Heartburn and alcohol have a unique relationship. A study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences found that those who drank 12 ounces of red wine with lunch or dinner had higher-than-normal levels of acid in the esophagus. Other studies have shown that of those people who suffer from heartburn, roughly 6 in 10 said alcohol led directly to heartburn symptoms on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Alcohol can be dangerous for heartburn sufferers because of its 3-pronged attack. It triggers symptoms by:

  • Relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing acid to reflux into the esophagus, whose lining becomes irritated
  • Causing the progressive contractions that occur with swallowing to become erratic, which allows acid to back into the esophagus
  • Both increasing the acid produced in the stomach and making the esophagus more sensitive to acid

However, having a drink is not necessarily out of the question. It's all a matter of moderation.

For example, drinking during large meals is worst, but if you stay below certain levels, you can help minimize the risk, severity, and duration of symptoms. Drink less than:

  • 1 to 2 mixed drinks
  • 2 to 3 beers
  • 12 to16 ounces of wine (preferably white)

Of course, different people have different tolerances. Recording your daily activities will help you identify trends and pinpoint your personal reaction to alcohol. Keep a diary detailing your alcohol and food consumption. And if you experience symptoms 30 minutes after a plate of ravioli and three glasses of wine, rethink not only combing heavy meals with extra drinks but also the timing of both.

Lastly, if you often enjoy a cocktail after a tough day at work, but always experience heartburn shortly afterward, consider alternative methods of relaxation. Consider walking around your neighborhood or attending a yoga class with friends. Both are great at relieving stress, another cause of heartburn.