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Link Between Beer and Acid Reflux

All of us have experienced the occasional heartburn or acid reflux. A wide variety of foods and drinks are responsible for this, including beer. Beer increases the risk for acid reflux because it is carbonated, acidic, and alcoholic. In fact, some beers also have certain added ingredients, like coffee, chocolate, mint, or chili peppers that are also known to significantly increase acid reflux. Here’s everything you need to know about the effects of beer on acid reflux.

What Exactly is Acid Reflux?

In order to understand why beer causes acid reflux or heartburn, it is first necessary to understand acid reflux.

The stomach is connected to the mouth through a tube known as the esophagus. The place where the esophagus joins the stomach, there is a tight ring of muscle present known as the lower esophageal sphincter. The lower esophageal sphincter keeps the contents of the stomach from coming back up into your esophagus.(1, 2, 3)

However, when this sphincter relaxes, the acidic content of the stomach can flow back up into the esophagus, which causes irritation to the lining, and you feel a burning sensation. This is known as acid reflux or heartburn, and if left untreated, it may develop into a more serious condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD develops if you experience acid reflux regularly, at least several times a week.(4, 5, 6, 7)

If you experience acid reflux for more than three times a week, you should definitely get it checked out by a doctor. GERD can cause inflammation in the esophagus, narrowing of the esophagus, a sore throat or chronic cough, and even a hoarse voice due to laryngitis.(8, 9, 10) It can even cause more serious conditions like asthma,

Barrett’s esophagus, pneumonia or cancer.(11, 12) Treatment for acid reflux focuses on dietary changes and restrictions, medication, and in serious cases, surgery.

Link Between Beer and Acid Reflux

Obesity, pregnancy, smoking and certain medications are all associated with an increased risk of developing acid reflux and GERD.(13) At the same time, certain foods and beverages, including alcoholic drinks, are also known to be linked with the development of heartburn and GERD.

Alcohol, in general, is known to affect acid reflux as it relaxes the muscle located at the end of the esophagus.

While choosing to have a light beer may decrease your alcohol consumption, but not by much. If you have a regular 12-ounce beer, it contains five percent alcohol. On the other hand, light beers have an alcohol content of 4.2% , so you can see that the difference is not much.(14)

At the same time, just as eating too much causes acid reflux, so does the consumption of several beers. Having a couple of beers makes the stomach feel too full, while the bubbles of the added carbon dioxide or nitrogen in the beer further increase this feeling of fullness. In any case, if you have too much of anything, be it food or drink, it causes the sphincter to relax, allowing the stomach contents to back up into the esophagus.

Acidic foods and beverages are, in any case, known to cause heartburn in some people. Acidity is measured on the pH scale, with a pH of 7 being neutral, 8 to 14 being basic or alkaline, and anything below 6 to 0 being acidic. The lower the pH number, the more acidic that substance is.

Beer is available in a wide variety of styles. Various types of beer range widely in acidity as well. Most lagers, especially the big commercial brands of pale beers, are slightly acidic and range on a pH scale of 4 to 5. Ales, which include a majority of bulk craft beer, have a wider variety of acidity, ranging from 3 to 6 pH. Sour styles are usually very acidic, going as low as 3.3 in pH.

Any food or drink that is high in acid can cause acid reflux. Chocolate, coffee, citrus fruits, mint, and hot spices are all known to cause bouts of acid reflux in some people. And the fact is that brewers tend to add all of these, either individually or in combinations, to several craft beers.

Apart from this, spicy and greasy foods are also known causes of heartburn. So even if the beer you are drinking does not cause acid reflux, if you have it with a side of habanero chicken wings, the likelihood of heartburn doubles.

What Does The Science Say?

Though it is widely believed that alcoholic beverages like beer cause acid reflux, research though has found mixed results on the role of dietary influence on heartburn and GERD. A paper published in August 2019 in the Journal of Thoracic Disease found that several studies have found an association between alcohol consumption and acid reflux.(15) However, some studies have not found any relation. Conflicting findings have been found regarding carbonated drinks and acidic beverages. Nevertheless, dietary restrictions continue to be a part of GERD treatment.

It is essential to keep in mind that what may cause acid reflux in one person might not do the same for another person. This is why it is best to keep track of what suspected food and drinks improve or worsens your acid reflux. Eating smaller meals but more frequently, as well as avoiding having anything just before bedtime, can help improve heartburn.

3 Simple Ways to Prevent Acid Reflux

Here are some natural ways to reduce acid reflux:

  1. Chewing Gum

    Some older studies have indicated that chewing gum can help reduce the build-up of acid in the esophagus.(16, 17, 18) If you have gum that contains bicarbonate, it can be extra effective as bicarbonate helps neutralize stomach acid, thus preventing reflux.(19)

    Chewing gum also helps increase the production of saliva, which helps clear the esophagus of acid.(20)

    While it is believed that chewing gum can help relieve acid reflux, there is still a need for more up-to-date research to confirm this.

  2. Raising The Head Of Your Bed

    Many people experience symptoms of heartburn during the night, which affects their sleep quality, making it difficult to fall asleep and remain asleep. Changing the position that you sleep in by raising the head of the bed can help decrease the symptoms of acid reflux and help you sleep better.(21)

    A review of four studies discovered that raising the head of the bed helped reduce acid reflux and also improved symptoms like regurgitation and heartburn in people with GERD.(22)

  3. Have An Early Dinner

    Doctors usually recommend people with acid reflux to avoid having food within the three hours before they go to sleep. This is because when you lie down horizontally after having a full meal, it makes digestion much more complex and may worsen the symptoms of GERD.

