When you’ve had a long day and finally get home, pouring yourself a drink and relaxing is rather relaxing. And suddenly, you feel that familiar burning sensation in your stomach and throat…
Acid reflux strikes again. Which may lead you to ponder, what is the best alcoholic drink for acid reflux?
Although experts such as doctors agree that alcohol can worsen acid reflux, there are some alcoholic options for you to consider. Distilled spirits such as non-grain vodkas, tequila and mezcal, gin, and to a lesser degree, whiskey are all options.
We’ll look at what causes acid reflux, offer some tips on what you can do to manage your acid reflux symptoms, and finally, look at your available alcoholic options.
What Causes Acid Reflux?
Heartburn and acid reflux occurs when stomach acid escapes into the esophagus, or food pipe, causing a burning feeling or pain in the abdomen or chest.
When we eat or drink anything, it travels to the stomach and is broken down by the acid there. At the same time, the stomach has a specific lining to protect it and withstand acid; the remainder of our tissues and esophagus do not.
Some factors that cause acid reflux include:
- Pregnancy: can worsen acid reflux due to increasing hormone levels and pressure on the abdomen from the growing fetus. It is usually at its worst during the third trimester, although the symptoms nearly always disappear after birth.
- Eating a heavy meal and lying down: or bending forward puts pressure on the stomach and stomach muscles, which may lead to acid escaping into the esophagus.
- Reflux-inducing foods: can trigger acid pushing up into the esophagus. Some foods include chocolate, citrus, fatty and deep-fried foods, and foods containing tomato, garlic, or onions.
- Stomach abnormality: called a hiatal hernia which can happen to anyone at any age. This occurs when the upper part of the stomach and the lower esophageal sphincter move above the diaphragm (the muscle plate separating the intestines and stomach from the chest cavity). When everything is in place, the diaphragm helps to keep stomach acid from pushing up into the esophagus.
- Medications: certain muscle relaxers, aspirin, ibuprofen, or blood pressure medications, can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax. This will cause stomach acid to rise in the food pipe, causing acid reflux.
Acid reflux is usually treatable with over-the-counter medicines and antacids. Occasional acid reflux is not something to worry about.
Still, you should speak to your doctor more than twice a week when it becomes a regular occurrence. If you have recurring acid reflux, it might be recurrent acid reflux disease, or GERD, which has a lot of other health implications.
We urge you to seek medical advice if this is the case.
Best Alcoholic Drinks That Won’t Trigger Acid Reflux
Most alcoholic drinks, unfortunately, will trigger acid reflux. However, there are a few options that you can try.
We’ll look at the best options for alcoholic drinks to avoid triggering acid reflux so that you can enjoy celebrations with friends and family.
As mentioned, alcohol is best avoided when experiencing symptoms of acid reflux. However, if you do choose to drink, keep in mind the precautions like limiting your serving and avoiding drinking before lying down.
Some vodkas are distilled from fruits and vegetables rather than the traditional grains—barley, wheat, and rye.
Tequila is full of flavor but free of sugar. It has a low acidity profile, making it an excellent fit for people with acid reflux.
Margaritas will be off the table because orange and lime juice can trigger acid reflux.
Mezcal has a smoky taste because it’s mainly made using old methods, such as cooking the agave cores in earthen mounds over pits of hot rocks.
One of my personal favorites is gin. Gin usually does not contain sugar but is chock full of flavor due to the variety of botanicals that can be included in the distillation process.
The predominant flavor is derived from juniper berries. Because gin is less acidic than other alcoholic drinks, it can be a lifesaver to acid reflux patients. Thanks to the craft gin market, there is a flavor for everyone.
Remember, the carbonation in tonic water—a classic gin cocktail—may cause some acid reflux symptoms.
Some warn against drinking whiskey, while others consider it a safe choice because it does not contain sugar and other carbohydrates.
We would recommend drinking whiskey (including bourbon) with caution.
Individual symptoms will dictate if whiskey is a good option for you or not. Some people find that cask-strength Scotch gives them instant acid reflux.
Many people also report having reflux from sherry cask matured whiskey, and heavily peated whiskeys such as those from Islay report problems. Watering your whiskey down may help lessen acid reflux, or drinking plain water as a chaser is another good option.
How To Avoid Triggering Acid Reflux While Drinking
Here are some tips to consider to help you minimize and understand what may trigger an acid reflux episode.
Limit Your Servings
Try to limit yourself to one drink serving only—serving sizes vary: 12 ounces of regular beer, 8 or nine ounces of malt liquor, one five-ounce glass of red wine, or one and a half ounces of distilled liquor such as whiskey, gin, tequila, or non-grain vodka.
Avoid Drinking Before Bedtime
Remember, alcohol helps the muscles to relax, and drinking before bedtime or lying down immediately after drinking might cause your acid reflux to flare up. Give yourself around 2 to 3 hours after having a drink before you retire to bed.
Keep a Journal
Keeping a food and drink journal can help you establish patterns—when does a particular type of food or alcoholic drink trigger a reflux reaction?
Note it down for a month or two, and remember to make a note when you experience acid reflux. Soon you’ll see a pattern and know which alcoholic drinks to avoid.
Remember to note your mixers or cocktails to see if one of the elements or ingredients isn’t causing your reflux.
We’ve looked at what causes acid reflux and some tips for managing it. Your best alcoholic drink options are distilled spirits because they don’t contain sugar (such as gin, tequila, and mezcal) or trace amounts of sugar, in the case of whiskey and bourbon.
We recommend having alcohol 2–3 hours before bed to give the stomach enough time to empty its contents into the small intestine and settle down before you go to bed for the night.
Having a glass of water after each alcoholic beverage is wise, and you might run to the bathroom more often. Still, water helps to dilute the alcohol and counter the acid reflux.