If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Why does alcohol give me heartburn?” you’re not the only one. Experiencing heartburn after drinking alcohol is very common, especially in individuals with related disorders like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux. As an alcohol rehab in Philadelphia, we understand the many ways that alcohol can impact the body, as well as the connection between alcohol and heartburn.
Heartburn is an uncomfortable burning sensation in your chest, just behind your breastbone. This pain often occurs while eating, after eating, at night, or when you lay down or bend over. Heartburn occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. Although occasional heartburn is normal, frequently experiencing it can interfere with your day-to-day routine and even indicate a more serious condition. Additionally, heartburn can also have a long-term impact on your heart health and other functions in your body.
Common symptoms of heartburn include:
There are also certain conditions of which heartburn is a common symptom, such as acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back up into the esophagus, which is the tube that connects your mouth and stomach. This backwash – which is acid reflux – can irritate the lining of this tube, making swallowing and eating difficult.
There are several reasons why you may experience heartburn when drinking alcohol. For one, alcohol causes heartburn because it keeps acidic content in the stomach longer. When too much acidic content builds up in the stomach, it eventually overflows right back into the esophagus, irritating the inner lining and causing heartburn. Alcohol also impairs the esophagus from keeping food down, increasing the likelihood of experiencing heartburn symptoms. Additionally, heavy drinking can make it easier for acid to rise from the stomach into the esophagus, possibly increasing the frequency of heartburn.
Additionally, heartburn and alcohol consumption are also connected to lower esophageal sphincter (LES) dysfunction. The lower esophageal sphincter or LES is a bundle of muscles at the end of the esophagus. Its purpose is to prevent acid and other stomach contents from coming back up. LES muscles aren’t voluntary, meaning we have no control over them. Alcohol can cause heartburn by weakening the LES, making it easier for stomach acid to come back up into the esophagus.
Heavy drinkers and alcoholics are especially at risk of frequent heartburn. Beer, for one, is very acidic and carbonated, two things that are very bad for heartburn. Liquor and darker alcoholic drinks contain more naturally occurring compounds called congeners. These can irritate the stomach and contribute to heartburn symptoms. However, heartburn is only one of the many dangers of heavy drinking. Without the help of a partial hospitalization program, people with alcohol use disorders risk their health as well as relationships, careers, and finances. If you’ve noticed that you’re unable to control your drinking, Banyan Treatment Centers Philadelphia can help.
Not only can alcohol cause heartburn, but heartburn can also lead to other long-term problems. Some side effects of untreated heartburn include esophagitis, Barett’s esophagus, and esophageal cancer.
Esophagitis refers to inflammation that can damage tissues in the esophagus. As a result, you may experience symptoms such as pain and difficulty swallowing as well as chest pain while eating. More severe symptoms include food getting stuck in your esophagus and chest pain that lasts longer than a few minutes. Untreated esophagitis can lead to ulcers, scarring, and narrowing of the esophagus, which can land you in the hospital. However, with treatment, most healthy people recover within two to four weeks.
Another problem that can occur as a result of untreated heartburn is Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which the flat pink lining of the esophagus becomes damaged by acid reflux, causing it to become thick and redden. This condition usually occurs when the esophagus is repeatedly exposed to stomach acid and is most common in people with long-term GERD.
A more severe effect of long-term heartburn is esophageal cancer. This cancer usually begins in the cells inside the esophagus. Some common symptoms include chest pain, pressure, or burning; unintended weight loss; difficulty swallowing; and worsening heartburn or indigestion.