    A review done in 2015 found that having a late-night meal increased acid exposure by five percent when lying down, as compared to having your meal earlier in the evening.(23) Another study having 817 participants with type 2 diabetes showed that having a late dinner at night was linked with a much higher risk of acid reflux.(24)

    While more studies are needed to draw solid conclusions, but having a gap of at least four to five hours between your dinner and going to bed can help reduce the occurrence of acid reflux.


Acid reflux can cause discomfort and make it difficult to sleep properly at night. There can be many causes of acid reflux, one of which is drinking beer. While there are many medications and treatment options, changing your diet and lifestyle can be beneficial in reducing acid reflux. People who have acid reflux should consider having light beers instead of the regular ones.


  1. Pope, C.E., 1994. Acid-reflux disorders. New England Journal of Medicine, 331(10), pp.656-660.
  2. Robertson, D.A.F., Aldersley, M., Shepherd, H. and Smith, C.L., 1987. Patterns of acid reflux in complicated oesophagitis. Gut, 28(11), pp.1484-1488.
  3. Martinez, S.D., Malagon, I.B., Garewal, H.S., Cui, H. and Fass, R., 2003. Non‐erosive reflux disease (NERD)—acid reflux and symptom patterns. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 17(4), pp.537-545.
  4. GERD, D. and Health, N., 2022. Definition & Facts for GER & GERD | NIDDK. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: <https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/definition-facts> [Accessed 24 June 2022].
  5. Kusano, M., Shimoyama, Y., Sugimoto, S., Kawamura, O., Maeda, M., Minashi, K., Kuribayashi, S., Higuchi, T., Zai, H., Ino, K. and Horikoshi, T., 2004. Development and evaluation of FSSG: frequency scale for the symptoms of GERD. Journal of gastroenterology, 39(9), pp.888-891.
  6. Clarrett, D.M. and Hachem, C., 2018. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Missouri medicine, 115(3), p.214.
  7. Badillo, R. and Francis, D., 2014. Diagnosis and treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease. World journal of gastrointestinal pharmacology and therapeutics, 5(3), p.105.
  8. Irwin, R.S., 2006. Chronic cough due to gastroesophageal reflux disease: ACCP evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Chest, 129(1), pp.80S-94S.
  9. Wong, R.K., Hanson, D.G., Waring, P.J. and Shaw, G., 2000. ENT manifestations of gastroesophageal reflux. The American journal of gastroenterology, 95(8 Suppl), pp.S15-22.
  10. Vaezi, M.F., 2004. Laryngitis and gastroesophageal reflux disease: increasing prevalence or poor diagnostic tests?. Official journal of the American College of Gastroenterology| ACG, 99(5), pp.786-788.
  11. Spechler, S.J., 2013. Barrett’s esophagus. Principles of Deglutition, pp.723-738.
  12. Westhoff, B., Brotze, S., Weston, A., McElhinney, C., Cherian, R., Mayo, M.S., Smith, H.J. and Sharma, P., 2005. The frequency of Barrett’s esophagus in high-risk patients with chronic GERD. Gastrointestinal endoscopy, 61(2), pp.226-231.
  13. GERD, S. and Health, N., 2022. Symptoms & Causes of GER & GERD | NIDDK. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: <https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/symptoms-causes> [Accessed 24 June 2022].
  14. Niaaa.nih.gov. 2022. What Is A Standard Drink? | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). [online] Available at: <https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/what-standard-drink> [Accessed 24 June 2022].
  15. Newberry, C. and Lynch, K., 2019. The role of diet in the development and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease: why we feel the burn. Journal of thoracic disease, 11(Suppl 12), p.S1594.
  16. Moazzez, R., Bartlett, D. and Anggiansah, A., 2005. The effect of chewing sugar-free gum on gastro-esophageal reflux. Journal of dental research, 84(11), pp.1062-1065.
  17. Avidan, B., Sonnenberg, A., Schnell, T.G. and Sontag, S.J., 2001. Walking and chewing reduce postprandial acid reflux. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 15(2), pp.151-155.
  18. Schönfeld, J.V., Hector, M., Evans, D.F. and Wingate, D.L., 1997. Oesophageal acid and salivary secretion: is chewing gum a treatment option for gastro-oesophageal reflux?. Digestion, 58(2), pp.111-114.
  19. Brown, R., Sam, C.H., Green, T. and Wood, S., 2015. Effect of GutsyGumtm, A Novel Gum, on Subjective Ratings of Gastro Esophageal Reflux Following A Refluxogenic Meal. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 12(2), pp.138-145.
  20. Oppia, F. and Cabras, F., 2017. Overview of pathophysiological features of GERD. Minerva gastroenterologica e dietologica, 63(3), pp.184-197.
  21. Shibli, F., Skeans, J., Yamasaki, T. and Fass, R., 2020. Nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and sleep: an important relationship that is commonly overlooked. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, 54(8), pp.663-674.
  22. Huang, H.C. and Fang, S.Y., 2016. A systematic review of the literature related to elevating the head of the bed for patients with Gastroesophageal reflux disease: applications in patients after esophageal Cancer surgery. Hu Li Za Zhi, 63(3), p.83.
  23. Ness-Jensen, E., Hveem, K., El-Serag, H. and Lagergren, J., 2016. Lifestyle intervention in gastroesophageal reflux disease. Clinical gastroenterology and hepatology, 14(2), pp.175-182.
  24. Takeshita, E., Furukawa, S., Sakai, T., Niiya, T., Miyaoka, H., Miyake, T., Yamamoto, S., Senba, H., Yamamoto, Y., Arimitsu, E. and Yagi, S., 2018. Eating behaviours and prevalence of gastroesophageal reflux disease in japanese adult patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: the dogo study. Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 42(3), pp.308-312.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 29, 2022

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