Does Alcohol Cause GERD?

GERD, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, is a digestive disorder which can have an effect on the ring of muscle between your stomach and your oesophagus.

GERD occurs in subjects when their stomach acid repeatedly flows and leaks into the tube connecting the mouth and oesophagus. This can also be referred to as acid reflux.

While most people are likely to experience acid reflux, GERD occurs in a smaller portion of the population.

Subjects who experience acid reflux regularly are likely to be suffering from GERD. Many subjects who are suffering from GERD can manage and minimise its symptoms by taking medication and adjusting their lifestyle habits.

What is the Role of the Oesophagus?

Person enjoying a pub meal and beer

The primary function of the Oesophagus is to move food and liquid from the mouth and into the stomach.

While subjects who have GERD may experience mild symptoms such as slight pain and swallowing difficulty, GERD can lead to more serious problems such as inflammation and scarring of the Oesophagus.

What Causes GERD?

GERD is caused by frequent acid refluxes from the stomach. At the end of your oesophagus, there is a valve or a bundle of muscles which are called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES).

This Lower Esophageal Sphincter allows food and liquid to flow into the stomach once it relaxes before it closes again to prevent other things from leaking into the stomach.

However, if there is damage to the Lower Esophageal Sphincter, it will not be able to regulate what goes through. This can lead to stomach acid flowing back into the Oesophagus.

This leads to acid reflux which can cause irritation, inflammation, and a range of other risk factors. Subjects will experience what we call ‘acid backwash’ which can present a sour taste in the subject’s mouth.

It is not uncommon for people to experience acid reflux and some of its common symptoms which includes heartburn.

However, if subjects experience acid flux repeatedly and for a prolonged period of time, it is likely that they may have developed GERD.

What are Some Common Symptoms of GERD?

Person looking sad

Aside from acid reflux, GERD can present a range of symptoms.

These symptoms can be mild or they can be incredibly uncomfortable and decrease the quality of life for the subject.

Some of the symptoms of GERD include but aren’t limited to:

  • Heartburn
  • Coughing
  • Trouble swallowing food and liquid
  • Backwash of food and liquid
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Lump in your throat
  • Inflammation of vocal cords
  • Asthma
  • Bad breath

Some symptoms such as heartburn can be exacerbated while subjects have just eaten or are lying down. This can create a lot of trouble sleeping which will then further decrease the quality of life for subjects with GERD.

Additionally, patients may not even experience some symptoms such as heartburn. If subjects are not experiencing symptoms, they can still develop worse symptoms after a longer period of time of experiencing acid reflux and GERD.

Subjects may also experience symptoms such as chest pains without heartburn. They may have strong difficulty when it comes to swallowing food and liquid, and it may feel as if their throat is tightening.

Although not a severe symptom, GERD can also cause bad breath.

Symptoms of GERD can develop into more serious conditions such as the inflammation of tissues in the oesophagus, which is known as Oesophagitis.

This can lead to difficulty swallowing and significant chest pains. It can also lead to bleeding and an open sore or ulcer in the oesophagus.

This is called an Esophageal Ulcer, which is a distinct break in the margin of the esophageal mucosa.

If left untreated, it can severely impact the normal function of the oesophagus which is to move food and liquid from the mouth into the stomach. This can lead to tissue scarring which will then create further complications.

Furthermore, GERD can also lead to the narrowing of the Oesophagus, which is also known as Esophageal Stricture.

This is the abnormal tightening and or narrowing of the oesophagus. This is because the scar tissue that has been formed due to inflammation leads to problems with swallowing.

Additionally, the damage caused by repeated acid reflux can have adverse effects on the tissue lining in the lower Oesophagus which has also been associated with an increased risk of Esophageal cancer.

Other Complications Associated with GERD

GERD can indirectly lead to a wide range of illnesses and disorders if it is left untreated.

Some of these complications include:

  • Adult-onset asthma
  • Acid reflux and regurgitation into the lungs
  • Sinusitis
  • Ulcerations and bleeding

The acid reflux associated with GERD can lead to the regurgitation of acid which then creeps into the lungs. This can cause significant swelling of the airways, airway spasms, wheezing, shortness of breath, and more.

Who is at Risk of Developing GERD?

There are many factors which may increase the risks of developing GERD for subjects.

Some of these factors include:

  • Obesity and being overweight
  • Eating habits and eating hours before bed
  • The size of meals
  • Eating too many fatty foods and fried foods
  • Eating spicy foods
  • Fruits high in acidity (e.g. citrus fruits)
  • Pregnancy
  • Connective tissue disorders (e.g. scleroderma)
  • Smoking Habits
  • Taking certain medications which may cause acid reflux
  • Consuming caffeinated drinks
  • Consuming alcoholic drinks

Genetics and lifestyle habits seem to play a significant role in the development of GERD among subjects. While some studies do suggest there is around a 31% heritability of the disease, many of the factors associated with GERD are driven by lifestyle habits.

