Why Does Booze Cause Heartburn?

by James Madeiros


Booze (Unfortunately) Sets Hearts Ablaze

It’s a dreaded gastrointestinal experience: that slowly creeping burn that rolls out over your chest and up into your throat, making you feel like there’s gassy lava pumping through your heart.

Mmmm … heartburn from drinking! Once it arrives there’s little you can do but wait it out. Sure, you can chew the tablets, but waiting for them to kick in feels like an eternity whether it’s two minutes or two hours. It’s acid reflux that leads to heartburn, and it may as well be all the same burning hell once the pain starts.

Why is that? Why does alcohol cause heartburn in the first place?

Alcohol, particularly red wine, is very acidic and actually increases the amount of gastric acid in the stomach. This is the stuff that creeps back up your esophagus and gives you that burning feeling in your chest. The acid quite literally crawls back up out of the stomach and starts burning the sensitive tissue in the esophageal passage.

The lower esophageal sphincter (or LES) is the muscle that keeps stomach acid from refluxing, as it were, and certain foods are known to make this muscle relax. Alcohol is one of these, along with spicy foods, chocolate, tomatoes and other acidic or fatty foods. Once the LES is relaxed, the door is literally wide open for acid to go on the offensive.

Avoiding alcohol is the best way to avoid heartburn caused by alcohol, but the truth is that different things cause heartburn for different people. It may be that you could stop drinking alcohol and still have heartburn. So, the trick is to find out what triggers it for you and then avoid whatever that is.

Happy hunting, and here’s hoping it’s not the booze if you happen to enjoy it!

Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

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