed with, but these drinks might be the “best alcohol for acid reflux”.
Try mixing them with fruit juices that are relatively easy on the stomach: apple or pear might be a good choice. (Even though most fruit juices contain a lot of sugar.)
Add some coke, orange juice, or energy drinks to these and you are asking for trouble.
Other risk factors
If you mix the alcohol with other beverages, it is important to watch out for those as well, since some commonly used drinks might aggravate acid reflux symptoms:
- coffee and caffeine can trigger acid reflux, avoid mixing alcohol and caffeine
- sugary drinks should also be avoided, that includes most sodas and fruit juices
- carbonated drinks are a no-no
Albeit still debated, alcohol seems to be a trigger factor for acid reflux. This means there is no best alcohol for acid reflux, per se, only bad, worse, and worst choices.
The least bad alcohol for acid reflux is probably a small glass of spirit, like non-grain vodka, tequila, etc. You might also try wines with low sugar content.
Beer and sugary drinks are the most likely to trigger symptoms.
Please keep in mind that all people react to foods and drinks differently, there is no definitive list for acid reflux triggers. The very same food or drink might cause severe chest pain and heartburn for some people, and make no symptoms for others.
And last but not least: many health conditions can cause chest pain after drinking alcohol, it’s not always heartburn and acid reflux!