If a subject is overweight, smokes, and consumes a lot of fatty and fried foods as well as caffeinated beverages and alcohol, they are much more likely to develop GERD.

The Relationship Between Alcohol & GERD

There are numerous studies and strong pieces of evidence to suggest that alcohol consumption can have a significant impact on the likelihood of developing GERD and the severity of its symptoms.

Alcohol consumption, particularly excessive alcohol consumption, can damage the Esophageal Mucosa, which is the inner lining of the Oesophagus.

Additionally, alcohol consumption has been linked with subjects who suffer from erosive esophagitis, which is a severe form of GERD.

This is when the lining of the Oesophagus is damaged by the frequency of acid refluxes. If this is eroded, subjects could be waiting as long as 6 to 9 months for it to fully heal.

Gastroenterologists often claim that alcohol has a “direct effect” on heartburn severity and other symptoms and risk factors of GERD. He explains that the Lower Esophageal Sphincter is supposed to be closed aside whenever food is passing through and entering the stomach.

However, alcohol has the ability to relax this sphincter muscle, which can leave it open and more susceptible to leakage. This creates acid reflux which will then cause heartburn, chest pain, and inflammation.

It is also important to note that alcohol is a diuretic, which means that subjects who consume alcohol are more likely to go to the bathroom frequently. This can cause dehydration, which can then amplify the symptoms of acid reflux and GERD.

Types of Alcohol & their Effect on GERD


Some studies suggest that there isn’t a notable difference between the type of alcohol ingested, such as beer, wine, liquor, etc. and the symptoms of GERD.

However, studies do point towards alcohol in general when it comes to factors that aggravate GERD. Other studies, however, do suggest that the type of alcoholic beverage will yield different effects on the risks and symptoms of GERD among subjects.

The same study discovered that both beer and wine consumption increased the presence of acid reflux, especially when compared to subjects who only consumed water.

However, there was not a significant difference between beer and wine.

However, the carbonation in alcoholic beverages such as beer can increase the levels of nitrogen and carbon dioxide, which will increase the feelings of fullness that subjects experience when consuming beer. If subjects consume large amounts of food or liquid, this can also contribute towards the relaxing of the sphincter which will then lead to acid reflux.

Beer will range in its content of acidity. This means that some beer brands may increase the symptoms of acid reflux more than others.

When combined with other poor lifestyle habits such as consuming fatty and fried foods in great quantities, these factors are very likely to intensify the frequency of acid reflux and the severity of its symptoms.

Will Abstinence Help Reduce GERD?

While treatment does exist for GERD, many of the steps to take which can significantly reduce the symptoms of GERD include changing some of your negative habits. GERD can be controlled by abstinence in many cases.

Patients who are suffering from symptoms of GERD are recommended to reduce – or cease – their consumption of alcohol.

This is because even consuming alcohol in moderation can have a significant effect on the levels and frequency of acid reflux a subject experiences.

The effects of alcohol are multivarious, and at a drug and alcohol rehab, abstinence will be encouraged in order for subjects to overcome GERD entirely.

Entering a Drug & Alcohol Rehab to Overcome Alcoholism


When patients enter a drug and alcohol rehab, they will undergo a comprehensive treatment plan designed to help them overcome addiction.

Upon arrival, patients will be required to undergo a medicated detox. Here, they will allow toxic substances to withdraw from their bodies in a safe and comfortable environment.

Patients will have access to 24/7 help and support if they are undergoing the detox phase in a residential facility.

They will also have the assistance of medication prescribed by an addiction physician. These medications have the effect of minimising withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, vomiting, nausea, trembling, and even seizures.

Following the medicated detox phase which lasts around 7 to 10 days, patients will tackle emotional, cognitive and mental issues that they are suffering from through the form of therapy and counselling sessions.

Therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Family Therapy, Holistic Therapy, and more will be implemented in order to optimise the patient’s responsiveness to treatment methods. This will not only help them overcome addiction, but they will be able to manage their long-term recovery and sobriety.

Understanding Your Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol addiction

If you are concerned that you may be suffering from alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol dependence, alcohol abuse, or alcohol use disorder, you should seek a diagnosis from a licensed professional.

With the diagnosis of a professional, you will understand what is needed in order to overcome your unique case of addiction.

However, there are tools which are easily available for subjects who want to gain more insight into the severity of their addiction.

While these screening tools are helpful, it is paramount that they are not used in order to diagnose someone, but only to help them understand the severity of their addiction.

Some notable examples of alcohol screening tools are the CAGE Substance Screening Tool and the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test.

