Why Does Alcohol Cause Heartburn?

Heartburn refers to an intense prickling or burning feeling that occurs around the chest and throat. This usually takes place because the acid from the stomach tends to rise up into the esophagus.

This kind of heartburn can also lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) if it occurs frequently.

Alcohol can cause this kind of heartburn and can also make the symptoms of GERD worse if consumed in large quantities. Why does alcohol cause heartburn? You can go through the following points to find out.


Alcohol can cause irritation to your stomach. This is because it can disturb the cells and tissues that are present in the lining of the stomach. These cells can swell up due to this disturbance, leading to irritation.

This can also take place in your throat or esophagus as well. As a result, the sensation can result in burning and heartburn. Usually, the extent of this will reduce if you do not drink too much or too frequently.

If unhealthily consumed, however, alcohol can make this a chronic problem that can then be difficult to deal with. This chronic problem can also become dangerous, as your cells might not be able to revive themselves.

Impact on Lower Esophageal Sphincter

The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a muscle that is present towards the end of the esophagus, right before the esophagus can extend into the stomach.

LES is one of the muscles that helps the food easily pass through the food pipe and into the stomach. This muscle usually tightens up and allows the food through and closes the passage once the food has passed.

This becomes our body’s way of ensuring that the food travels in the right direction instead of coming back up. However, alcohol can relax this LES by reducing its natural way of tightening.

This can result in the food and stomach acid rising back up into the esophagus. This is another way of alcohol causing heartburn and discomfort.

This will usually become better once the alcohol passes out of the system or if you eat healthy food or take medicine. It can cause more serious issues if you consume alcohol frequently.

Increase in Stomach Acid

Whenever you consume alcohol, especially beyond a certain extent, it can cause an excess amount of stomach acid to be produced inside the stomach. This can lead to an unpleasant feeling in the stomach.

Since alcohol also relaxes the LES, as mentioned above, the excess stomach acid can rise up into the esophagus, leading to heartburn.

While this happens, the cells and tissues that line the stomach and esophagus also come into contact with this stomach acid. The presence of alcohol and high amounts of this acid can increase how sensitive the cells and tissues are to the acid.

Overall, therefore, multiple factors tend to work together to cause heartburn whenever you consume alcohol.

Irregular Food Consumption

Irregular food consumption increases whenever you take in alcohol. This food is usually an accompaniment to the alcohol to pace yourself, but sometimes excessive amounts of alcohol can also impact how you consume food.

For instance, you might feel hungry late into the night or right before sleeping, especially if this is also when you tend to drink. This can cause you to eat too much food that can interact with the alcohol and rise back up into the throat.

This can make you feel nauseous while also causing heartburn. Moreover, people often eat greasy food with alcohol that can increase this sensation even more.

Sugar Levels

Alcohol can have all kinds of contents and ingredients in it. This also depends on the kind of drink that you consume as well as how much of it you drink.

Cocktails and mixed drinks, in particular, can have a combination of syrups, flavors and more that can increase the levels of sugar in the drink.

These drinks can also be carbonated to quite an extent. For instance, if you mix in a fizzy drink like Coca-Cola or Sprite with your alcohol, the chances of heartburn can increase.

Having different kinds of drinks at once can also increase sugar levels and the chances of heartburn.

Smoking with Alcohol

If you also have a habit of smoking, this can increase the chances and intensity of heartburn even more. Generally, alcohol might make you feel the need to smoke more, causing you to carry out both activities at once.

Just like alcohol, smoking can also weaken or relax the LES, causing the stomach acid to rise back up into the esophagus. In addition, the amount of saliva that is usually produced is also lowered.

When combined with alcohol, smoking can reduce the body’s healthy capacity even more, leading to intense heartburn soon after. This can also last for a longer time.

Digestion Issues

Alcohol can slow down digestion a bit as well, leading to larger amounts of food stored at a time in addition to the stomach acid itself. This food and acid can easily rise back up into the esophagus or create an unpleasant feeling in the stomach.

For people with existing motility issues that cause their stomachs to digest and pass out the food at a slower rate, this heartburn can be even more intense, since alcohol can slow down the process even more.

While the impact might not be too large with moderate amounts of alcohol, it can definitely be intense when it comes to unhealthy consumption.

Final Remarks

That brings us to the end of this article, through which we have tried to cover most of the potential reasons due to which alcohol causes heartburn.

To sum up, these reasons generally include the production of more stomach acid, weakening the LES, causing reflux, enhancing existing conditions and causing irregular food and sugar consumption.

For this reason, it is necessary to control the amount of alcohol you consume at a given time so that you can pace yourself. Excess amounts of alcohol or frequent consumption can lead to intense heartburn as well as other serious issues.