The CAGE Substance Screening Tool merely consists of 4 questions, which are as follows:

  1. Have you ever felt you should CUT down on your drinking?
  2. Have people ANNOYED you by criticising your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt bad or GUILTY about your drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (EYE-OPENER)?

If the subject answers and receives 2 points, with ‘yes’ to one question equalling a point, it is likely that they are suffering from a moderate or potentially severe form of alcohol addiction.

The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test is similar, however, it contains more questions. These questions are about alcohol intake levels, potential dependence, and experience of alcohol-related harm.

Subjects need to answer truthfully in order to receive a score which accurately reflects their addiction severity. If subjects receive a score of less than 8, it implies that they are mildly addicted or at least susceptible to falling into addiction.

Subjects with a score of 8 or higher are likely to be moderately addicted, whereas subjects who receive 13 points or more are likely to be severely addicted to alcoholic substances.

When this is the case, it is important to enter alcohol rehab in order to undergo the necessary procedures and overcome addiction.

Once you understand the severity of your addiction, the symptoms you are experiencing, and the requirements that you have, optimal treatment options will become available.

Alcohol’s Effect on the Rest of the Body

Alcohol doesn’t only have an effect on Gastroesophageal Reflux, it affects the body in so many ways that it has the capacity to ruin someone’s physical and mental health.

According to the brain disease model of addiction, there are strong neuroscientific suggestions that there are adverse chemical changes in the brain when a subject repeatedly exposes themselves to alcoholic substances and becomes addicted.

When a subject is addicted, their reward pathways, also known as the mesolimbic pathways, are altered in a way which makes their brain physically and psychologically dependent on the addictive substance.

Not only does it alter reward pathways in the brain, but alcohol also interferes with the brain’s communication pathways which can then affect memory, speech, coordination, judgement, and more. These factors together will greatly decrease the quality of life for a subject who is addicted to alcohol.

Furthermore, alcohol affects other organs in the body monumentally. If a subject consumed enough alcohol for a prolonged period of time, they might experience things such as kidney failure, liver failure, Alcohol Related Liver Disease, cirrhosis, and more.

There is even a strong scientific consensus that alcohol can lead to cancer. Some of its effects on the body include:

  • Cardiomyopathy: Stretching of the heart muscle
  • Alcoholic Hepatitis: Inflammation of the liver
  • Arrhythmias: Irregular heartbeat
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure

What to Eat & Drink to Treat GERD & Acid Reflux

People at a table toasting to a mix of drinks

Subjects can replace their alcoholic beverages with many other healthy options which provide healthy nutrients.

There are many examples of foods and drinks which can be included in a diet designed to reduce symptoms of GERD according to professional gastroenterologists.

Many of these foods and drinks include:

  • Ginger tea
  • Sugar-free and natural fruit and vegetable juices
  • Root vegetables (e.g. sweet potatoes, carrots, beets)
  • Green vegetables (e.g. broccoli, asparagus, green beans)
  • Wholegrains (e.g. brown rice, oatmeal)
  • Alkaline foods (foods higher on the PH scale) such as bananas, melons, and nuts

Get Help Today

If you are concerned that you may be suffering from alcohol addiction and you consume alcohol in excessive quantities, it is important that you take the necessary steps in order to seek help. You can do that here, at Rehab 4 Alcoholism.

At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, our priority is to help you overcome drug and alcohol addiction and to be able to return to your healthy and sober life. To reach out, dial our number 0800 111 4108 or dial +44 345 222 3509 internationally.

When you first call us, you will be met with a friendly and experienced admissions officer.

This trained admissions officer will have experience in not only answering the questions and concerns of subjects who worry that they may have an addiction, but he or she will also have experience in performing health assessments necessary to enter a drug and alcohol rehab.

The health assessment is a simple process. It merely consists of answering a few questions related to your health history, addiction history, and medical history prior to entering a drug and alcohol rehab.

With this information, we can identify a suitable drug and alcohol rehab for you which utilises a comprehensive treatment programme.


[1] Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD),reflux%20from%20time%20to%20time

[2] Esophagitis – Symptoms and Causes

[3] Esophageal Ulcer

[4] Esophageal Strictures: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

[5] Risk Factors for Gastroesophagael Reflux Disease and Analysis of Genetic Contributions

[6] Barrett’s Oesophagus and Esophageal Adenocarcinoma

[7] Got Heartburn? Maybe You Should Rethink Your Drink

[8] Mini-Review: Is Alcohol Consumption Related to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

[9] Private Alcohol Rehabs & Detox

[10] Residential Rehab

[11] CAGE Substance Abuse Screening Tool

[12] Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test

[13] Alcohol and the Brain: An Overview

[14] Alcohol’s Effect on the Body

[15] GERD Diet: Foods that Help with Acid Reflux (Heartburn)